Bio

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 AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

XCP softball triumphs in long, emotional game

 Xavier Prep and Gilbert Perry have developed a strong athletic rivalry in many sports, including basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball and soccer.

And you can now add softball to the mix after a hotly contested game at Perry on Tuesday (March 30) as the game went two extra innings beyond the scoreless first seven and Xavier won it with three runs in the top of the ninth, 3-1.

Yet it was how the contest reached that point that caused flushed faces and hair to stand up on the back of necks.

It was a game in which Xavier Head Coach Brad Downes and his assistants became litiGators, pleading their case in the bottom of the eighth inning after a confusing hit by pitch call nearly handed Perry the win and XCP its first loss of the season.

Xavier had a good chance to take the lead in the top of the eighth, but a courtesy runner was caught off third base for the final out following a line drive to left field.

In its half of the eighth, Perry loaded the bases with two outs against Xavier ace Riley Flynn. It appeared to be make or break time for the Pumas.

Perry batter Natalya Delsante stood in against Flynn. There was one strike against Delsante when an inside pitch grazed the pants leg of the batter. The batter pointed to where it had made contact and the plate umpire stopped play.

The Perry bench and the team’s fans began to rejoice at the run about to be forced in. But Downes and the Xavier coaches were not too thrilled by the turn of events. Downes began an animated discussion with the umpire, contending that the umpire called strike two before the batter was hit, therefore by rule making the ball a dead ball and that the batter should return to continue the at-bat.

The umpire then conferred with the base umpire and, according to Downes, admitted that he indeed called the second strike first and brought everyone back out on the field to resume play, negating a score at least for the moment.

Soon after, the inning was put to rest after Flynn struck out Delsante for her 18th strikeout of the game. That only caused the Perry Nation’s blood pressure to boil.

The best way for the Gators to expedite their departure from the premises was to score some runs.

That came in short order when Xavier scored its three ninth-inning runs.

Junior shortstop Bridget Donahey led things off by getting under a pitch and sending it high into the air and over the left-field fence for a home run. Senior catcher Macy Lee brought home the second run with a single to right following a triple by freshman Lauren Putz.

That hit brought Perry coach Rob Hehe out to remove pitcher Autumn Kunze, who to that point had matched Flynn virtually pitch for pitch. Junior Meghan Schouten then singled off the reliever to score the third run.

Noelle Gumm led off the Perry ninth with a homer off Flynn, the first run that Flynn surrendered in Xavier’s first five games. Sarah Phillips then doubled with one out, but Flynn retired the next two batters to end it.

“This was an exciting game for sure,’’ Downes said.

“When that call (hit by pitch) happened, I went out to let the umpires know our side of things, went over the rules with them (umpires). Fortunately, we were able to continue playing.

“Something like this takes some time. The girls were basically standing around, not knowing, waiting . . . they dealt with the adversity well. That says a lot about their character.’’

Of the Gators’ hitting outburst in the ninth, Downes referred to his team’s prolific hitting tendencies and said, “It’s hard to keep our girls down for that long.’’

And that was partly why Downes went over to the Perry side of the field afterward in a show of good sportsmanship, sought out Kunze and told her how impressed he was with her pitching.

Because of the Easter holiday, this was the last game for this week. The Gators will return to the field on April 6 for a contest at Petznick Field against Chandler Hamilton.


Tennis tops Basha, moves to 6-0

 Xavier Prep’s tennis team ran its record to 6-0 on Tuesday (March 30) with a 7-2 victory over visiting Chandler Basha and will play again on Wednesday (March 31) at Mesa Mountain View.

Results

Tuesday, March 30

Xavier Prep 7, Chandler Basha 2

Singles

Danielle Dyer, X, def. B, 6-1, 6-1. Victoria Chrostowski, X, def. B, 6-1, 6-1. Megan Wheeling, X, def. B, 2-6, 6-2, 10-7. Belani Soto, X, def. B, 6-1, 6-1. B def. Nyla Vranic, X., by default. Sophia Kleingartner, X, def. B, 6-3, 6-0.

Doubles

Soto-Dyer, X, def. B, 8-0. Kleingartner-Chrostowski, X, def. B, 8-2. B def. Wheeling-Lily Gabler, X, 8-3.


Monday, March 29, 2021

Strong effort by track & field in Toro Invitational

 Xavier Prep’s track and field team had a strong showing on Friday (March 26) in the Toro Invitational at Mesa Mountain View.

The Gators had three individuals cross the finish line first along with one of their relay teams.

Junior Tatum Goforth led the way with victories in two events – the 800- and 1,600- meter runs. And junior Macarthy Mahoney triumphed ih the 3,200-meter run.

The relay winner was in the 4x100 meters.

Xavier’s next meet will be Wednesday (March 31) against Phoenix Mountain Pointe and Phoenix Shadow Mountain at Brophy Prep, with a 4 p.m. start time.

Toro Invitational results

Friday, March 26

Top Xavier finishers

100-meter dash – Madigan Moran, So., 3rd, 13.26.

200-meter dash – Tatiyana Angry, Fr., 2nd, 27.33.

400-meter dash – Bella Gomez, Fr., 10th, 1:05.92.

800-meter run – Tatum Goforth, Jr., 1st, 2:26.49.

1,600-meter run – Tatum Goforth, Jr., 1st, 5:29.73.

3,200-meter run – Macarthy Mahoney, Jr., 1st, 12:18.45.

100-meter hurdles – Ellie Higgins, Jr., 11th, 17.76.

300-meter hurdles – Mia Portillo, Jr., 8th, 58.16.

4x100-meter relay – XCP 1st, 51.28.

4x400-meter relay – XCP 3rd, 4:18.26.

4x800-meter relay – XCP 3rd, 10:43.40.

High jump – Morgan Finch, So., 10th, 4-04.

Long jump – Lana Kline, Sr., 7th, 14-09 ½.

Triple jump – Lana Kline, Sr., 9th, 26-07.

Pole vault – Avery Allen, Jr., 4th, 7-00.

Discus – Bethany Barnwell, Sr., 7th, 81-06.

Javelin – Ellie Higgins, Jr., 6th, 77-08.

Shot put – Elena Soderstrom, Jr., 4th, 30-05.

 

Large scoring output gives lacrosse another win

 One big win leads to another for the Xavier Prep club lacrosse team.

The Gators followed up a recent 19-1 victory over Scottsdale Desert Mountain on March 24 with an 18-2 triumph over a team from Tucson’s Oro Valley area on Saturday (March 27) at Petznick Field.

For those doing the math, that 37 goals, 3 against in those two matches.

