Alta relies on two returning starters
The good news is the Alta girls basketball team is returning two starters from last year’s line-up. The bad news is those two are the only ones with varsity experience.
But that doesn’t stop coach Kristi Jensen from being optimistic about this year’s success.
“We are an extremely young team,” she said. “Perhaps the youngest I have ever had. But we have several good players that are learning how to play varsity ball as the season progresses.”
Returning to lead the Hawks are seniors Lauren Garland and Chloe Ferre. Both helped last year’s squad win the Region 3 title and make it to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. But that is the extent of the varsity experience.
Garland scored a season high 17 points to lead all scorers in Alta’s 49-40 win over Mountain Crest Dec. 4. And Ferre leads the team with three-point shots, hitting 27 in the 15 games played this season.
However, a surprise newcomer is leading the team in scoring this year. Junior Madyson Quigley has scored 157 points Update for the Hawks, and leads the team with a 10.08 per game point average. She dumped in 21 points in the opening game with Springville Nov. 20. She also added 23 against Lone Peak Nov. 30. Both games were losses for Alta, however.
One lesson Jensen is trying to teach the team is how to close down a game. Gone is four-year starter Makenzie Morrison, who was Alta’s go-to player for her entire career. She is playing at BYU this year.
“We have lost some close games this year,” Jensen said. “In the past, we just said to give the ball to Morrison to finish the game. Now, the girls have to learn to finish themselves.”
Jensen isn’t too concerned with the team’s 7-8 record at the start of region play. She is a coach known for loading up her preseason schedule with tough teams to get ready for region play.
“You don’t learn as much if you play easy teams,” she said. “My job is to get them ready for region, and the preseason is when you prepare for region.”
As such, the Hawks played six straight games with tough teams before opening region play. Alta faced Layton, American Fork, Riverton, Bingham, Pleasant Grove and Skyline before opening region play with Cottonwood Jan. 8. Although the Hawks went 4-2 in that stretch, the tough schedule may have produced the results Jensen was looking for. Alta took a double overtime win over Cottonwood, 63-58 in the region opener, then beat region rival Brighton, 52-51 two days later.
“We learned how to close out tight games,” Jensen said of the two games.
But the rest of the region action won’t be any easier, according to Jensen.
“There isn’t a cakewalk in any team this year in our region,” she said. “Most teams are returning several players. We are about the only team with a young squad. We are going to have to be ready for every region game. We can’t let up at all.”
Jensen is pleased with the way the team is performing. She has seen several different players lead the team in scoring in each game. Plus they are learning the high-pressure, full-court defense Jensen has instilled in each team she has coached.
“I have always believed a good defense leads to offensive opportunities,” she said. “Our team is showing they are better at our defense right now.”
But one thing is certain. No matter how young her team is, Jensen has full confidence in them.
“We are going to be very good,” she said.