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Tom Smart, Deseret News
Alta's Hayli Shurtz and Cottonwood's Hana Fautaiolefue fight for the ball as Alta High School defeats Cottonwood High School 62-40, Friday, Dec. 10.

SANDY — Heading into the highly touted early preseason girls' basketball game between undefeated Cottonwood and Alta, which had a combined record of 8-0 — it didn't take long to realize the Lady Hawks were in a league of their own.

With speed, athleticism and suffocating defense Alta was able to control every aspect of the game from tip to finish in a 62-40 win at Alta on Friday night.

"They played so good tonight. Like everything — things we've been struggling on — came together," said Hawks coach Kristi Jensen. "(Our) passes were good, our halfcourt defense played good. I thought they played well as a team together, they really clicked."

Heading into the game, the Hawks' go-to player undoubtedly was BYU signee Makenzi Morrison, who has been averaging nearly 30 points per game through the first four contests. However, the star guard was limited with two early fouls in the first quarter — leaving the opportunity for her fellow teammates to display the depth of the Alta team.

The main beneficiary was Erin Foster — who returned to action after missing three straight games for an undisclosed reason.

The senior guard lit the nets on fire from the first shot that left her fingertips. In the first quarter, she hit back-to-back-to-back treys to force Cottonwood to push its offensive tempo with an early deficit.

Foster finished with 28 points and five three-pointers.

"It was good," said Foster, when asked how it felt to be back in the lineup. "I've been out for the last three games (but) coming back it's where I belong — on the court. The chemistry was back with the team."

"I'm glad to have her back, we've missed her," said Jensen.

The story of the night, however, was Alta's defense. The Hawks have been known as an offensive team in the past, but this year the dark side of the ball is the main strength.

"We're quick," remarked Jensen. "We don't have the post presence so we need to take advantage of what we do have and that's speed and quickness."

The Hawks stayed in a halfcourt press and occasionally extended to fullcourt pressure throughout the game. Cottonwood's talented guards had a hard time bringing the ball down the court and setting up the offense.

"I'm excited. I'm cautiously optimistic — I think it's a good way to put it," Jensen said. "I feel that we have a lot of talent and I hope that we can keep playing at this level. Obviously we have a long way to go."

e-mail: tphibbs@desnews.com