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.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Moment to remember finally arrives for XCP hoops

Jennifer Gillom had waited for this moment. Because good things are worth waiting for, just so the wait isn’t too long.

Gillom had been preaching to her Xavier Prep basketball players about the benefits – the necessity of -- playing with consistency at both ends of the floor for four full quarters.

The Gators did not do it for four, but for about 3 ½, according to Gillom’s estimation, and that was good enough as Xavier turned back a late rally by visiting Scottsdale Chaparral for a 58-47 victory at the Activity Center.

“That was the best game we’ve had all season,’’ said Gillom, whose team raised its record to 14-3, while Chaparral slipped to 9-8.

“We needed that win, and it was a win that they (players) wanted very badly. We were focused, had sound discipline and were poised.’’

The Gators played defense with an aggressive approach that rarely had surfaced to this point, a bit similar to – dare we say? – Xavier defense in recent past seasons. That is what Gillom wants. We will see if that can be sustained.

Xavier also was more zealous on the boards, and its passing on offense seemed to show an upgrade.

And, there was the 3-point shooting that has become a team trademark.

Xavier hit eight from long range, four by junior guard Tori Saucedo (16 points) and two by freshman point guard Sienna Cherwinski.

The contest also featured a Xavier wardrobe malfunction. Senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood had her jersey torn and had to miss the game for a few minutes. When she returned, her normal No. 3 had become No. 30 with a new jersey.

Early in the third quarter, fans got to witness a sweet offensive play by senior inside player Tanya Barakat.

She took a pass near the outer edge of the lane near the free-throw line, turned and gave a quick head fake, giving her enough time to get past the defender and go in for the score.

“I’ve been trying to get her to do that for a couple years now,’’ Gillom said with a laugh.

Xavier had an 18-point lead (53-35) with 2:52 left in the game. Chaparral then went on a 12-3 run to cut its deficit to single digits, but the clock was not the Firebirds’ ally.

After two home games on back-to-back nights, the Gators will head back out on the road on Friday night (Jan. 10) for a contest against Phoenix Pinnacle.

A classy move

At the conclusion of the game, the teams lined up and shook hands. Gillom was near the Xavier bench and she hurried over near the Chaparral bench to greet Chaparral senior guard Anna Ostlie, wish her well and give her a pep talk. Ostlie was on crutches after suffering a serious knee injury in a recent holiday tournament. One of the state’s best players, the 5-foot-8 Ostlie recently signed a letter of intent with Boise State.

Xavier Prep 58, Chaparral 47

Xavier scoring – Sienna Cherwinski 17, Tori Saucedo 16, Elysia Fleetwood 8, Mackenzie Coder 5, Tanya Barakat 4, Mia Davis 4, Kailey Appel 4.

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