Xavier is now 2-3 and will play again at its Petznick home on Wednesday (March 31) against Chandler High (3-2) at 6 p.m.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Tennis dominates again with another shutout

 Xavier Prep’s tennis team won its third match in as many days on Thursday (March 25) and fifth overall, 9-0 over Phoenix Sunnyslope at the Stark Tennis Center.

Singles winners for the Gators were freshman Danielle Dyer, junior Victoria Chrostowski, freshman Megan Wheeling, freshman Belani Soto, junior Katelyn Cowan and freshman Kristina Stender.

The XCP doubles teams of Soto and Dyer, senior Nyla Vranic and Christowski, and Stender and junior Lily Gabler also won.

The Gators again will be at home at Stark for their next match, on Tuesday (March 30) against Chandler Basha.

Results

Thursday, March 25

Xavier Prep 9, Phoenix Sunnyslope 0

Singles

Danielle Dyer, X, def. S, 6-0, 6-0. Victoria Chrostowski, X, def. S, 6-0, 6-0. MeganWheeling, X, def. S, 6-1, 6-1. Belani Soto, X, def. S, 6-0, 6-0. Katelyn Cowan, X, def. S, 6-0, 6-0. Kristina Stender, X, def. S, 6-2, 6-0.

Doubles

Soto-Dyer, X, def. S, 8-0. Nyla Vranic-Chrostowski, X, def. S, 8-0. Stender-Lily Gabler, X, def. S, 8-1.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Tennis players young, but they know what to do

 Xavier Prep does not have any seniors on its 2021 tennis roster, but that does not mean the Gators have no chance to earn another Division I state championship.

Coach Laurie Martin’s team is well-stocked with underclassmen.

At the top of the list are junior Ryan Kershner and freshman Dani Dyer. Both usually play 1 and 2 in the order, then turn around and team up for doubles play.

Xavier was 4-0 entering its scheduled match on Thursday (March 25) against Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Kershner is among the top players in the state as well as on some national lists. She has been sidelined with a nagging muscle injury, but that is simply a precautionary measure. She agrees that it’s better to take care of it now than when the importance ramps up in a few weeks.

In the meantime, Dyer usually is No. 1 in singles.

Freshman Dani Dyer meets the ball with her racquet on what she hopes will be a successful serve against Tempe Corona del Sol (photo by Don Ketchum).

The product of St. Thomas the Apostle School in Phoenix also has been playing No. 1 doubles, and was joined by another freshman, Belani Soto, for Wednesday’s (March 24) match against Tempe Corona del Sol at XCP’s Stark Tennis Center.

Kershner was a freshman when Xavier won the D-I title in 2019, and did her best to splice her game together after her sophomore season was taken off the board during the Covid crisis.

Now, she’s looking forward to helping the team reach the top again.

“We will be playing some of the better teams like (Scottsdale) Desert Mountain and (Chandler) Hamilton soon, and we want to be ready,’’ Kershner said. “It will make it even more interesting because I have some good friends on those teams.’’

Dyer also knows some of those players from her participation in various tournaments.

Kershner said the gap created by the virus “was disappointing. We weren’t able to practice much and there were no tournaments in sight.’’

Dyer started playing at a young age through lessons and hoped she could join the varsity at Xavier if she worked hard. She did not play for the freshman team in the fall and worked on her game with instructors she had dealt with previously.

The biggest improvements in Kershner’s game have been her ability to attack from the forehand side and her overall serves, particularly placement.

“Last year, I really didn’t have that skill (attack mode), but I’m doing pretty well with it now,’’ she said.

Footwork and overall technique have been Dyer’s focus. And developing a backhand shot.

“It’s one of my best shots,’’ she said.

Dyer used the backhand quite often against Corona del Sol in doubles and it helped her and Soto control the match.

Martin has enjoyed watching the progress the team is making.

“We have a great group of kids,’’ she said.

“They are getting better. They have taken lessons and been in clinics. That’s a lot of hours.’’

She said Kershner and Dyer have worked together previously and have a lot of experience, knowing what works for them. When she has been idle, Kershner has kept an eye on Dyer and sometimes makes suggestions, and cheers on all of her teammates.

Dyer could be the heir apparent once Kershner graduates in 2022.

“She’s a good competitor, loves to play. She has a lot of maturity,’’ Martin said.

Results

Tuesday, March 23

Xavier Prep 9, Glendale Ironwood 0

Singles

Megan Wheeling, X, def. I, 6-3, 7-5. Belani Soto, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Nyla Vranic, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Katelyn Cowan, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Kristine Stender, X, def. I, 6-1, 6-0. Lily Gabler, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0.

Doubles

Wheeling-Cowan, X, def. I, 8-3. Vranic-Soto, X, def. I, 8-0. Stender-Gabler, X, def. I, 8-0.

Wednesday, March 24

Xavier Prep 9, Tempe Corona del Sol 0

Singles

Danielle Dyer, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-0. Victoria Chrostowski, X, def. I, 6-0, 6-1. Megan Wheeling, X, def. I, 6-2, 6-0. Belani Soto, X, def. I, 6-1, 6-1. Nyla Vranic, X, def. I, 6-2, 6-2. Katelyn Cowan, X, def. I, 6-3, 6-1.

Doubles

Soto-Dyer, X, def. I, 8-0. Vranic-Chrostowski, X, def. I, 8-4. Wheeling-Cowan, X, def. I, 8-0.


Offense unleashes for big lacrosse triumph

 Xavier Prep’s club lacrosse team earned its first victory of the season on Wednesday night (March 24), 19-1 over host Scottsdale Desert Mountain.

Eight different players scored for the Gators and seven different players recorded assists.

Xavier’s defense also had a strong effort, keeping the Wolves from getting good shots for most of the game.

Xavier (1-3) returns to action at 3 p.m. on Saturday (March 27) at Petznick Field against the Oro Valley team from Tucson.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Battery charges up Gators to softball victory

 The pitcher can retire an opponent in any situation, with power and/or placement.

The catcher knows how to work with the pitcher, which pitches are working the best. And when she grabs a bat, she can hit the ball hard to any part of the field or beyond the fences.

This, softball followers, is what these two players are supposed to do, and why junior pitcher Riley Flynn and senior catcher Macy Lee are one of Arizona’s best batteries for Xavier Prep.

They were on top of their games on Tuesday (March 23) as Xavier rolled past visiting Chandler Basha 9-0 at Petznick Field.

Xavier has won its first four games to begin the season, all by shutout. Flynn has struck out 46 batters. Lee, who has signed a letter of intent with Michigan State, slugged three doubles and drove in three runs. And junior shortstop Bridget Donahey and junior second baseman Megan Schouten hit home runs.

