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, December 10, 2021

After the unexpected, Gators do what is expected

 You just never know what is going to happen when you walk into the gym.

The unexpected unfolded when Xavier Prep’s basketball team entered Phoenix Pinnacle’s home court on Thursday night (Dec. 9).

Before the opening tip, before a shot was taken, before a dribble bounced, before you could hear any sneakers squeak, the host Pioneers were busted with a rules violation and accompanying technical foul shots, of which the Gators’ Sienna Cherwinski made one.

And with 3:27 left in the third quarter and Xavier holding a comfortable 58-23 lead, the game was stopped when rain leaking from the roof was dripping on the Gators’ baseline.

The Pinnacle facilities person eventually drove a scissors lift through the gym door and raised the platform to the rafters, where he hung an industrial-sized plastic bucket. About 20 minutes later, play resumed and Xavier went on to remain unbeaten at 4-0 with a 76-46 victory.

“You never expect events like we had tonight,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “You just have to be ready to play. Our girls do a good job of that.’’

Gillom instructed her players to return home and get some rest, because the Gators are due to play again on Friday night (Dec. 10), on the road again vs. Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor.

The Gators gained the upper hand early with a swarming defense that had Pinnacle rarely able to get the ball past the half-court line. By the end of the night, Xavier had recorded 19 steals, including four each by Cherwinski, Gosi Alilonu and Sarah Miller.

On offense, Dom Nesland and Miller, her backcourt running mate, each had four assists.

And it was Nesland who was on fire with her shots, connecting on seven 3-pointers and finishing with 27 points. Miller had 16 points and Maureen (Mo) Ulrich had 11. Ulrich also led the team in rebounding with nine.

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