The Alta boys basketball team has done it again. This time with a team of over achievers many had written off at the start of the season.
Alta will continue its season into the post season, earning a spot in the 5A basketball tournament with a 6-4 region mark. The Hawks tied for second place with Copper Hills, while Bingham took the region crown with only one loss on the year.
“A win over Bingham in our last game of the season would have locked up second for us,” Assistant Coach Curtis Hill said. “Nobody thought we would even be in the mix for region, but here we are.”
The Hawks were thought by many in the high school ranks to be in a rebuilding season, according to Hill. Alta started five seniors last season, bringing no leadership with varsity experience into this year’s campaign.
And the preseason started to look like the doubters were right. Alta lost its first five games before finding its niche. It then went on a 9-1 run with in-state teams as it entered into region play.
“It has been an up and down year for us,” Hill said. “Losing all our starters last year meant we had to find a way to get the team on track this season. But they have given us more than we expected, and I am proud of them.”
A sole possession of second place was nearly in their hands, as the Hawks battled Bingham in the final game Feb. 17. Although trailing most of the game, Alta outscored the Miners in the fourth quarter to tie the game and send it into overtime, where the Hawks lost by just one basket, 65-63.
The Hawks have had their taste of success in the recent past, winning two state titles in the last 11 years. But this year’s team has earned a special spot in Hill’s heart.
“In the past, we had a couple of great players on the team and were expected to do well,” he said. “That’s why we won state. But sometimes you take more pride in coaching a group of kids that people have written off. Then, when you see them achieve the success this team has, it makes your day as a coach.”
Alta was led in scoring this season by junior Neema Namdar who averaged over 12 points per game and scoring 278 points. He was followed by seniors Ibrahim Gerlach and Chris Roberts, who each put in 249 points.
“Roberts worked hard in the offseason to get bigger and stronger,” Hill said. “He is undersized for a post, so he went and put the time in to gain the advantage. Gerlach has been a marvel. He impresses me. His energy is unmatched, and he wants to get better all the time.”
Because of Gerlach’s ball handling skills and size, he provides matchup problems for the other team’s big players, Hill said.
Alta relied on a freshman in a starting role this year. Taylor Moore caught the eyes of the coaching staff and proved he could play at the varsity level.
“Moore is our calming influence on the team,” Hill said. “He is an even-keeled, fundamentally solid player that plays within himself.”