DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Gators maintain composure late, quiet Thunder

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom wiped her brow and took a big sigh of relief.

Her Gators had just survived a tough test against visiting Phoenix Desert Vista with a 48-40 victory on Friday night (Dec. 13).

“I feel like I played in the game!’’ she said of the many energy-draining moments.

“We have a young team and we took a huge step forward. We were able to keep our composure at the end.’’

With a little less than five minutes left in the game, Xavier (7-2) held a 40-31 lead, but the Thunder (5-3) rallied to pull within two points twice, the last at 42-40 with a little more than a minute to play.

Xavier scored the final six points of the game on a basket and two free throws by freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski and two more free throws by senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood.

Fleetwood scored 13 points to lead the Gators, and freshman inside player Mia Davis contributed 11, including six free throws.

Gillom was generally pleased with her team’s effort, “but not the turnovers. We’ve got some young players and they need to think more about what they’re doing.’’

One of the Xavier highlights of the evening was the play of junior wing player Kailey Appel, particularly on defense.

“Her value to this team is with her defense,’’ Gillom said. “She played excellent defense and I liked how she played.’’

Appel also was a key factor late in the first half with all seven of her points, including a pair of 3-point baskets.

“When we needed to have somebody step up tonight, they stepped up. But you never know who that is going to be. We want to be a team that just doesn’t rely on one person,’’ Gillom said.

Desert Vista got a strong game from sophomore multi-purpose player Hannah Robbins, who scored 24 points, matching her uniform number.

Next up for the Gators is a rare Monday night contest on Dec. 16, when the team stays in the neighborhood to play against Phoenix North, 12th Street and Thomas Road.

Xavier Prep 48, Phoenix Desert Vista 40

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 13, Mia Davis 11, Sienna Cherwinski 8, Kailey Appel 7, Tori Saucedo 6, Mackenzie Coder 3.

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