Xavier Prep had dropped two of its first four basketball games in the Thunderbird Summer League and did not want another.
After building a 12-point lead over Peoria Sunrise Mountain in the first half and seeing the Mustangs rally to take the lead early in the second half, the Gators finally figured things out and went on to post a 48-33 victory on Monday night (June 20).
Xavier is now 3-2 entering its final “regular season’’ game on Tuesday night (June 21) at 7 against Phoenix Pinnacle. The Gators had a recent win over Pinnacle in the Section 7 tournament at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
The T-Bird tournament shifts to a playoff format this weekend. Action for that begins on Friday (June 24) and continues Saturday (June 25).
In its opening game on Friday at 8 p.m., Xavier will play Catholic rival Phoenix St. Mary’s. The winner advances to a second-round game on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep or Phoenix Horizon. The winner of that second game would advance to the bracket championship game on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Xavier had a comfortable 12-point lead in the first half that wasn’t so comfortable after all as the advantage was reduced to five points at halftime, after which Sunrise Mountain actually moved in front early in the second half.
That stay was brief, however, as Xavier started to hit the boards and picked up the pace on offense in an 8-0 run.
“They were outmanning us on the boards and we decided to wake up,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom.
Junior-to-be Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich increased the team’s intensity on the glass. She produced putback attempts for herself or her teammates at the Xavier end of the floor and more rebounds at the Sunrise Mountain end proved to be beneficial as the Gators moved in for baskets to maintain momentum at their own end.
“She might be considered as a guard, but she is strong and tough at any position,’’ Gillom said of Ulrich.
Ulrich scored 23 points, and sophomore point guard Lucy Sanford scored 11.
Xavier also got a boost from senior reserve forward Annie Kopp, who scored a basket, helped out on the boards and fed senior Gabby Trbovic for a nice basket off an inbounds pass early in the second half.
“She did what she had to do, was aggressive, and that’s the kind of play we need from her,’’ Gillom said of Kopp.
Xavier was a bit short-handed in the backcourt. Junior point guard Dom Nesland did not play due to a club-team commitment, and senior shooting guard Sienna Cherwinski was not available to overall soreness, according to Gillom.