Lady Hawks engineering incredible turnaround on basketball courtFeb 09, 2024 02:53PM ● By Josh McFadden
What a difference a year makes.
Last season was a difficult one to say the least for the Alta girls basketball team. The Hawks were winless in 22 games, including an 0-12 mark in Region 8 and lost by an average of score of 65-29.
Heading into the final week of January, this season’s version looked nothing like the 2022–23 squad.
At press time, Alta was 15-2 and had a Region 6-leading 7-0 record. Alta increased its scoring to 59.2 points per game this season and are allowing just 39.8. Going from a team that struggled to score and defend to one of the top clubs in Class 5A is one of the biggest turnarounds you’ll see in girls high school basketball.
Of course, it helps to have a player like Fui Niumeitolu.
The Alta senior guard/forward is averaging 21 points per game, best in 5A and seventh-best in the state. She also leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per game (a high stat for a guard) and is second in assists with 2.2 a game. Niumeitolu hit a team-high 27 three-pointers through the first 16 games. She also paced the team with 45 steals (nearly three a game) up to that point. Niumeitolu opened the season with 42 points against Green Canyon and has since put up at least 20 points eight other times. She scored 31 points Jan. 3 at home against East. She posted four double-doubles in the first 16 games, with a rebounding high of 11 boards Jan. 9 at Highland. She also had seven steals Dec. 12 against Juan Diego and four assists Jan. 19 at Brighton.
But Niumeitolu is hardly the sole reason for Alta’s spectacular reversal of fortunes.
Five other Hawks chip in at least five points a game, with sophomore guard Quincy Kegel scoring 7.2 points a contest, second on the team. Junior guard Brooklyn Larsen has a scoring average of 6.9 points a game, while senior guard Aolele Liava’a is third at 6.8 points a contest. Sophomore guard Alia Baldassano scores 5.9 points a game, with Maya Mishmash, a senior guard tallying 5.4 points a contest. Senior center Ashley Ferguson scores three points a game and is second on the team in rebounding, hauling down 4.3 boards a game.
Alta won 11 of its first 14 games by double figures, with eight of those being by at least 20 points and four being by at least 30 points. Alta has turned the tables from last season’s rough campaign by playing efficient offense and stingy defense.
But plenty of big games are still ahead.
At press time, Alta was fifth in the 5A RPI standings, which will set the team’s playoff seeding. The 5A state tournament gets underway Feb. 20. If the Hawks maintain their current RPI ranking, they’ll get a first-round bye and a second-round home game Feb. 22.
Before the playoffs, Alta will face more Region 6 foes, wrapping up league play Feb. 13 at home against Brighton. The Bengals gave the Hawks a close game when the team’s met Jan. 19, with Alta prevailing 52-46. Skyline also pushed Alta to the limit in a game that saw the Hawks win at Skyline, 44-39 on Jan. 5. The rematch was at Alta on Jan. 30. λ