Sandy • The word "despite" has been used a lot this season around the Alta girls' basketball team.
Despite graduating a former Class 5A MVP …
Despite only having three seniors …
Despite the season-ending knee injuries …
Tuesday night the Hawks, despite missing 22 free throws and despite squandering a 14-point halftime lead, snuck off with a 55-50 victory over visiting West Jordan to clinch their second consecutive Region 3 championship.
"This is a big step, it's huge," said senior point guard Adrianna Jensen. "We came in with a young team. It's a big confidence builder going into state."
Alta (12-9, 8-2) tied with Brighton atop the region standings, but beat the Bengals twice this season. That earned the Hawks a rematch with Pleasant Grove in the first round of the state playoffs next Monday. Alta beat the Vikings 67-62 in December.
West Jordan (11-10, 5-5) will meet unbeaten Bingham (21-0) in Monday's state playoff opener. The Jaguars got 20 points from center Britney Stalnaker, including 12 in the third quarter, before the 6-foot-5 senior got into foul trouble.
By that time, the Jaguars had closed the gap to just two points. They pulled even on a Markii Ashton jumper with 2:42 to go, but scored just one point the rest of the way.
Alta senior Jalissa Bagley matched a season high with 18 points. She and Jensen – the only two seniors in uniform because of an injury – scored the team's final seven points from the free throw line.
"In the third quarter, it started to get a little scary," Bagley said. "At the end, we were celebrating, but it was a relief to pull it out."
Alta shot 16 of 38 from the free-throw line, a major concern for coach Kristi Jensen afterward.
"I'm excited how they played and that they pulled it out, but I'm not excited they missed 22 foul shots," Jensen said. "We're region champs, back to back, and that's awesome. That's a big deal. But at the same time, you can't walk into the state tournament missing 22 foul shots.
"I am proud of them. They could have lost that, but they forced themselves to win. They weren't making their foul shots, so they got it done another way."