The Hawks aren’t considered among the taller teams in the ranks of Utah girls basketball. But, as they say, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
“We give up a lot of offensive rebounds because of our height,” Alta coach Sean Yeager said. “But we are a scrappy team. The girls go into every game with no fear.”
Alta’s tenacity has helped the Hawks compile a 11-6 record through the preseason and midway through regional action. But several of the wins have come in the waning moments of the games, turning on the points when needed. The Hawks beat Springville (55-53) Dec. 19 after a 21-point fourth quarter run erased a 31-21 halftime deficit.
“We sometimes dig ourselves into a hole and have to climb out of it,” Yeager said. “Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I keep telling the girls they can’t be the cardiac kids every game.”
Alta’s record doesn’t reflect the tough schedule Yeager puts on the preseason. He likes to play the toughest teams he can fit into the schedule prior to region action.
“We purposely try to get a tough nonconference schedule so we can be ready for region and then state,” Yeager said. “It’s all about getting us ready to go further into the postseason.”
Part of his preparation included taking the team to California over the Christmas break to play in the Max Preps Holiday Classic. The Hawks played against four teams from California and Washington and came away with two victories, losing one game by a single point
“It wasn’t just a great trip for the basketball experience, but the girls spent a lot of off time together and it became a bonding experience,” Yeager said.
Alta is a young team by many standards. The Hawks have four seniors, but start only two, and have two sophomores in the starting lineup.
Senior starters include Rachael McDonald and Elsa Ferre. McDonald plays inside while Ferre is an outside threat.
“McDonald has already signed to continue collegiately at the University of Nebraska at Kearney,” Yeager said. “She is a two-year starter and averages a lot of rebounds for us. Ferre is our outside shooter. She enables us to spread the opponent’s defense.”
Alta’s offense flows through sophomore starting point guard Mariah Martin. A starter since she was a freshman, Martin leads the team with a 14-points-per-game average and has knocked down the most three-pointers.
“Martin has tremendous ball-handling skills,” Yeager said. “She gives teams fits with her cross over.”
The Hawks start another sophomore, Sierra McNicol, a left-handed scoring threat who is a leader on the floor.
“She is a blue-collar player and gets respect from her teammates,” Yeager said.
The final starter is junior McCall Sieverts, who is Alta’s main defensive player.
“We put Sieverts on the other team’s best guard and make that player work,” Yeager said. “While other kids worry about how many points they score, she bases her performance on how many points she gives up.”
Alta regularly brings two seniors off the bench in role positions. Brandy Bookout is a senior transfer from Alaska that has found a home on Alta’s team. Madison Mitchell is the tallest Hawk at 6’2” and fills an inside role on a guard-heavy Hawk team.