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Sandy Journal

Ambitions, expectation high for defending state champion Alta boys basketball team

Nov 30, 2023 11:25AM ● By Josh McFadden

Alta returns several key players for last season’s 5A state championship team. The Hawks are favorites to repeat this season. (Photo courtesy of Travis Ohrn.)

When a team is coming off a state title and brings back several key players, you would expect plenty of excitement around the program. That’s exactly what permeates the Alta boys basketball team in 2023–24. 

Last season, the Hawks went 24-4 overall and defeating Timpview 64-53 for the Class 5A state championship. Alta played its best basketball late in the season, when it mattered most, winning all its state tournament games by double digits. The Hawks didn’t win their region (Region 8) but ran through the postseason to capture a much bigger prize. 

There’s no reason to think Alta won’t be one of 5A’s top teams again. 

“We are super excited for this upcoming season,” head coach Travis Ohrn said. “With the group we have, we are expecting another great season. We have a tough preseason schedule that will prepare us for a run at a region title and hopefully a state championship. Our goals at Alta are to always be at the top. We set goals to pace us through the season. We want to win our division at the Tarkanian Classic tournament in Las Vegas, win our region and win a state championship. We believe we have the group to do it. It’ll be super tough, but we’re excited to compete.”

Alta has a good mix of seniors and underclassmen leading the team. Five seniors, power forward Jaxon Johnson, point guard Ace Reiser, shooting guard Carter Goodfellow, power forward Carter Doleac and shooting guard Bo Compton are all back after having strong seasons a year ago. Junior small forward Matt McKea and sophomore shooting guards Zak Paepke and Dash Resier bolster the Hawks’ lineup. 

Johnson is one of the top players in the state and has already signed to play next season at the University of Utah. The four-star recruit averaged 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds a year ago to lead the team in both categories. Ace Reiser was second on the team in scoring last season with an average of 14.2 a game. He also paced the team with 5.6 assists an outing. Doleac was the third-leading scoring in 2022–23 by chipping in 12.3 points a game. 

Ohrn not only loves his players’ skills and abilities but their attitudes and work ethic. 

“What makes this team so good is their competitive drive,” he said. “All of them want to win so bad they are willing to sacrifice their own glory for the team. They love each other and want to see their teammates succeed. They find joy in watching everyone have success. We don’t have egos on this team, and they all have the same goal to win each game. We have guys that cheer for each other and care about each other win or lose and no matter how many minutes they get or points they score.”

Alta is going to be a difficult team to beat this season. Ohrn said the Hawks’ speed, athleticism and toughness are their biggest attributes. He said the players also give it 100% all the time.

“We have guys that are the top of the state skill wise, but what sets them apart is how hard they play every play,” he said. “We take pride in competing to win on every possession. I think we have a lot of depth as well. We have a lot of guys that will help contribute this year.”

Of course, when you’re the defending state champions, everyone wants a piece of you. Every Hawks’ opponent will want to take them down, but Ohrn said he isn’t worried about how his team will respond. 

“A lot of people from the outside expect us to be great,” he said. “Our guys have earned the right to be in the spotlight but now they have to handle it the right way. We will face adversity this year, and we have to be able to stick together as a team and not let outside voices pull us apart. We need to focus on one day at a time and do our part to be the best we can when our best is required.”

Alta opens the season Nov. 20 on the road against Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, followed by home games with state powers American Fork and Lone Peak Nov. 22 and 30, respectively. On Jan. 3, the Hawks begin league play in their new region—Region 6—when they face East at home. 

“This is a special group,” Ohrn said. “I love how much they care about each other and our program. Every day it is an absolute joy to go to practice and work with these kids. They love competing and work so hard; it makes our jobs as coaches easy. They take pride in representing Alta and what it means to be a part of this basketball program. We have had a lot of great players come through here, and we want to build on that foundation that all those previous alumni built. Alta is a special place to be, and our guys recognize that. They take pride in representing our student body and community. We have the best student section in the state, and they are a huge part of what we do. I feel our team plays for more than just themselves.” λ