Xavier’s victory over Basha was impressive considering that the Bears had defeated top-ranked Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor the day before. Xavier was third in those same rankings by azcentral.com and Basha (3-1) was ninth.

“The fact that they (Flynn and Lee) know each other well and have worked together for a long time and you take a look at their results . . . yes, I would put them up against anyone,’’ said XCP Coach Brad Downes.

Xavier is returning to the form that allowed them to post an 8-1 record in their first nine games last season before the Covid virus appeared. After that, work with club teams was hit and miss over the summer and players only were able to resume a portion of their normal routines during the fall months.

“We (coaches) are satisfied that we continue to make progress. We’re excited for the season,’’ Downes said. “The girls have worked really hard. They’re good.’’

Junior right fielder Elliot Smith supplemented Lee’s three-hit effort with three hits of her own.

In the third inning, Schouten followed a double by Lee with a double. She hit the ball through the hole between shortstop and third base and hustled into second with a head-first slide.

On defense, senior left fielder Sydney Johnson made two significant plays, one on a ball that went over her head and behind her and another on a line drive that came at her almost before she knew it.

The Gators’ next game comes on Tuesday (March 30) with a trip to face Gilbert Perry. The Pumas won their season opener over Tempe Corona del Sol and will play Glendale Cactus and Phoenix Desert Vista before taking on Xavier.

 

 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Two years later, Gators still reach beach elite

 The last time before Monday (March 22) that Xavier Prep played in any organized beach volleyball competition was in 2019, when the Gators defeated Gilbert Perry for their seventh state championship in eight seasons.

Beach volleyball and all of the other spring sports in 2020 were wiped out by the COVID virus.

So on Monday, the Gators were finally back in action. They played on their home sand, the Cavanaugh Family Courts, although the match against Phoenix Sunnyslope was designated as a home game for ‘Slope because of that school’s temporary inability to use its facilities.

The one thing that had not changed was Xavier’s dominance of its opponent.

Led by Stanford-bound senior Serena Turner, the Gators swept the Vikings 5-0. Xavier now turns its attention to Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge in Tucson, which will host XCP on Wednesday (March 24).

“I’d say there was a lot of nervousness for us today,’’ said Xavier Head Coach Tim McHale. “We are a very young team. We have only two seniors (Turner and Zaira Reyes).

“Still, it was good to be home, even though it technically wasn’t our home match. It was a good test for us to see where we’re at. We identified some things that we need to work on.’’

Just as with indoor volleyball, Xavier has developed a friendly rivalry with ‘Slope in beach volleyball. The two sports have overlapped for the Vikings, as both are coached by Amber LeTarte.

“A lot of us know each other,’’ McHale said.

There seems to be more and more of that going around, and that’s a good thing.

The first beach championships in Arizona were held in 2012, with no more than 10 teams. Now it has spread to nearly 80, with a lot of quality interaction.

McHale wanted his players to attempt to work on certain aspects of their game in the opener, if the opportunity presented itself.

For Turner, one of her elements came on the match’s final moments.

It was a “Skyball,’’ and no, it’s not the name of a new James Bond film.

It is a serve where the server hits the ball as high as possible with an underhand motion with the intent of the ball landing just on the other side of the net, making it more difficult for the opponent to judge its descent.

The ball did what it was supposed to do, and it was mission accomplished with more hopeful days ahead.

Monday’s results

No. 1 pairing – Serena Turner-Summer McCann, X, def. Taylor Haan-Alexia Scott, S, 21-12, 21-8.

No. 2 pairing – Lexi Yoza-Landree Coats, X, def. Gianna Barry-Andie Purdy, S, 21-17, 21-10.

No. 3 pairing – Zaira Reyes-Katie Anthony, X, def. Jaelyn Juniel-Avery Kronholm, S, 21-8, 21-8.

No. 4 pairing – Tiffany Tellez-Alexa Shiner, X, def. Kate Daoust-Amelia Shelley, S, 21-4, 21-7.

No. 5 pairing – Trinity Tran-Mei Tsou, X, def. Avery Bishop-Tess McDonald, S, 21-6, 21-8.


Turner's academic excellence shines through

 Senior beach volleyball player Serena Turner is the latest Xavier Prep athlete to shine in academic competition.

On March 11, she won the Arizona Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Student Athlete Scholarship Competition by writing her impressive essay that landed her a $500 check from the AIAAA.

Turner, who will study and play beach volleyball at Stanford starting this fall, now competes against students from the U.S.’ Section 7, made up of residents of Arizona, California, Utah, Nevada and Hawaii.

Section winners will go against winners from seven other sections for national awards.

“This is a huge award and we are so proud of her,’’ said Xavier Athletic Director and Vice Principal for Activities Sr. Lynn Winsor.


Xavier shows promise in AMDG track & field

 Xavier Prep’s track and field team ventured into a larger opponent field on Friday (March 19), competing in the annual Brophy AMDG Invitational at the Brophy Sports Campus.

The Gators’ top finishers were junior Tatum Goforth in the 800-meter run (second) and junior Hannah Wheeling in the 1,600-meter run (third).

One of the top young XCP athletes had encouraging effort in the 400-meter dash sprint event. Freshman Tatiyana Angry finished sixth.

And Xavier, traditionally strong in team relay events, finished second in the 4x800.

Xavier is scheduled for more action on Friday (March 26) at the Toro Invitational hosted by Mountain View High in Mesa. Start time is 4 p.m.

AMDG Invitational

March 19

Top Xavier finishers

100-meter dash – Madigan Moran, So., 7th, 13.38.

400-meter dash – Tatiyana Angry, Fr., 6th, 1:02.54.

800-meter run – Tatum Goforth, Jr., 2nd, 2:23.64.

1,600-meter run – Hannah Wheeling, Jr., 3rd, 5:22.87.

100-meter hurdles – Ellie Higgins, Jr., 12th, 18.12.

300-meter hurdles – Morgan Finch, So., 18th, 56.67.

4x100-meter relay – Xavier Prep 4th, 52.11.

4x400-meter relay – Xavier Prep 7th, 4:23.25.

4x800-meter relay – Xavier Prep 2nd, 9:58.77.

High jump – Ellie Higgins, Jr., 10th, 4-06.

Long jump – Cierra Gonzalez, Jr., 10th, 15-07.

Pole vault – Avery Allen, Jr., 8th, 8-00.

Information: MileSplitAZ


Monday, March 22, 2021

azcentral.com softball list includes 9 Gators

 The azcentral.com news and sports Web site was looking for top high school softball performers for the first week of the season, and found plenty of candidates for recognition from Xavier Prep.

