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.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Gators finish 3rd in their Lady Ex hoops bracket

 Followers of Xavier Prep’s basketball team think their team will have a chance to make a run at the 6A Conference state championship this coming winter.

However, followers of Phoenix Desert Vista feel the same way about their team.

Those two teams squared off on Saturday (June 4) in the Gold Bracket of the 9th annual Lady Extravaganza tournament at Goodyer Millennium.

The teams traded baskets throughout, before Desert Vista got the upper hand with a late-game sequence that produced a 43-40 victory.

Xavier had pulled even at 39 as the running clock continued to tick, and could have taken the lead but could not convert on four straight shots. Desert Vista gained possession and took the lead for good with its free-throw shooting.

That put Xavier in the game for third place in the Gold Bracket opposite Peoria Sunrise Mountain, which was playing back-to-back after a setback to host Millennium to begin the day.

The Mustangs gave it all they had, but Xavier, with a break of an extra hour between games, salvaged the third-place designation with a 60-54 victory.

Xavier finished with a 3-1 record in this year’s Lady Ex, the same record it had in the tournament in 2021.

There were things that the Gators could have done better – all teams can say that – but coach Jennifer Gillom was pleased with her team’s play, considering that the team really had only one practice to prepare to face some of the state’s top teams.

“We would have liked to have won that (Desert Vista) game, but I am happy that things turned out the way they did,’’ Gillom said.

Junior point guard Dom Nesland scored 12 points against Desert Vista and 14 against Sunrise Mountain. Junior forward-guard Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich combined for 18 points in both games and hit the boards aggressively all day. Senior guard Sienna Cherwinski combined for 21 points.

If there was one player who perhaps stood out more than others was sophomore guard Lucy Sanford. She has come a long way since her freshman season and her playing time is expected to increase. At 5-foot-4, she isn’t intimidated by the bigger girls, has a nice mid-range shot along with longer range, and can slip inside for rebounds. She combined for 15 points.

“Lucy is getting better and better. She was huge for us out there today,’’ Gillom said.

So it was a good place to start for the Gators. Now they turn their attention to the annual Thunderbird Summer League in north Phoenix that begins on Monday (June 6). Xavier will play three games during the week, against Glendale Deer Valley, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows and Millennium. Xavier’s junior-varsity team also will be participating.

“As we get better this summer and get ready for the season, “I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,’’ Gillom said.

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