It’s kind of hard to imagine a simple summer basketball league game having as much emotion as this one, but the evidence was there for everyone to see.
Coach Jennifer Gillom’s Xavier Prep Gators defeated Phoenix Sunnyslope 33-18 on Monday night (June 13) in the Thunderbird Summer League in north Phoenix, and it was a big turnaround after the Gators let a 15-point lead slip away in a loss to Goodyear Millennium in their previous game.
Gillom was excited about the reversal, but the emotion came out in the tears coming down her face and the hugs from her players and former players.
It was her birthday.
Wearing pointed party hats and big smiles, the players serenaded her with “Happy Birthday,’’ everyone munched on cupcakes and Gillom took a breath to extinguish a candle on hers. There were plenty of cell selfies to go around, and a former Gator player, Addie Putnam (Class of ’19), showed up with a bouquet of yellow flowers.
“That’s what I enjoy about coaching this team,’’ Gillom said. “Everybody supports the coaches and the coaches support the girls. It’s nothing less than 100 percent.’’
Most of the points against Sunnyslope came from the backcourt, with four three-pointers. Sophomore Lucy Sanford scored eight points, junior Maureen Ulrich had seven, and senior Sienna Cherwinski had five.
Gillom got some quality playing time from 6-foot-6 sophomore CeCe Mlat, with possibly the most time she has logged in a game (regular season or summer) since joining the program a year ago.
“She’s still learning, but she is getting more and more into the flow,’’ Gillom said. “Her defense is good, but it’s improving still and I think she’s starting to realize that she can become a capable offensive threat.’’
Xavier is 2-2 in T-Bird play with two games to go next week, against Peoria Sunrise Mountain and Phoenix Pinnacle.
Also, coming up before that will be some action to finish up this week.
On Wednesday (June 15), the Gators will play host to a team from Montana in a scrimmage.
Then, on Thursday (June 16) and Friday (June 17), Xavier will play in the Section 7 Camp tournament at the Arizona Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium home in Glendale. The Gators will play twice on Thursday at 4:30 and 8 p.m., with two more on Friday. A portion of that schedule may be altered to accommodate some academic testing on the Xavier campus.