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, February 13, 2021

Large lead helps Gators withstand comeback attempt

 Xavier Prep’s basketball team built a 22-point halftime lead over visiting Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor on Friday night (Feb. 12), and it proved to be extremely beneficial.

Xavier withstood a big third-quarter rally and went on to defeat the Eagles 55-37.

Deep down, Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom knew that Sandra Day O’Connor was too good of a team to let that deficit slide. She knew that the Eagles, who had lost just once in seven attempts going in, would make an aggressive comeback attempt.

Fast and furious it came in the third quarter, as SDO held the Gators to seven points while nearly doubling their output. The Xavier lead was at 13 entering the fourth and SDO was so excited and its fans (primarily members from the lower-level teams that played earlier) so boisterous that you would have thought it was the Eagles who had the big lead.

Sandra Day O’Connor had used up a lot of energy, however, and Xavier was able to regain its composure in the fourth quarter. The double-digit lead also was a primary factor.

Forwards Hannah Young (sophomore) and Toni Garcia (junior), usually supplanting one another in the lineup but in this one playing in tandem at times in order to compensate for the injury to starter Mia Davis, had key efforts with their rebounding and even provided a lift offensively.

The Gators went 2-1 for the week, rising to 6-3 overall as the No. 9 power points team on the Arizona Interscholastic Association list. Sandra Day O’Connor, at No. 6, fell to 6-2.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect in another big game like this,’’ Gillom said. “We showed a lot of poise and executed on both offense and defense.’’

As for Sandra Day O’Connor’s attempt at a comeback, she said, “Basketball is a game of runs and you have to be ready for it. We were able to stop the bleeding.’’

And of Young and Garcia . . .

“They were huge. This just shows that I need to trust my bench more.’’

Young had nine points and six rebounds and Garcia had four points and four rebounds.

Sophomore guard Sienna Cherwinski also had a big night with 12 points (including three 3-pointers) and seven rebounds. Freshman guard Sarah Miller led the Gators with 14 points.

After a busy week for the Gators, they only play one game this coming week, at Scottsdale Chaparral on Tuesday (Feb. 16). Game time is 5:30 p.m. instead of the usual 7.

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