The Alta Hawks walked off the Huntsman Center floor and into the locker room with a win, having played far from perfect.
They at times had muddled through their 62-42 win over Hillcrest in Tuesday’s first round of the Class 5A playoffs, despite the lopsided final score. There had been a bevy of missed free throws and loads of unmade layups, made up for only with a strong defensive effort.
Alta 62, Hillcrest 42
» The Hawks muddle through a first-round win, shooting just 53.1 percent from the free-throw line
» Alta holds the Huskies to just 19.2 percent shooting from the floor in the second half
Coach Jim Barker didn’t mince words when asked about the overall performance of his team, the Region 3 champions considered one of the tournament’s favorites.
"I think if we play like this, we’ll probably lose," Barker said about his team’s chances to win in the quarterfinals if its play doesn’t improve. "But the nice thing is we didn’t today, and we can get focused and be ready to play. The state tournament is what it is. You win and advance and don’t think about it anymore."
Alta came into the tournament with a favorable first-round matchup. Hillcrest had gone just 4-6 in Region 2, perhaps the weakest among the Class 5A regions.
But the Hawks were unable to put away the Huskies until late in the game, thanks to uncharacteristic mistakes. The missed chances at the rim were displeasing, Barker said. But the real concern was that they’d gone just 17 of 32 from the free-throw line (53.1 percent).
"If we do that, we won’t be around long," Barker said. "You’ve got to hit free throws in the state tournament."
It wasn’t all bad for Alta, whose talent was clearly a notch above Hillcrest’s. The Hawks held the Huskies scoreless for long stretches in the second half and limited them to just 19.2 percent shooting in that span.
And that was enough for the Hawks to skate by the Huskies and avoid first-round disappointment.
"At halftime coach told us we needed to get intense on defense," said Alta forward Landon Albrecht, who led the Hawks with 14 points. "So we came out ready to go."
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