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.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Gator basketball ready to "go for it'

“We made it to state. Why not go for it?’’

That’s the assessment of Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom after the Gators’ 79-53 victory over visiting Mesa Red Mountain in a 6A Conference “play-in’’ game on Thursday night (Feb. 13).

The win allows Xavier (18-10) to advance to the first round of the state tournament on Tuesday (Feb. 18), a road game with the opponent to be announced on Saturday (Feb. 15). There are no more home games from here on out.

Xavier entered the play-in as the 10th overall seed, while Red Mountain (8-19) was 23rd. Xavier will play one of the top eight seeds in the opening round.

The Gators had consistency across the board against Red Mountain, “and it came at the right time. We don’t need to be on a rollercoaster now,’’ Gillom said.

The coach was pleased with the team’s balanced scoring as well as the defensive effort.

Eleven players scored, with senior guard-forward Elysia Fleetwood coming up with one of her best games of the season with a game-high 29 points. Freshman inside player Mia Davis was next with 13 points.

Xavier got away to a good start in the first quarter, with junior guard Channing Kehoe providing some scoring fuel with a pair of 3-point baskets.

Kehoe helped pick up the slack caused by the absence of junior guard Mackenzie Coder, who was on crutches after suffering a knee injury in te regular-season finale against defending state champion Chandler Hamilton on Tuesday night (Feb. 11). It is not known whether she will be sidelined again.

Fleetwood scored 10 points in the second quarter as the Gators had a firm grip on the lead.

Xavier had 10 3-point backets for the game, including one by former Red Mountain player Kailey Appel, who transferred to XCP after her freshman season in Mesa. Her father, Martin, coached the Mountain Lions for a number of years, including a state title season led by Kayla Pedersen, who went on to play collegiately at Stanford and in the WNBA.

Xavier Prep 79, Red Mountain 53

Xavier scoring – Elysia Fleetwood 29, Mia Davis 13, Tori Saucedo 8, Channing Kehoe 6, Toni Garcia 6, Sophie Sash 6, Kailey Appel 4, Rachel Orr 2, Ireland Blim 2, Lauren Etsitty 2, Tanya Barakat 1.

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