Nine Gators were on the list after Xavier’s 3-0 start, led by junior pitcher Riley Flynn, who won all three games while giving up no runs and striking out 35 batters.

Other Xavier players of note were junior shortstop Bridget Donahey, freshman third baseman Lauren Putz, senior catcher Macy Lee, junior second baseman Meghan Schouten, junior first baseman Emma Petersen, senior left fielder Sydney Johnson, junior right fielder Elliot Smith and senior infielder Jazmin Andrade.

Xavier is due to play once this week, on Tuesday (March 23) with a home contest at Petznick Field against Chandler Basha. First pitch is at 3:45 p.m.


Tennis team begins season with impressive wins

 Xavier Prep’s tennis team opened its 2021 season last week with victories over Scottsdale Chaparral and Phoenix Mountain Pointe.

The Gators defeated Chaparral 5-2 and Mountain Pointe 9-0.

Xavier will play three home matches this week – on Tuesday (March 23) against Glendale Ironwood, on Wednesday (March 24) against Tempe Corona del Sol and on Thursday (March 25) against Phoenix Sunnyslope.

Here are the results from the Chaparral and Mountain Pointe matches . . .

Xavier 5, Chaparral 2

Singles

Ryan Kershner, X, def. C, 6-1, 6-1. Danielle Dyer, X, def. C, 6-0, 6-0. C def. Victoria Chrostowski, X, 7-6, 5-7, 11-9. Megan Wheeling, X, def. C, 4-6, 7-6, 10-7. C def. Belani Soto, X, 7-6, 6-3. Nyla Vranic, X, def. C, 6-4, 6-4.

Doubles

Dyer-Kershner, X, def. C, 8-3.

Xavier 9, Mountain Pointe 0

Singles

Megan Wheeling, X, def. MP, 6-1, 6-1. Belani Soto, X, def. MP, 6-0, 6-0. Nyla Vranic, X, def. MP, 6-0, 6-0. Sophia Kleingartner, X, def. MP, 6-0, 6-0. Katelyn Cowan, X, def. MP, 6-0, 6-0. Lily Gabler, X, def. MP, 6-0, 6-0.

Doubles

Cowan-Wheeling, X, def. MP, 8-0. Vranic-Soto, X, def. MP, 8-0. Kleingartner-Gabler, X, def. MP, 8-0.


Six sign letters to continue excellence in colleges

 Six Xavier Prep athletes recently signed athletics national letters of intent (NLI) to continue their careers and study at universities and colleges across the nation and Arizona.

The signings were part of a ceremony on Thursday (March 18) at the Virginia G. Piper Performing Arts Center. Athletes received a flower and were allowed to wear sweatshirts from their new schools, include banners at the signing table and have photos taken with family, friends, teammates and coaches.

The six athletes were Jaden Campbell (soccer), Mia Alejos (soccer), Emmie Paulson (soccer), Kaori Robertson (indoor volleyball), Elliana Steely-Judice (crew/rowing) and Jamie Stelnik (cross country/track and field).

*Campbell will attend Benedictine University in Mesa and major in Psychology.

*Alejos will attend Arizona Christian University in Glendale and major in Criminal Justice.

*Paulson will attend the University of San Francisco and major in Computer Science.

*Robertson will attend the University of Arizona in Tucson and major in Pharmaceutical Science.

*Steely-Judice will attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., and major in Environmental Science and Business.

*Stelnik will attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., and major in Computer Science.

Congratulations to these Great Gators !!


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Big bats carry XCP softball past Chaparral

 Xavier Prep softball players will take hits any way they can get them.

That would include a bunt, a slow roller down the line, a shot into the outfield gap or maybe a ball that leaves the yard.

The Gators had four of the latter variety on Friday (March 19) with a 10-0 victory in five innings over Scottsdale Chaparral at Petznick Field.

Junior shortstop Bridget Donahey hit a pair of home runs, while senior catcher Macy Lee and junior first baseman Emma Petersen each hit one homer, Petersen finishing with three RBIs and Lee two.

Junior pitcher Riley Flynn had a masterful effort in the circle, giving up no hits while walking three and striking out 13.

Xavier (3-0) will be back in action on Tuesday (March 23) against Chandler Basha at Petznick Field.


WE DID IT! GATORS CLAIM 11TH SOCCER TITLE

Team gathers for a celebratory photo (Photos by Don Ketchum).

 There’s an old proverb that tells us, “Good things come to those who wait.’’

And Xavier Prep’s soccer team had been waiting a long time to reach the 6A Conference championship match on Friday night (March 19).

*The Gators had not won a state title since back-to-back crowns in 2017 and 2018.

*They had to slog through many frustrating moments for more than a year after the world was ambushed by the Covid virus and were not certain if they would even play in 2020-21.

*They had to wait through a full match that went overtime in this year’s semifinals against top-seeded Gilbert Perry.

*Earlier on Friday, they had to wait for the title match against four-time defending champion Scottsdale Chaparral to start nearly an hour later than expected after the boys’ title match between Brophy Prep and San Luis went overtime, plus a shootout.

Finally, the Gators’ moment arrived at Gilbert Campo Verde High.

They scored in the first 5:14 of the match. Bolstered by some quality goaltending by senior Jaden Campbell and a suffocating defense, they went nearly to the end, with 55 seconds remaining, to score an insurance goal and claimed the school’s 11th state crown with a 2-0 victory.

Xavier's Bella Leonard, left, and Talia Coury (blue left arm wrap) help raise the 6A Conference state championship trophy,.

Xavier, the No. 5 seed in the tournament, finished 10-2-1, while No. 3 Chaparral finished 12-3.

All of Xavier’s victories were by shutout except one (2-1 over Gilbert Highland in the quarterfinals), and Campbell had a dominating effect throughout.

Campbell had a good grip on most of Chaparral’s shots, and an even stronger grip on the state championship trophy.

“This is surreal that we are definitely the state champions,’’ said Campbell, one of two senior co-captains with defender Emmie Paulson.

It was the sixth state title at Xavier for head coach Barb Chura.

“Our two co-captains were incredible all year, and Jaden was awesome,’’ she said. “We have a lot of ability, but what gets you to the top is your mentality. That’s what sets you apart. And the amazing thing about this team is that we are so young.’’

Junior Hennessy Perez scored Xavier’s first goal, and the defense took over.

Chaparral had its chances to score here and there, but was taken out of its comfort zone by the Gators. At virtually every turn for the Firebirds, Xavier was on them, keeping them away from the ball by digging it out with the feet.

The primary thorn in Chaparral’s side was senior Ololade Adebayo.

“ “O’ was lights out,’’ Chura said.

