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 7, 2022

Gators' coach has to mix and match in summer hoops

 These are the times that try coaches’ souls.

Particularly in basketball summer leagues. Since participation by the players is pretty much voluntary, a coach is not sure what they will get from one game to the next.

Except for one injury, Xavier Prep coach Jennifer Gillom had close to a full roster for the recent Lady Extravaganza tournament in Goodyear.

With the Gators’ attention turning to the annual Thunderbird Summer League at Thunderbird High in north Phoenix, Xavier played its first game against Glendale Deer Valley on Monday night (June 6) with more missing pieces, forcing Gillom to negotiate the mix-and-match, followed by more mix-and-match.

The noteworthy injury (Sarah Miller knee) was still there, and likely will be for quite some time. Two key guards – Sienna Cherwinski (scholastic tests) and Dom Nesland (club team action) also were absent, and forward-guard Gosi Alilonu suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury that might cost her a game or two.

Still, Xavier came very close to pulling this one out before being nipped at the wire by the Skyhawks, 44-43.

Newcomer Jasmine Olivar (transfer from Fort Thomas), sophomore holdover Lucy Sanford and JV call-up Izzy Cernliglia shared time in the backcourt. And Maureen Ulrich, normally a tough-as-nails, rebounding forward-type, occasionally assumed some of the ball-handling duties.

So the Gators move on to another game on Tuesday night (June 7) against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows at 9 o’clock. A third game in as many days will be played on Wednesday (June 8) with a 6 p.m. contest against Goodyear Millennium.

Olivar led the XCP scorers with 14 points.

The Gators trailed by 13 points early in the second half  and rallied to take a 31-29 lead on a basket by Olivar. Deer Valley then regained the lead briefly and back and forth it went,

Deer Valley then converted a handful of free throws for the decisive one-point triumph.

“We didn’t have a lot of people but we were still in the game,’’ Gillom said. “Deer Valley is one of the better teams in this league.

“We have a bunch of “scrappers.’ They play hard every minute. I like it. If you can have a moral victory at this time of year, I guess you might say we got one.’’

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