Sandy • Nothing has come easy for the Alta girls' basketball team this season, especially what should be the easiest things of all.
The Hawks limped to a 2-7 start, lost a quadruple-overtime thriller to Fremont and failed to score more than 39 points four times in a five-game losing streak in December.
Alta struggled to score points from anywhere on the floor, but what was most confounding was that it struggled to make the "chippies," the "gimmes" the layups.
"We were shooting 22 percent on our layups," Alta coach Kristi Jensen said. "We were shooting 2 for 15 on layups each game, until Skyline [Jan. 3] when they shot 49 percent and it's kind of just gone from there. They just needed that confidence.
"The two things we struggle with are foul shots and layups. We are still working on the foul shots."
A growing confidence has led to better shooting, more points and fewer losses. The Hawks enter the week having won five of their last six.
The early lumps at the hands of formidable foes Layton, American Fork, Riverton and Bingham toughened a young squad searching for its identity.
"Those teams were building games," said junior Madyson Quigley, who at 10 points per game is the only Hawk averaging in double figures. "Now we know when we get into tough situations, we'll know how to deal with it better than we did the first time.
Alta has just three seniors on its roster, including Jalissa Bagley, who transferred from Lehi. That youth, combined with the graduation of Makenzi Morrison last year, resulted in a team desperate for a floor leader, someone to turn to when times got tough.
"We were just so sick of losing," senior point guard Adrianna Jensen said. "We all knew we were better than that. We asked ourselves what we had to do to change. It was just bringing the intensity the whole game.
"We've definitely hit a stride where we're winning games and gaining confidence, and that's just going to build."
Still, finding a leader is a work in progress.
"We had to learn that when we needed someone to step up, they needed to do it as a team," coach Jensen said. "They couldn't just get the ball to Kenzi [Morrison] and stand there and watch her do her thing. There's not a one-man show anymore. They can't give it to someone and say 'Be our one-man show.'
"We have some girls who could be that. It's just whether they can figure it out or not."