OGDEN — By nature, coaches are usually nervous before games, but throw in a 9:30 a.m. tipoff and it’s easy for them to be even more paranoid about how their players will respond.
Alta coach Jim Barker certainly had reason to be concerned Monday morning at the Dee Events Center when his team fell behind 12 points to rival Bingham in the opening game of the 5A state tournament.
Barker believed, however, that his team would be fine if they just settled down.
“In the state tournament you don’t know how your team is going to react, cause you get kids who’ve never been here before and never played in the big arenas. I knew if they calmed down we’d be fine,” Barker said.
The Hawks finally started to settle down midway through the quarter, and then methodically chipped away at the lead the rest of the game on their way to a 65-61 come-from-behind victory over Bingham.
Down 10 after the first quarter and then seven at the half, Alta tied the score twice in the third quarter and twice more in the fourth quarter before finally taking its first lead, 51-49, on a Landon Albrecht layup with 4:23 remaining.
“Our coach just told us to stay patient, to not get it all in one possession, just keep chipping away at it,” said Trevor Hill, who led the Hawks with 17 points to go along with his five rebounds and three assists.
Zach Rollins extended the lead to 54-49 on a 3-pointer 23 seconds later, and Alta never trailed the rest of the way as it knocked down 11 of 12 free throws in the final two minutes.
Those free throws were vital because Bingham never quit. Down 57-52, Ryan Turner knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 57-55 with 1:26 left.
After Hill extended the lead to 59-55 on a pair of free throws with 1:20 remaining, Brandon Morley scored on a rebound putback and after a quick steal cut the lead to 59-58 as he made 1 of 2 free throws.
Alta, however, continued to capitalize at the free-throw line going 6 of 6 in the final 26 seconds to ice the victory — and avenge a 1-point loss to Bingham in the preseason.
“I feel like we’re a good team. We started out slow with three losses, but we’ve worked our way back. No one is really expecting us to do a whole lot, but we know we can,” said Albrecht, who led Alta with 18 points.
Albrecht scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half as he came out aggressive and attacked the basket with what the coaching staff believed was a defensive mismatch.
“I’m a second-year starter, I’ve got to take that role as a captain and go to the basket and be an example,” Albrecht said.
Rollins chipped in 15 points for Alta, which only committed six turnovers.
Morley and Braxton McKee both scored 15 points for Bingham, which shot an impressive 53 percent from the field despite the loss.