Xavier Prep’s basketball team had what it thought was a somewhat comfortable 10-point lead over Laveen Cesar Chavez midway through the second half of Sunday night’s (June 27) Blue Bracket championship game in the annual Thunderbird Summer League at Thunderbird High in north Phoenix.
Not too much longer and the Gators could wrap up the title and finish unbeaten in nine games.
But they kept hearing footsteps, faint at first but getting louder and louder.
The Champions caught the Gators with 3:42 left and passed them shortly thereafter. Soon, it would be over and Cesar Chavez would be crowned the bracket winner with Xavier finishing as the disappointed runner-up with an 8-1 record, 58-51.
It wasn’t the way that the Gators wanted to wind up, especially since they had defeated Cesar Chavez 52-46 in summer league play on June 8.
Xavier had played short-handed, missing six players for various reasons, but still managed to defeat Phoenix Sunnyslope 44-31 in a semifinal earlier in the afternoon on Sunday.
Four hours later, by the time for tipoff had arrived for the Cesar Chavez game, the Xavier roster had been built back up, although the team still was missing three key backcourt players.
One key player, sophomore-to-be Sarah Miller, had missed a game on Thursday (June 24) but returned for the Sunnyslope game.
She was her usual omnipresent self on the floor, scoring a team-leading 15 points against Sunnyslope and a team-high 17 against Cesar Chavez. The setback to Cesar Chavez also lessened the impact of a great-shooting day for incoming junior forward-post Gabi Trbovic, who scored 14 against Sunnyslope and 16 against Cesar Chavez. Her shots were magnetic, particularly along the baseline.
For the most part, the Gators seemed to have enough firepower on offense, but where they were lacking was on defense, according to assistant coach Rikki Mulloy-Trombley, who was filling in for head coach Jennifer Gillom.
“Our defense was more of a problem,’’ said Mulloy-Trombley, a graduate of XCP who went on to play at Cornell (Iowa). “We are a young team and it showed.
“We were reaching too much and were missing things on the “help side.’ Getting this corrected will only come with time.
“This whole tournament, in terms of game experience and the exposure to things that goes with it, was good for us. We are looking for more improvement as we get back in the gym when school starts.’’
The Gators should get some gym time during a basketball class during the later hours of the school day, then have official practices begin in October that will lead to the start-up of the regular season in November.