The game plan – after a few minutes – worked to perfection for Xavier in its first-round girls Division I girls basketball state tournament matchup.
A little patience, getting Anthem Boulder Creek’s 6-foot-3 center out of the middle and a pair of gaudy green shoes helped the 13th-seeded Gators win, 47-35, on Wednesday night.
“That was another key, our coach did a great job scouting,” Xavier leading scorer Katie Werner said. “It was basically, get the big girl out of the game and then exploit them on offense, work inside to the post, dump it in and if they collapse, kick it out.”
Xavier (21-9) pulled away in the second half and now travels to No. 4 Avondale Westview on Friday night at 7 p.m. in the second round.
But Xavier coach Chantel Vinson said she had a feeling her team would face Boulder Creek for a third time in three weeks so she got game film on the Jaguars and shared it with her team last week.
Werner departed from the team’s usual white or black sneakers with her neon green shoes that she said she used during the club season.
So it was all in the preparation.
“To know what to look for, to break down the gaps, how to guard on defense,” Vinson said. "But we really focused on having a good third quarter and we came out like gangbusters.”
After No. 20 Boulder Creek’s center Sam Young picked up her fourth foul with 3:34 left in the third quarter, the Xavier plan went into action and a 10-1 run ensued, giving the Gators a 32-17 lead in the waning seconds of the third.
With Young worried about fouling out, Werner scored four quick points in the first minute of the fourth and Xavier essentially coasted to the win.
Werner finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds while Gator junior center McKenna Renfro helped hold Young to 12 points (eight of which came in the final three-and-a-half minutes) when Xavier held a double-digit lead.
But the win didn’t look so clear after the Gators came out cold when they failed to make a basket in the first five minutes and missed three of their first four free throws. Yet Xavier only trailed 5-1 before Werner’s putback put the Gators back on track.
It turns out that has been Xavier’s M.O. lately.
“We’ve had really rough starts and really rough third quarters,” said Vinson. “Tonight we came out slow, only got six points in that first quarter.”
Xavier also had the advantage of knowing it had beaten Boulder Creek (18-11) twice in the three weeks, having edged the Jaguars, 67-63, on Jan. 30 and 53-45 five days earlier.
Werner got a couple of buckets late in the first quarter and the Xavier attack went into gear. Ashley Orozco (11 points, seven rebounds) scored twice in the first minute of the second quarter and then the Gators took the momentum for good going into the half.
Werner made a nifty spin mover to get around Young for a basket and free throw to give Xavier the lead for good with 3:10 left in the half and followed that with a layup off a fast break with 1:57 to go and the Gators led 18-14 at the break.
“Patience is always key, you have to work through the offenses and do what we do best,” Werner said.
Xavier won its first round game a year ago before losing in the round of 16 to No. 1 Mountain View. In 2011, Xavier lost to eventual state champion St. Mary’s in semifinals and the Gators lost in quarters three years ago.
Xavier 47, Boulder Creek 35
BC 6 8 5 16 – 35
Xavier 5 13 14 15 – 47
BC: Young 12, Slaga 10, Swader 6, Nielsen 5, Ward 1, Morris 1.
Xavier: Werner 24, Orozco 11, Carbine 8, Zsiga 2, McGinn 1, Renfro 1.