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, December 21, 2021

Fourth tourney game becomes salvage operation

 In its first six games of the season, Xavier Prep’s basketball team was traveling smooth and steady along a superhighway, but now has veered off onto a rocky, desolate stretch filled with all sorts of debris.

The Gators have lost their first three games in the Nike Tournament of Champions, and now must try to salvage their fourth and final Nike contest before returning to their regular-season schedule in January.

The latest roadblock came on Tuesday (Dec. 21), when 6A Xavier fell to 4A Tucson Salpointe Catholic 65-50 at Phoenix Desert Vista in Ahwatukee.

Xavier (6-3) will meet 5A Goodyear Millennium on Wednesday (Dec. 22) at 8 a.m. at Desert Vista (auxiliary gym). The winner will finish as the 15th-place team in the John Anderson Bracket. Millennium is in a similar situation as the Gators, with losses in its first three Nike games and an overall record of 4-3.

The Gators started things off against Salpointe (8-2) with a three-point basket by Sienna Cherwinski and went on to a 9-5 lead, But the Lancers had a 16-3 run and ended up with a nine-point advantage at the end of the first quarter. Only a 3-pointer by Sarah Miller (22 points) kept XCP from being shut out in the final 5:20 of the quarter.

From there, Salpointe was in control. The Gators got another 3-pointer from Cherwinski to help cut the margin to four about midway through the third.

Xavier could not manufacture much on offense after that with low-percentage shot selection, troublesome passes that were intercepted or tipped away, or standing flat-footed on rebounds as Salpointe appeared to have more of an urgency to go and retrieve the ball.

Complicating matters was the fact that the Gators’ offense was slowed that sophomore point guard Dom Nesland was sidelined by a shoulder injury that occurred on Monday (Dec. 20) with a shoulder injury. She likely will not return to the court until January.

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