Are the Gators for real? We’ll know tomorrow night.
That’s when the Xavier Prep girls’ basketball team will try to match up with the Mesquite High School Wildcats in a game that will provide a good test for the Gators, who appear to be a legitimate contender for a state title.
Xavier started out the season losing three of its first five games, but since then has been on a tear, winning its last 13 games and moving up to a No. 2 ranking in 6A, the state’s top conference. A single win separates the Gators from No. 1 Gilbert High.
Mesquite competes at the 5A level, but ranks No. 1 in that conference. And the Wildcats have already beaten Xavier, a 60-52 victory on Nov 21. But that was the Gators’ second game on the schedule, and they’ve found their footing since then.
Just ask the Hamilton High Huskies about that. Xavier steamrolled the Chandler team that was ranked No. 6 in 6A, leaving Hamilton’s gym last Tuesday night with a 66-30 win that pushes the Gators’ record to 15-3 overall and undefeated in power-ranking games.
Mesquite is also 15-3 on the season, with its only losses coming against out-of-state competition at the Nike Tournament of Champions during the Christmas holidays. The Wildcats were one of just two local teams – the other Millennium High – invited to play in the tourney’s top bracket and lost to Nevada’s Centennial High in the game to determine seventh place.
But they have dominated the local competition with a high-powered offense that has been averaging 82 points a game over the last 10 meetings with Arizona teams. Three times this season they hit the 100-point mark, but those were embarrassing opportunities to run up the score on teams that had no business being in the same gym, posting a 117-12 season-opening win over Flowing Wells High School, a 101-23 victory over South Mountain High, and a 105-20 beat-down of Vista Grande High School from Casa Grande.
Mesquite has been riding that scoring tidal wave thanks to a back court tandem that combines to contribute 40 points a night. Senior point guard Lindsey VanAllen is averaging 20.3 points a game and also kicks in four rebounds a night. She has scored 20 or more points in 12 games this season and dropped 34 points on St. Mary’s High School three weeks ago.
The Wildcats’ other prolific guard, junior Shaylee Gonzales, is pouring in 19.7 points a game and averaging almost eight rebounds as well. She has had 10 games with 20 or more points.
VanAllen and Gonzales, who have been playing together since grade school, are the only players on the Mesquite roster who average in double figures, but it has made it impossible for opposing defenses to key on any one scorer.
Mesquite is one of the few teams that can boast having a couple of 2,000-point players on the floor. Gonzales, who was last year’s Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year, has already pushed past the 2,000-point career mark, while VanAllen will soon join her in that exclusive club since she needs just seven points against Xavier to gain entry.
Xavier, too, has just two on its roster averaging in double figures, with Montana Oltrogge carrying the majority of the scoring load. The senior forward is averaging 18 points a game while also pulling down 6.4 boards a game, and junior point guard Leilani McIntosh adds 10 points a game.
Despite playing in a conference considered a notch below 6A, Mesquite is sitting at the top of the list of the state’s Super 10 rankings, which includes all schools regardless of conference, and is considered by many to be the best team in the state.
Had they not lost 6’1″ center Lauren Gustin, who moved out of state after averaging 16 points and 14 rebounds last season, Mesquite may have been unbeatable this year — regardless of which conference, or which state, they played in.
A win by Xavier tomorrow night on the road would send a powerful message to the rest of the 6A teams — and make the Gators a favorite to play for this year’s state title.