Chaparral had a few kicks sail over the goal and had one shot hit the crossbar with 29:46 left in the match. Not too long after, the Firebirds began to feel a sense of urgency by seeing fewer ticks left on the clock.

As time began to roll into the final few minutes, Xavier did not want to leave anything to chance. The Gators pushed for another score.

Freshman Talia Coury, one of the team’s players on the rise, got control of the ball on the left sideline and drove the ball almost to the goalkeeper’s area before making a right turn toward the goal. At the last second, she provided sophomore Eva Allen with a soft touch pass and Allen put the ball in for her team-leading ninth goal.

Coury had her left arm and wrist secured by a blue wrap after recently suffering a bone contusion.

“I was thinking that I want to shoot it myself, but I saw that Eva was open and got the ball back to her,’’ Coury said.

Soon, the title belonged to Xavier.

Assistant coach Rafael Rios pumped his fist and exclaimed, “We did it!!’’

“To shut them out was huge, and it made up for last season, when we tied it (at 1-1) and they went on to win the championship,’’ Campbell said. “It is ours now. It’s been an amazing year because there were times when we wondered if we were going to play. We had a lot of support. I am so proud of the girls and I’m looking forward to seeing them continue to grow.’’

Chura said, “We had some big-time players make some big-time plays. A lot of had to do with our team chemistry. We saw some at the beginning of the year and watched it get better.’’


Leonard''s winning goal catches ESPN's eye

 Xavier Prep has a TV star in its midst.

 Video from sophomore Bella Leonard’s game-winning goal at the end of Wednesday’s (March 17) overtime victory over Gilbert Perry in the 6A state soccer semifinals went national, thanks to ESPN.

Leonard’s goal, which lofted over the Perry goalkeeper from about 30 yards out and grazed the bottom of the crossbar before hitting the back of the net, was the No. 2 video out of the top 10 of the day presented by the sports network.

The 1-0 win advanced Xavier to the championship match against Scottsdale Chaparral, and Xavier took a 2-0 victory over the Firebirds to win the title.

Leonard faced a scary moment in the title match when she was struck in the head by a Chaparral kick with about 36 minutes left in regulation. She was down on the ground for a few moments before being escorted to the bench by Xavier Head Athletic Trainer Laurie White.

The two sat together on the bench before White cleared Leonard through a concussion protocol and Leonard returned to the game about 15 minutes later.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Track & field performs well in 2021 debut

 Track and Field

Xavier Prep vs. Gilbert Perry

March 17, at Brophy Sports Campus

Xavier top finishers in various events

100-meter dash – Tatiyana Angry, freshman, 1st, 13.40; Madigan Moran, sophomore, 2nd, 13.51; Maya Ofori, freshman, 3rd, 13.,65.

200-meter dash – Mackenzie Lopez, freshman, 1st, 23.64; Lara Kline, senior, 2nd, 28.97; Cierra Gonzalez, junior, 3rd, 29.60.

400-meter run – Tatiyana Angry, freshman, 1st, 1:02.48; Bella Gomez, freshman, 3rd, 1:06.48.

800-meter run – Tatum Goforth, junior, 2nd, 2:27.32; Jamie Stelnik, senior, 3rd, 2:31.09.

1,600-meter run – Macarthy Mahoney, junior, 1st, 5:41.77; Lily Beaver, freshman, 2nd, 6:04.32; Olivia Charles, sophomore, 3rd, 6:10.67.

3,200-meter run – Catherine Alaimo, junior, 1st, 12:40.46; Karime Morales, junior, 2nd, 12:47.73; Sophia Maroufkani, freshman, 3rd, 13:12.83.

100-meter hurdles – Ellie Higgins, junior, 1st, 18.45; Mia Portillo, junior, 2nd, 19.88.

300-meter hurdles – Mia Portillo, junior, 2nd, 59.05; Grace McClelland, sophomore, 3rd, 59.16.

4x100 relay – Xavier, 1st, 52.78.

4x400 relay – Xavier, 1st, 4:24.49.

4x800 relay – Xavier, 1st, 10:29.91.

High jump – Ellie Higgins, junior, 1st, 4-4; Morgan Finch, sophomore, 2nd, 4-2; Sofia Asher, sophomore, 3rd, 4-0.

Long jump – Cierra Gonzalez, junior, 1st, 14-4 ¾; Macy Kerwin, senior, 2nd, 14-4 ½.

Pole vault – Avery Allen, junior, 1st, 8-0.

Discus – Elena Soderstrom, junior, 1st, 83-6; Jozlin Tanner, senior, 2nd, 77-10; Bethany Barnwell, senior, 3rd, 74-0.

Shot put – Elena Soderstrom, junior, 1st, 28-4 ½; Jozlin Tanner, senior, 2nd, 27-0 ½; Callie Ehmann, sophomore, 3rd, 24-7.

NEXT MEET: Friday (March 19), AMDG Invitational at Brophy Sports Campus, 3 p.m.

Information: MileSplitAZ.

 

 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Xavier falls to Valley Vista in hoops semis

 The basketball season for Xavier Prep came to a close on Wednesday night (March 17) with a 54-48 setback to host Surprise Valley Vista in a 6A Conference semifinal game.

Valley Vista, seeded No. 2, will go on to face top-seeded Chandler Hamilton for the championship on Saturday (March 20) at Mesquite High in Gilbert.

Xavier, the No. 3 seed, finished at 13-4 under Coach Jennifer Gillom and assistants Patrick Mangosing  and Rikki Malloy-Trombley.

Congratulations to the Gators on another strong season.



Flynn strikes out 17 in 5-0 win over Thunder

 Xavier Prep’s softball team picked up its second victory of the season in its home opener against Phoenix Desert Vista at Petznick Field on Wednesday (March 17).

Junior Riley Flynn led the way for the Gators in their 5-0 victory, outdueling Thunder sophomore pitcher Jocelyn Briski. One day after shutting out Phoenix Alhambra, Flynn was on top of her game with 17 strikeouts.

Junior second baseman Meghan Schouten hit her second home run in as many days, a two-run shot. Senior outfielder Sydney Johnson connected for a home run and a double. Senior third baseman Jazmin Andrade collected a pair of hits, senior catcher Macy Lee hit a double and freshman outfielder Sofia Zielinski drove in a run.

Xavier returns to action with another home game on Friday (March 19) against Scottsdale Chaparral. First pitch is at 3:45 p.m.


Amazing soccer play lifts Gators as time runs out

 Soccer is an emotional, demanding game. It perhaps is as demanding as any other sport, if not more so, due to placing the body in constant motion.

Xavier Prep Coach Barb Chura certainly knows this from her lengthy career as a player and coach.

