SANDY — There is something about playing Brighton that flusters the Alta Hawks.
That is, until Tuesday night.
"To be honest, I felt this game was either going to make us or break us," said Alta coach Kristi Jensen after the Hawks defeated the Bengals 67-62. "I knew it was huge."
It wasn't just a matter of falling further behind the Bengals in the Region 4 standings. It was more about the mental state of the Hawks, who hadn't beaten the Bengals in three seasons.
"We always lost to Brighton," said Jensen. "The last time we won, Hayli (Shurtz, a senior) was a freshman. We just couldn't seem to get over the hump with Brighton."
What pleased the coach most was how her team rallied after falling behind in the first half.
Brighton came out in the first quarter and offered fans a clinic on shooting. The Bengals led 27-17 at the end of one quarter of play.
"They really lit it up at the beginning," said junior guard Makenzie Morrison, who carried the team in the first half and finished with 30 points.
Meanwhile, Alta scrambled defensively trying to keep up with Shelbi Everett, Mary Murdock and Mikayla Mosely. Murdock and Everett knocked down three 3-point shots each and finished with 17 and 15 points respectively. Mosely worked hard in the paint all game and added 15 points.
"We were in a full-court press at the beginning," said Jensen with a smile. "Then we went to a half-court trap, then man-to-man. That seemed to go well in the second half, so we went to a full-court man."
The goal was to do something about allowing the Bengals to set up on the perimeter.
"We just got in their shorts and bothered them," said Shurtz, who finished with 11 points, five steals, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot. "They started getting more physical and yelling. This is the biggest win for us so far this season."
She said the sting of losing to the Bengals last week really motivated the Hawks — especially in the second half.
"It just made us want to come back and beat them more," Shurtz said.
At halftime, trailing 35-31, Jensen challenged her team to decide whether they wanted to reach their potential or not.
And apparently the Hawks wanted it.
"It's been a while since we've beaten Brighton," said Morrison, who added three steals and four rebounds. "This game felt like the same exact game we played last week, like it was just a continuation. The intensity and everything was the same. As a team, defensively we really stepped up. It felt well deserved for us."
The win ties Brighton and Alta in region play with Lone Peak holding onto first place.
"This feels super good," said Morrison.