SANDY — The Alta Hawks have heard the whispers.
Their critics have said they're lucky. Or they aren't as good as their record indicates. And they don't blow anyone out.
Perhaps a Region 4 championship trophy will forever silence the Hawks' doubters.
Alta clinched the league title in the state's toughest region by beating Brighton 61-54 on Friday night. There was nothing lucky about the Hawks' win in a game that featured several momentum shifts. Alta took Brighton's best shots before pulling away in the fourth quarter.
The Hawks closed their regular season at 10-2 in league play and 17-4 overall. Alta will host a still-to-be determined opponent in the first round of the 5A state tournament on March 2.
"People were saying we get lucky and we kind of took it personal this game," said Alta guard Jordan Brown, who turned in one of his best performances of the season against the Bengals. "It got us fired up. We proved tonight who's the best team in Region 4."
The seven-point victory was a blowout by Alta standards, as the Hawks had won their previous nine league games by an average of 4.7 points. The game was close early in the fourth quarter, which seemed to favor Alta's odds of pulling out the win.
The Hawks pulled away with a 16-3 run that started late in the third quarter and lasted until the middle of the fourth. Reserve forward Austin Albrecht scored eight of Alta's points during the spurt, which gave Alta a 48-39 lead.
Albrecht, who entered Friday's game averaging 2.5 points per game, provided the Hawks with a huge lift. He finished with 11 total points — all of which were scored in the second half.
"The last time we played Brighton (a Bengals win in overtime), he had one of his worst games," said Alta coach Jim Barker. "He's been almost ticked until this point. Tonight he really came alive in that stretch in the second half. He got us some big buckets and rebounds."
Sam Wunderli helped Brighton stay in the game until the final seconds. He hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to get the Bengals close at 58-54. An empty Brighton possession with Alta leading 59-54 with less than 20 seconds left in the game sealed the game for the Hawks.
Brown had a memorable game in his final regular-season game on his home court. He scored a team-high 20 points and seemed to have an answer for every run Brighton made. When the Bengals jumped out to a 12-6 lead, Brown hit a 3-pointer. Not only did he score points, he found open teammates while making drives to the basket.
"Every time they kind of got close, he made a play — he made a shot or created a play," Barker said. "He's such a good player, whether it be on offense or defense. He's just solid."
Brown was the only returning Alta player who played significant minutes last season, and he's led the team well. The Hawks also got some key additions when Kyle Davis, who scored 11 points on Friday, moved in from Idaho and Cody Johnson transferred from Juan Diego.
It all worked out for the Hawks, who got to know each other, bonded and earned a prestigious league title.
"Our chemistry is getting there and we're peaking at the right time," Brown said. "Region 4 is tough. We came out on top, so that's a huge accomplishment."