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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Guards guide Gators to another summer win

 Led primarily by their outstanding backcourt, Xavier Prep’s Gators are sprinting, not jogging, toward the mini “tournament’’ that will cap the 2021 version of the Thunderbird Basketball  League at Thunderbird High in north Phoenix.

The Gators raised their summer record to 6-0 with a 50-39 win over Glendale Deer Valley on Monday night (June 21), leaving them one “regular season’’ game remaining against the Thunderbird Blue team on Thursday night (June 24) at 9.

Xavier, assigned to the Blue Bracket, will get a first-round bye on Saturday (June 26) before playing on Sunday (June 27) at 4 p.m. against Phoenix Sunnyslope. The winner of that one will advance to the Blue Bracket title game at 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Against Deer Valley, which fell to 5-1, Xavier got 16 points from guard Sienna Cherwinski, a junior-to-be, 14 from incoming sophomore guard Maureen (Mo) Ulrich and 13 from sophomore guard Sarah Miller. Cherwinski had three 3-pointers.

The point of ignition came early in the second half. Deer Valley had cut the Xavier lead to 28-20, but the Gators dialed up the pace to score 11 straight points and gain a more comfortable advantage.

“The girls know that defense wins championships, so if they have a chance to win, that’s what they will have to do,’’ said Xavier assistant coach Patrick Mangosing, who was filling in for head coach Jennifer Gillom. “We feel we are capable of scoring 20 or 30 points off our defense.’’

Incoming freshman post player CeCe Mlat made her presence felt. She either blocked a handful of Deer Valley shots or caused the opponents to alter other shots, and gathered in a few rebounds.

“She seems to pick things up quickly. She is coachable,’’ Mangosing said. “I think people are going to see some great things from her as the (winter) season goes on.’’

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