“I know the players get tired, but as I told them, “Do you know what doesn’t get tired? The ball. It is always ready for you to play.’’

Always ready, from the opening whistle to the final horn.

And in the case of the fifth-seeded Gators and No. 1 Gilbert Perry in their 6A Conference semifinal on Wednesday night (March 17) at Gilbert Campo Verde, every bit of the 80 minutes of regulation and 20 more of overtime were needed.

Due to the attentiveness of sophomore Bella Leonard, fans in the stands and those watching on live video got to witness one of the most amazing plays you will see anywhere.

With the clock ticking and about 10 seconds left in the second overtime of the then-scoreless match, a penalty kick scenario was staring the teams in the face, the next manner of deciding which would advance to Friday’s (March 19) championship match.

One of the Perry players came in contact with a Xavier player while trying to head the ball from the right sideline, then kicking the ball. But the referee awarded the ball to the Gators instead. The referee pointed toward the area where the ball should be placed.

Leonard hustled over to pick the ball up at the 35-yard line and placed it at the 31. She approached the ball quickly and sent it toward the goal with a perfect strike and follow-through.

The Perry goalkeeper could do nothing but wait for it to come back down. It went over her head and might have grazed the bottom of the crossbar ever so slightly before continuing into the back of the net.

For a few moments, everything seemed frozen in time.

Then the referee signaled that the goal was good. The ball had crossed the goal line before the horn sounded, and the Gators had escaped with a 1-0 triumph, bringing their record to 9-2-1 and catapulting them into the title match against No. 3 Scottsdale Chaparral (12-2) on Friday at Campo Verde. Start time is 7:15 p.m.

Xavier players screamed at the top of their lungs as they surrounded Leonard, who on Saturday (March 13) had scored both of the Gators’ goals in a 2-1 quarterfinal win at Gilbert Highland.

Perry players stood motionless. Some of them fell to the ground in disbelief, realizing  their unbeaten season had ended in an instant – 13-1-1.

Chura shook her head, wiped her brow and said, “It was incredible. Never in all of my years have I experienced something like this, not as a player, not as a coach. I’ve seen it happen to other people.

“Thank goodness for Bella realizing what was going on and taking it upon herself to make a play. ‘’

She added that everyone around the team started to feel really good about a lot of things during the Highland game, and that the momentum carried over when the Gators faced Perry, which had defeated Xavier 1-0 in the regular season opener at Perry.

“Perry is a very good team and I think we did a good job tonight smothering them defensively, not allowing them much room. On offense, it was “pass, pass, pass,’’ keep the ball moving and we felt something would open up.’’

The Gators will do their best to allow the momentum to continue again.

“We’re all invested in this team,’’ Chura said.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

New softball season begins on powerful note

 Now, where were we?

It seemed like last year when we were following the exploits of Xavier Prep’s softball team.

And we were – it has been a full year. The Gators had won eight of their first nine games before the dreaded Covid virus hit.

No more season for softball or any other spring teams.

Now things have quieted down, sort of, and the spring athletes are back at it.

Softball played its first game of the regular season on Tuesday (March 16) at Phoenix Alhambra.

The Gators took out a year’s worth of frustration with a 21-0 victory in five innings.

Alhambra did not get any hits against the XCP pitching staff, led by junior Riley Flynn, while the Gators’ offense came through in a big way. Junior second baseman Meghan Schouten hit a two-run home run in an 11-run first inning. And junior Emma Petersen hit a two-run double in a six-run second.

The Gators are due to face much more of a test in their home opener at Petznick Field on Wednesday (May 17).

Phoenix Desert Vista is the opponent, and the Thunder have already sent a message out to the rest of Arizona’s softball community that they expect to be a contender for the 6A Conference title.

The Thunder feature sophomore pitcher Jocelyn Briski, who opened the season on Tuesday by tossing a no-hitter against Chandler High, with 19 strikeouts.

Xavier will play a second home game this week on Friday (March 19) against Scottsdale Chaparral.


Sunday, March 14, 2021

Gators get big soccer win but a lot of work remains

 Xavier Prep’s 2-1 6A Conference quarterfinal victory over host Gilbert Highland was full of nail-biting excitement on Saturday (March 13).

The first Xavier goal, by sophomore Bella Leonard, rolled along the ground at snail-like speed, easy enough for a goalkeeper to stop.

But in this case, the Gilbert Highland keeper reached down to pick up the ball and it somehow slipped through her hands with 27:22 left in the first half of the teams’ quarterfinal contest at Highland.

Leonard also scored in the second half with 34:48 left, but this one was just the opposite. It was  like a rocket with little doubt that it would land in the back of the net.

That set the stage for fifth-seeded Xavier to try to hold on and for the fourth-seeded Hawks to try to come up with a miracle comeback.

Highland scored with 12:49 left on a goal by Sydney Menden to cut the Xavier lead to 2-1. There was no home-team miracle on this day, however, and Xavier cut through the blustery conditions for the 2-1 finish.

Xavier (8-2-1) earned a trip to the semifinals on Wednesday (March 17) at 6 p.m. against top-seeded Gilbert Perry (13-0-1) at Gilbert Campo Verde. The first semifinal will be played at 4 p.m., No. 3 Scottsdale Chaparral against No. 2 Phoenix Pinnacle. Chaparral defeated No. 11 Peoria Liberty 3-1 and Pinnacle defeated No. 10 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 2-0.

Highland finished its season at 10-3.

Xavier coach Barb Chura agreed that her team dominated Highland in the first half, but realized the second half could be much different because Highland was “desperate,’’ down two goals with the wind at its back.

“We knew they would be coming after us,’’ Chura said.

She marveled at how Leonard is developing into a high-level player who on her second goal unleashed “her infamous move’’ that the Gators see every day in practice (a step-over) but can do little to stop it even when they know it is coming, Highland now knows the feeling.

There were others who played key roles for Xavier.

Sophomore forward Eva Allen worked tirelessly keeping the ball alive on the Highland side of the field and attempting to set up teammates for as near to clear shots as possible.

When senior forward Ololade Adebayo was sidelined with an injury in the first half, senior Emmie Paulson came in and played a fine all-around game, “the game of her life,’’ according to Chura. Adebayo did manage to return to action late in the game and came up with an important maneuver, digging the ball out of a corner while surrounded by opponents.

And senior goalkeeper Jaden Campbell nearly had the shutout. She hit the ground and stayed down briefly after being flattened by a pileup in front of the Xavier goal with 4:51 left. She was ordered to leave the match while undergoing a concussion protocol (Ella Eberhardt filled in nicely), then returned with 3 ½ minutes left to wrap things up.


