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 26, 2021

XCP basketball team awakens, runs past Basha

 Xavier Prep’s Gators had an early wakeup call for their basketball game against visiting Chandler Basha on Friday night (Feb. 26), going from the normal 7 p.m. start to 5:30.

The thing was, they must have hit the snooze button somewhere along the way.

Xavier, which defeated the Bears by 26 points in the first of their two meetings on Jan. 26, managed just a five-point differential in the first quarter in this Senior Night encounter.

The Gators didn’t necessarily stumble over themselves, but their shots were not really falling and they seemed a step slower than normal as they attempted to apply some backcourt pressure.

That all changed in the second quarter, when XCP went on a 30-6 run and finished it up with a 67-36 victory.

Xavier, which entered the game as the No. 5-ranked team in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 6A Conference power points list, raised its record to 9-3. Basha, meanwhile, dropped to 4-11.

In Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom’s way of thinking, there was really only one way to awaken her players from their early slumber.

“A lot of them were trying to do it (create a turnaround) by themselves,’’ Gillom said. “But you can’t really do that. This is a team game, so I had to get some of them out, let them get a better feel for the game by watching from the bench.’’

Freshman quard Dominique Nesland scored eight points in the period and sophomore guard Sienna Cherwinski had seven for Xavier, which outscored the visitors 17-0 in the later moments of the quarter going into the halftime break.

“We’ve been getting good play off our bench lately. They also have been playing well in practice. Every day they come in and are relentless.’’

The Gators had three players score in double figures in the contest, in which a running clock was used in the final quarter. They were freshman guard Sarah Miller (16 points), sophomore guard-forward Mia Davis (13) and Nesland (10).

Forward Sophia Alameddin, one of four seniors honored along with forward-center Rachel Orr, guard Tori Saucedo and guard Lauren Etsitty, scored six points off the bench, putting a stamp of approval on a comeback that had her sitting out a few games with an ankle injury.

Sophomore forward Gabby Trbovic also connected for a 3-point shot in the fourth quarter.

Xavier plays its final two regular-season games next week – on Tuesday (March 2) at Chandler High and on Friday (March 5) at home against Gilbert Perry. The Gators defeated Perry 62-52 on its own floor on Feb. 2.

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