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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Alta bench celebrates a point over Riverton in quarterfinal girls state basketball tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011.

TAYLORSVILLE — Lexi Garland scored nine points for the Alta Hawks in their 5A state tournament game on Wednesday afternoon.

She wasn't the Hawks' high scorer. She barely even passed her season average.

But when the Hawks' 58-50 win over the Riverton Silverwolves was still in jeopardy with just 1:21 remaining, every single point Garland scored was crucial.

"She's one of our best foul shooters," Alta head coach Kristi Jensen said afterward. "I'm glad Riverton chose to foul her."

The Hawks held a 39-32 lead to start the fourth quarter but, just as they had done all game, the Silverwolves bounced back, scoring six straight points.

Garland was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws.

The Silverwolves again rallied, taking a one-point lead, but ultimately couldn't handle Alta's full-court defense.

Trailing by three points with less than two minutes to go, Riverton was forced to foul in order to get the ball back.

Garland hit 6-of-8 free throws as time wound down to seal the victory, sending her team to the 5A semifinals.

"She's one of those silent, get-it-done girls," Jensen said. "She's been quiet all year, and people don't pay enough attention to her."

She's especially been a surprise to many opposing coaches because she wasn't even on the team last year. With an overwhelming class schedule, the 5-foot-3 guard opted to take a leave of absence to focus on her studies.

She missed playing ball too much, however, and the Hawks are glad she chose to rejoin the team as a senior.

"She wasn't around last year when all of these other girls were being seen," Jensen said, adding, "But she's been a great asset to our team."

In order to be in a position to put the game away like Garland did, she and the rest of the Hawks had to rebound from an ice-cold start. Alta was 0-for-10 from the field before hitting a shot and started just 3-for-18 before finally finding its rhythm.

"I think a lot of that was nerves," said senior Erin Foster, who finished with 11 points. "Riverton is a great team, and we knew they were going to be tough to beat."

The Silverwolves scored the first six points before Alta junior Makenzi Morrison put the Hawks on the board with two free throws.

The teams took turns being in control throughout the contest; there were four ties and seven lead changes in the game.

"I assured them it couldn't go on," Jensen said of her team's slow start. "I'm proud of how they kept going, they just kept shooting."

Morrison finished with a game-high 23 points and sharpshooter Hayli Shurtz scored 12.

Junior Morganne Campbell led Riverton in each of its rallies, scoring her team-high 15 points from both the paint and behind the arc, and senior Kylee Hogue totaled 14 points for the Silverwolves, using her size advantage inside.

Riverton outrebounded the Hawks, 32-20, and doubled their points in the paint, 24-12. However, too many unforced errors doomed their chances. The Silverwolves turned the ball over 19 times and Alta scored 22 points off those turnovers. Riverton scored just five points off five Hawk giveaways.

Alta will now face a second set of Silver Wolves, this time from Fremont, in the 7 p.m. semifinal on Friday. The teams met in their season-opener in November, a game the Hawks won easily, 81-59.

"I've never been this far (in the tournament), so it's a new experience," Foster said. "I'm a senior, so I'm going to give it my all and leave with a bang."

e-mail: sthomas@desnews.com