5A high school basketball: Alta defense delivers title

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Photo: Scott G. Winterton, Deseret NewsOGDEN -— For much of the past decade, the Alta Hawks' basketball program has been known for its defense.

The legend grew on Saturday afternoon.

The Hawks put together their signature defensive performance of perhaps all-time, and won a state title in the process. Alta whipped Davis, 46-32, in the 5A championship game, giving the Hawks their first state basketball title since 2003.

Alta held Davis to a measly 18.6 percent shooting, allowed a total of eight made field goals, and held the Darts' top three scorers to two baskets and 14 total points. The Hawks set the tone early, keeping Davis scoreless for the game's first 5½ minutes.

"It's (playing defense) definitely what you start out learning here," said Alta point guard Jordan Brown. "All you focus on is defense and then the offense comes. It's a great tradition here at Alta."

Alta coach Jim Barker credits former head coach and current assistant Tony Cannon for the Hawks' traditionally strong defensive mindset.

"I think he's the reason it all started," Barker said. "Since he took over the program, that's what we've focused on. (Cannon) joining me as an assistant coach has been great because I know that our defense is going to be as solid as I need it to be."

It certainly was — and then some — in the Hawks' state title win over the Darts. Alta contested every shot by Davis, forced the Darts out of rhythm and seemed to get into their heads. Davis had trouble making close-range shots and layups.

The Hawks also came out firing, making five 3-pointers while starting the game on a 19-2 run. Jake Baum and Kyle Davis each hit two of the 3s and Mitch Winter sank the other.

"We ran into a buzzsaw in Alta today," said Davis coach Jay Welk. "They came out and shot the ball well early, they executed very well. They were really into us defensively."

Welk said Alta's defense deserves credit for his team's struggle to score points on Saturday, rather than chalking it up to an off-shooting day for his Darts.

"They were up into us," Welk said. "They were working hard to take things away from us and they were very active on defense. I was really impressed."

The Darts battled back from their early 17-point deficit, and nearly made a miraculous comeback. They got within four at 30-26 early in the fourth quarter, and seemingly had the game's momentum. A couple of plays, however, made by the Hawks put them back in charge.

Alta's Davis scored on a putback off a Brown miss to give Alta a six-point lead. Brown then assisted on a layup by Landon Barlow in transition to add to the Hawks' advantage. Barlow put Alta up by double digits with a 3-pointer and Davis couldn't recover.

"We've been in a lot of close games," said Alta's Davis. "When they started to make shots, this team just fought, and we played defense, and at the end we were able to blow it open."

Alta's Davis had a double-double to lead the Hawks with 14 points and 12 rebounds. He scored eight of his points in the first quarter, then played a secondary role on offense as the Darts adjusted to his play.

"This tournament, I just tried to do everything my team needed," Alta's Davis said. "Today I didn't score as much, but my team needed me to pass and make plays defensively. If I would have scored four points, it wouldn't have mattered. It's about the team, it's about getting us a state championship, and I'm happy as can be. It's incredible."

Barlow had 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting. Brown only scored two points, but he contributed seven rebounds, six assists and two steals. Trever Webb led Davis with 12 points.

"It's time to start thinking about Alta as a basketball school," Barker said. "We have talented kids and some fun kids coming up, too, so we hope we can be successful in the future."

It was a breakthrough win for the Hawks, who hadn't advanced past the 5A quarterfinals since they won it in 2003. They can thank their defense, which held three of the team's state tournament opponents to less than 40 points.

"It's time to start thinking about Alta as a basketball school," Barker said. "We have talented kids and some fun kids coming up, too, so we hope we can be successful in the future."

e-mail: aaragon@desnews.com

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