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Sometimes, slow works as well as fast in hoops

 There’s something to be said about sprinting up and down the basketball floor on fast breaks or pulling up quickly for a high-percentage shot, but sometimes, out of necessity, a team has to . . .

Slow

the

ball

down.

So Xavier Prep’s Gators did that, along with playing some tough defense against visiting Mesa High, to earn a 40-30 victory in a 6A Conference quarterfinal game on Friday night (March 12) at the Activity Center.

The Gators had been averaging 61 points entering the game, but made things work here despite scoring a third fewer than the average.

Third-seeded Xavier (13-3) advances to a semifinal game on Wednesday (March 17) at second-seeded Surprise Valley Vista (7 p.m.). Those two have had a good rivalry in recent years, mainly in the state tournament, although Valley Vista (16-1) defeated XCP 62-45 in the regular-season opener for both schools on Jan. 20 at Xavier. Valley Vista defeated No. 10 Tucson Rincon/University 95-48 in the quarters.

Valley Vista’s only loss was to Chandler Hamilton, now the top-seeded team in the tournament. Hamilton defeated Xavier twice during the regular season.

Hamilton advanced to the semis with a 56-46 win over No. 8 seed and Premier Region rival Gilbert Perry, and will meet No. 4 Mesa Dobson on Wednesday at Hamilton. Dobson defeated No. 5 seed Mesa Westwood 50-37 in the quarters.

Xavier began the game against Mesa with some of its players having discarded their masks previously mandated by the Arizona Interscholastic Association and which recently relaxed the rule.

Fifth-seeded Mesa’s Jackrabbits got a good look at Xavier’s fresh faces, with their in-your-face defense for most of the first half. That had Xavier slowing the ball down and/or misfiring on many occasions. Mesa clung to a 15-11 lead at halftime.

The Gators outscored Mesa 13-5 in the third and showed signs of an offense, while increasing its defensive presence at the opposite end.

Freshman guard Sarah Miller and sophomore forward/guard Mia Davis were the primary point-producers for the game. Miller scored 14 to match her team-leading rebounding total, and Davis scored 12.

Miller got the Gators going in the third quarter by scoring the first six points of the period with a basket, a free throw and a three-point play.

She made perhaps the game’s top play with about 4 ½ minutes left in the contest when she drove through traffic from right to left down the baseline and scored on a reverse layup. The right-handed shooting Miller converted the play with her left hand.

The Gator defense continued to wear down the Jackrabbits. Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom said she wanted her players to focus on the backcourt tandem of junior Mackenzie Shivers and sophomore Ashiian Hunter, who led the team in scoring most of the year.

Hunter had scored eight of the team’s 11 points in overtime after Shivers had fouled out in regulation to lead Mesa to a 69-63 win over No. 11 Phoenix Pinnacle in the first round.

Gillom said, “If we could shut down one of them, we would be fine.’’

She could take a breath after Hunter tallied just four points to offset Shivers’ 22.

“They say that defense wins championships, and that’s what won it for us,’’ Gillom said. “And we got the offense when we needed it.’’

The coach continued to sing the praises of Miller, who is part of a freshman backcourt triumvirate along with Dominique Nesland and Maureen Ulrich.

“Sarah Miller just seems to improve game after game, and the rest follow suit,’’ Gillom said.


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Gators topple Tucson in first-round state match

 Like water coming from a reservoir nearly full of spring rain, blue-clad Xavier Prep soccer players spilled onto Petznick Field to celebrate their latest conquest.

It was not so much that they defeated visiting Tucson High, it was how they did it in a 6A Conference state tournament first-round match on Wednesday night (March 10).

Fifth-seeded Xavier led No. 12 Tucson just 1-0 at halftime, then showered the Badgers with five more goals in the second half for a decisive 6-0 victory.

Xavier (7-2-1) now moves on to a quarterfinal match on Saturday (March 13) at No. 4 Gilbert Highland (10-2), which advanced by defeating No. 13 Mesa Mountain View 4-0. The quarterfinal begins at 2 p.m.

Sophomore Eva Allen gave the Gators the initial lead with her team-leading eighth goal of the season.

Xavier coach Barb Chura would have preferred a more comfortable lead, but was pleased that her players were able to turn up the intensity in the second half.

“If you let the other team keep hanging around and have only a one-goal lead, something could happen (to tie the match). Tucson is aggressive and we knew that, so we did not want to allow them to stay in it,’’ Chura said. “When we got up 3, we knew we were in a good position.’’

Xavier made it 2-0 with 31:13 left in the second half on junior Ansley Burns’ first goal of the season, and about two minutes later, the lead went to 3-0. Allen passed the ball from right to left near the front of the goal, where sophomore Bella Leonard scored as the result of a “bicycle kick,’’ where the player more or less assumes a position of riding a bicycle while airborne and can send the ball back behind them.

The Gators’ last three goals were scored by freshman Talia Coury, senior Lizzie Woudenberg and senior Emmie Pauslon, the latter coming with just two seconds left.

It was a particularly noteworthy achievement for Paulson, a co-captain (with goalkeeper Jaden Campbell) whose job as a defender normally is to keep opponents from scoring, not scoring herself. This was her first goal of the season.

Paulson usually plays most of the time in the second half, when defense can be more of a priority. In this case, most of those on the field at the close of the game were reserves and the starters made up the group that ran onto the field to congratulate them, kind of a role reversal.

“That epitomizes what it means to be a team, everyone supporting one another,’’ Chura said.

Chura added that Paulson and Burns have played other positions on other teams (club). Paulson has been a forward and Burns, a midfielder, also has spent time up front.

Of Paulson’s goal, Chura said, “I guess that was Emmie’s “forwardness’ coming out.’’

Campbell and senior Ella Eberhardt combined for the shutout, the team’s seventh of the season.

Note

Petznick Field had a fresh look after Facilities Manager Raul Vega “vacuumed’’ the surface and washed most of the remaining dust away. Petznick also is used for the spring sports of softball and lacrosse.

Great job, Raul !!

Saturday’s 6A quarterfinals

All matches, 2 p.m.

(Seedings in parentheses)

Mesa Red Mountain (8) at Gilbert Perry (1)

Xavier Prep (5) at Gilbert Highland (4)

Peoria Liberty (11) at Scottsdale Chaparral (3)

Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (10) at Phoenix Pinnacle (2)


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Saucedo's 3rd-period shooting leads XCP to quarters

 Tucson High’s basketball team came into Xavier Prep’s Activity Center on Tuesday night (March 9) with its sights set on a first-round upset in the 6A state tournament.

And it appeared that third-seeded Xavier was ready to hand it right over to the No. 14 Badgers.

