SANDY — Remember the Alta team that started 1-5 and seemed like a 5A afterthought back in December? Well, don’t look now but that team is off to a 3-0 start in Region 3 and has looked strong in the process.

Alta’s 59-54 victory over rival Brighton on Tuesday was the best performance yet. The Hawks played strong defense throughout, shot an impressive 48 percent from the field, and made 16 of 18 free throws in the wire-to-wire victory.

“More important than beating them it’s important for our kids to gain confidence. They’re finally seeing they can compete with good teams,” said Alta coach Jim Barker. “We’ve won some games, but a lot of the good teams beat us in the preseason and we haven’t been able to get over that hump. This was one of those humps that we’ve been waiting for.”

Chris Roberts led the Hawks with 19 points and was clutch when it mattered most in the fourth quarter.

With Alta clinging to a 40-38 lead a few minutes into the fourth, Roberts and Michael DeLeeuw each scored a pair of buckets in the paint, as did Hayden Henriod, during a stretch in which the Hawks scored on six straight possessions to increase their lead to 53-44 with 1:43 remaining.

A Brighton team riding a four-game winning streak wasn’t prepared to go quietly, though. It scored five straight points over the next minute as Alta struggled with ball security, cutting the Hawks' lead to 53-49.

Roberts made sure that was as close as Brighton would get.

He made a pair of free throws on three straight trips to the foul line over those final 46 seconds to secure Alta’s third-straight region win.

“That’s really big for us to have someone step up and finish the game for us,” said Barker.

Roberts ended up scoring 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.

Brighton leading scorer Brock Miller scored 10 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter as well, but Barker was particularly pleased with the way his team defended the senior and made him work for every shot.

“He’s a great player and still had 28 points, but we were sending a lot of kids at him and making him think and hopefully making him take some tough shots, and he missed some early, which I thought helped us build that lead,” said Barker about Alta opening up a 12-point lead in the second quarter.

“He came on strong as the game went on, I knew he would, he always does. It feels like I’ve had a Miller to coach against for like the last 18 years, and they always hit big shots at the end.”

Brighton just didn’t hit enough shots early — 3 of 15 in the first quarter — and had to play catch-up the entire game. And to Alta’s credit, it played with the lead with a new-found poised that’s put it right in the thick of the Region 3 hunt.

“Something’s clicked since we started region,” said Barker.

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.