Xavier Prep’s Gators had the will to win on Saturday (Dec. 18), but not enough time to do it.
They trailed Rosary Academy (Fullerton, Calif.) by 21 points entering the fourth quarter of their Nike Tournament of Champions game at Tempe Marcos de Niza, having been overwhelmed by the opponent’s quickness and ultra-pressure defense.
But the Gators came roaring back in the fourth quarter, going on an 11-0 run to cut its deficit to nine points before Rosary managed to regain its composure and held on for a 46-34 victory, knocking Xavier from the unbeaten ranks at 6-1.
After an off day for the tournament on Sunday (Dec. 19), Xavier moves to the lower part of the 16-team John Anderson bracket and plays on Monday (Dec. 20) in a 1:30 p.m. contest at Tempe McClintock against either Lubbock-Cooper (Texas) or Kenwood (Ill.).
Rosary kept the pressure on from the opening moments on, stifling Xavier with a defense that switched frequently or double-teamed, and the Gators rarely could handle it.
“It was their quickness and their physicality,’’ Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom said. “We needed to play a team like this. We are grateful for the opportunity to do it. We have to learn to play against teams like this because this is the type of team we are going to face in our (6A Conference) state tournament.’’
Of her youthful team, she said, “We showed that we could come back and play with them in the fourth quarter and we feel that we are capable of playing with anybody. The more games we play like this, the better off we will be.’’
Sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller led the Gators with 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Another sophomore, Maureen (Mo) Ulrich, finished with eight points and did a good job defensively.