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.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Gators run away from first two basketball foes

 There were a few instances in the 2021-22 girls basketball season when Xavier Prep’s Gators played like a contender for the state championship, but not enough to suit Coach Jennifer Gillom.

She vowed to get her team going from the early season to the end rather than just every so often.

The first test has come in the annual Scorpion Shootout tournament at Goodyear Desert Edge.

During Friday’s (Nov. 25) first day, Xavier showed what Gillom hopes life will be like.

The Gators opened things up at 9 a.m. against host Desert Edge and won by 62 points, 77-15. In their second game of the day, at noon, the points, rebounds, assists and steals were as plentiful as Xavier cruised to a 66-point triumph, 94-28, over Peoria High. Both games were played under a running clock, an indicator that the leader had a 30-point advantage by the end of the third quarter.

Xavier is due to play twice on Saturday. The first game will be at 4:30 p.m. against either Tucson High or Peoria Centennial. Depending on what Xavier does in that first game, the Gators could advance to the tourney championship game at 7:30 or the third-place game at 7:30.

“This is exactly what I expected,’’ Gillom said. “It is what you see in practice in terms of just about everything rolls over into the games. There is never a “lull’’ moment.

“Last year, we didn’t always do that. But this shows that we can.’’

Xavier had four players score in double figures against Peoria and four against Desert Edge.

The four who did it against Peoria were junior point guard Dominique Nesland, freshman power forward Irene Noelle Guiamatsia, junior forward-guard Maureen Ulrich and senior guard Sienna Cherwinski.

Against Desert Edge, the noteworthy efforts were by the same players -- Ulrich, Nesland, Guiamatsia and Cherwinski.

“That shows our consistency,’’ Gillom said.

Throw in the type of quick, pressing defense that the team has played in the past and the Gators can be even more dominant.

The 6-foot-4 Guiamatsia and her aggressive playing style should be popular among fans at Xavier’s Activity Center.

“She already is showing signs of being a force,’’ Gillom said. “With time, she is only going to get better. And she is a type of player who will make those around her better.''

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