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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Gators get big victory, hope more are ahead

 Xavier Prep’s 62-52 basketball road victory over Gilbert Perry on Tuesday night (Feb. 2) was big, to be sure. What Gators coach Jennifer Gillom wants to make certain is that it doesn’t get to the point of being too big, that her players need to keep things in perspective because their work is far from done.

“This entire season is a learning process,’’ Gillom said. “The games are so close together that you have to make sure you are ready for the next game.’’

For the Gators (3-2), that next game comes on Friday at 5:30 p.m., when they play host to Tucson High (2-0). Tucson only is bringing its varsity up Interstate 10, meaning Xavier’s frosh-sophomore and junior varsity teams will not play.

Gillom pointed to sophomore guard Sienna Cherwinski and freshman guard Dominique Nesland for their shooting and senior guard Tori Saucedo for her overall leadership against Perry. Reserves junior Toni Garcia and sophomore Hannah Young rolled up their sleeves and provided some key rebounding or at least kept the ball alive, tapping it to teammates and allowing them to control it.

Nesland gave the Gators an indication that it would be a good shooting night. She scored 12 of her game-high 16 points in the first quarter, including a pair of three-pointers in the first five minutes.

“She set the tone for us,’’ Gillom said.

Xavier would go on to finish with nine three-pointers. Cherwinski dropped in two long shots in a row in the third quarter after Perry had taken a one-point lead and added a third from long range to allow XCP to increase its lead to 46-41.

“Sienna knocked down those threes at a crucial time,’’ Gillom said.

The Gators led 48-44 entering the fourth quarter and managed to maintain their advantage on a basket by freshman Sarah Miller and a three by Saucedo. A bucket by Saucedo made it 55-50.

The teams traded turnovers for more than a minute before Nesland converted two free throws with 36.6 seconds left in the game. The parade to the foul line continued as the Gators wrapped it up with two free throws from Nesland, one from Saucedo and two from sophomore Mia Davis.

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