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.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Overtime overload for hoops vs. Valley Vista

 Xavier Prep’s Gators were looking for a signature basketball victory, you know, one to send them into the stratosphere and on to bigger and better things.

No sooner than they put the cap back on the pen that they looked down at the dotted line, only to discover that it had been signed in invisible ink. Replacing their signature was one bearing the name of Valley Vista’s Monsoon.

Valley Vista, which has won two 6A Conference state championships in a row and four out of the last five, had outscored Xavier 7-1 in the final minute and a half to force overtime on Wednesday night (Jan. 19), and took care of business in the extra session for a 71-65 victory at the Activity Center.

The Monsoon did so after losing senior star guard Jennah Isai, an Oregon commit, to a shoulder injury in the first half.  It was another unfortunate dose of frustration for Isai, who has a ton of talent but has been plagued by serious knee injuries during her time in Surprise.

Like many Xavier fans, Gators coach Jennifer Gillom was stunned by the late turn of events.

“I’m not really sure what happened,’’ Gillom said. “We played very well for 3 ½ quarters, but not in the last 3 minutes. I guess you could say we got nervous. The only thing we can try to do is to learn from our mistakes.’’

One thing her team can do, is to keep Valley Vista, and all the other opponents from here on out, from camping out at the free-throw line.

“This was kind of like a state tournament game with the free throws,’’ she said.

Valley Vista was 11 of 12 in the fourth quarter and 8 of 9 in the four-minute overtime. That’s 19 of 21 when it counted the most.

The biggest free throws for the Monsoon came with two seconds left in regulation. Freshman Destiny Lunan calmly sank both of her charity shots to set up the overtime. One miss and Xavier would have been dancing in the streets.

The Monsoon (15-5) also helped their cause with eight 3-pointers. Xavier (9-5), meanwhile, which has lived by the 3 most of this season, had just two from long range. Part of that could be attributed to the fast break, which had sophomore guard-forward Sarah Miller on the receiving end in most instances. She finished with 31 points.

Things won’t get much easier for Xavier on Friday night (Jan. 21) when it faces Chandler Hamilton (14-4) in a 6A Premier Region contest at the Activity Center. Hamilton fell to Valley Vista in last year’s title game.

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