Even if the Gators were to have used the most up-to-date radar to guide their shots, it probably wouldn’t have worked – they were that cold. Most of the attempts clanked off the rim or found nothing but air in the first quarter.

Xavier led by five points entering the second quarter and 12 at halftime against the team it had defeated 77-26 at Xavier on Feb. 5. Still, it did not seem that the Gators had things under control.

That changed in the third quarter.

Senior guard Tori Saucedo connected on three 3-point shots to warm up the engine and later added a fourth from long range, finishing with six to help build her final total to 22 points as Xavier advanced to the quarterfinals with a 56-42 win.

The Gators (12-3) will host a quarterfinal game on Friday (March 12) at 7 p.m. against sixth-seeded Mesa High (13-4). Mesa advanced with a 69-63 home win in overtime over No. 11 Phoenix Pinnacle.

Saucedo’s fourth trey of the third quarter pushed Xavier’s advantage to 20 points (40-20), but Tucson got as close as nine with about a minute left in the game. Two free throws each by Saucedo, sophomore guard Sienna Cherwinski and freshman guard Sarah Miller strengthened Xavier’s grip on the lead.

Freshman guard Dominique Nesland led Xavier with 12 rebounds and seven assists, and sophomore Mia Davis led the team with four steals.

6A conference quarterfinal schedule

Friday, all games at 7 p.m.

Seedings in parentheses

Gilbert Perry (8) at Chandler Hamilton (1)

Mesa Westwood (5) at Mesa Dobson (4)

Mesa High (6) at Xavier Prep (3)

Tucson Rincon (10) at Surprise Valley Vista (2)


Saturday, March 6, 2021

Glass sneakers fit, Davis hits 3-pointer at buzzer

 Cinderella tried on a glass slipper and it fit, creating a story of a lifetime.

Then came another tale of wonder on Friday night (March 5) for Xavier Prep’s basketball team.

Mia Davis tried on a pair of glass sneakers and they fit, helping to give her and Gator Nation a magical memory that won’t soon be forgotten. She used the glass backboard to hit the winning three-point shot for a 62-60 Xavier victory.

After Nicole Smith's two free throws gave visiting Gilbert Perry a 60-59 lead with three seconds remaining in regulation, Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom called timeout after her team brought the ball quickly past midcourt. The clock had run down to :01, but officials put one second back on.

When play resumed, the ball was inbounded to Tori Saucedo. Finding no opportunity to put up a shot, she fired the ball over to Davis on the left. Davis had no time to move closer, so she let the ball fly.

It went off the glass and in to give the Gators their second win over Perry this season.

Pandemonium broke out this time as Gillom and the Gators rushed the Activity Center floor. The Perry players stood in stunned silence, because they, too, had played well enough to win.

“What a win that was. That was crazy,’’ Gillom said.

With the 6A Conference state tournament starting on Tuesday (March 9), Gillom said that “we needed this type of (pressure) game.’’

She said the last play was to go to Saucedo, a senior, or Davis, a sophomore, and was happy that Saucedo was able to get the ball to Davis so quickly.

Davis had used the glass for another three earlier in the game, scoring Xavier’s first points of the third quarter. She finished with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.

One of her assists should go on a highlight reel. Davis drove toward the basket and dished the ball, seemingly blindly, off to freshman Sarah Miller for the bucket. Miller finished with a team-high 24 points and four steals.

Perry trailed just 33-32 at halftime and stayed within striking distance thanks to the outstanding play of sophomore forward/post Khamil Pierre, who scored nine of her team’s 11 points in the third quarter. She finished with 34 points.

The Pumas kept battling and pulled ahead 56-55 on a 3-pointer by Leah Davis with 1:19 left.

Back-to-back baskets by Miller allowed Xavier to take a 59-58 lead with about 15 seconds left, setting up the two free throws by Smith and the ultimate shot by Davis.

For Xavier, junior forward Toni Garcia provided a big lift off the bench with four points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

Gators seeing double vs. Tucson in hoops, soccer

Saturday’s (March 6) release of state tournament brackets for basketball and soccer by the Arizona Interscholastic Association brought a bit of surprising news to Xavier Prep teams.

Both the XCP basketball and soccer teams will play Tucson High at Xavier.

Following its exciting 62-60 win over Gilbert Perry on Friday night (March 5), XCP’s basketball team (11-3) is ranked third in AIA power points and will face No. 14 Tucson (8-5) at the Activity Center on Tuesday (March 9) at 7 p.m. Tucson also played at Xavier on Feb. 5 and the Gators prevailed 77-26.

The soccer tournament will begin one night later, on Wednesday (March 10), and fifth-seeded Xavier (6-2-1) will meet No. 12 Tucson (5-4) at Petznick Field with a 6 p.m. start.

Basketball quarterfinals will be March 12, with semifinals on March 17 and finals on March 20. All are at the sites of the highest-seeded teams except for the finals, which will be played at Gilbert Mesquite. All times are 7 p.m. except for the finals, at 5 p.m.

Those teams advancing to the soccer quarterfinals will play again on March 13 at the highest seeds. Semifinals are March 17 and finals on March 19 at Gilbert Campo Verde. Quarterfinals are at 2 p.m., semifinals are at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and finals are at 7:15 p.m.

6A Conference basketball state tournament

First round, Tuesday, March 9

Seedings in parentheses

All games, 7 p.m. (Subject to change)

Yuma Cibola (16) at Chandler Hamilton (1), Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (9) at Gilbert Perry (8), Phoenix Desert Vista (12) at Mesa Westwood (5), Mesa Desert Ridge (13) at Mesa Dobson (4), Tucson High (14) at Xavier Prep (3), Phoenix Pinnacle (11) at Mesa High (6), Tucson Rincon at Gilbert Highland (7), Anthem Boulder Creek (15) at Surprise Valley Vista (2).

Quarterfinals – March 12 at higher seed.

Semifinals – March 17 at higher seed.

Finals – March 20 at Gilbert Mesquite.

6A Conferense soccer state tournament

First round, Wednesday, March 10

Seedings in parentheses

All games, 6 p.m. (Subject to change)

Chandler Basha (16) at Gilbert Perry (1), Maricopa High (9) at Mesa Red Mountain (8), Tucson High (12) at Xavier Prep (5), Mesa Mountain View (13) at Gilbert Highland (4), Queen Creek High (14) at Scottsdale Chaparral (3), Peoria Liberty (11) at Chandler Hamilton (6), Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor (10) at Phoenix Desert Vista (7), Mesa Desert Ridge (15) at Phoenix Pinnacle (2).

Quarterfinals – March 13 at higher seed.

Semifinals – March 17 at Gilbert Campo Verde.

Finals – March 19 at Gilbert Campo Verde.