OGDEN — Brighton probably didn't deserve to win Monday's 5A first round game after blowing a 19-point second half lead with questionable game management.
Fortunately for the Bengals, the littlest guy on the court bailed them out — twice.
With Brighton leading Viewmont by two with 45 seconds remaining in overtime, Zach Wertz tied up Viewmont big man Blake Wilkinson in the low post with the possession arrow favoring Brighton. Not surprisingly, the Bengals couldn't capitalize and turned it over 20 seconds later giving Viewmont another possession to tie or perhaps win the game.
Brighton's point guard made sure that didn't happen.
With time ticking down, he stole the ball near midcourt and converted it into a breakaway lay-up to give Brighton a four-point cushion with five seconds left.
Not even the Bengals could cough that lead up as they hung on for the 63-61 victory at the Dee Events Center.
"He's done that a couple times this season. He's so active. He's so tough, he just made a big play," said Brighton coach Lyndon Johnson.
In a game where Corbin Miller, Loi Masina and Austin Hudson combined for 59 points, the Bengals should've never been in such a desperate position. They led 16-2 at the end of the first quarter and 35-21 at the half.
They continued putting pressure on the Region 1 co-champs in the third quarter and eventually increased the lead to 44-25 with 4:26 remaining. Instead of slowing it down, however, and protecting the lead the Bengals continued to attack.
"It's hard to do that. It's hard to reign them in. Once you let them go you have to live and die with it a little bit," said Johnson.
Slowly but surely, Viewmont started chipping away at the lead, cutting it to 49-36 by the end of the third.
By the middle of the quarter the Vikings had trimmed the deficit to 53-46, and just as damaging for Brighton was Masina fouling out midway through the fourth.
"We needed to slow it down and execute when we had that lead," said Miller.
They never did though, and with 51 seconds remaining in the game Viewmont completed the improbable comeback as Wilkinson tied the game at 56-56 on a pair of free throws.
Wilkinson, who led Viewmont with 27 points and 13 rebounds, came up big again defensively by blocking Miller's running jumper on Brighton's next possession. Unfortunately for Wilkinson, his short jumper in the lane at the end of regulation bounce harmlessly off the rim.
Viewmont carried the momentum into overtime and quickly built a 59-56 lead. When Hudson fouled out in the opening minute too, it seemed Brighton was indeed headed home early.
"It was gut wrenching," said Johnson. "Honestly, we're in trouble. Two of our best guys were out. You have to give credit to the guys on the floor because we kept getting stops and hanging in and then made enough plays to get it done."
Miller tied the game at 59-59 by converting three free throws after being fouled behind the arc with 1:43 remaining. He then put Brighton ahead for good on mid-range jumper with 1:08 left.
"Corbin had to make some big plays, and Zach Wertz had to make a big steal," said Johnson.14 comments on this story
Miller finished with 28 points on 10 of 28 shooting, including 4 of 13 from 3-point range. Hudson added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
It would've been easy for Brighton to buckle mentally during its disastrous fourth quarter, but Miller said they just never let it bother them.
"In such a quick possession game you have to move onto the next, there's nothing you can do about it, so our focus was just to refocus, refocus, refocus and maintain our poise," said Miller.
Brighton advances to face Murray at 12:45 p.m. on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.