COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Brighton coach Jeff Gardner knows as well as anyone just how good Lehi's basketball team is. As Mountain View's coach last year, he watched the Pioneers beat his team twice, including by 45 points in one of the meetings.
With three of those contributors returning, including first-team all-stater Colton Colledge, Gardner made sure his players were focused defensively heading into Friday's preseason game with Lehi. It certainly paid off.
The Bengals were active defensively, particularly in the second half when they used a big scoring run to pull away from Lehi for a 64-56 victory to improve to 2-0 this preseason.
"This was a great game for us. Lehi is a great team, and to get a close game in front of a good crowd, and have to make those shots and play under pressure are valuable for us," said Gardner.
Brandon Miller led the way for Brighton with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. He scored eight of his points during a decisive 19-2 run for Brighton that spanned six minutes between the third and fourth quarters.
With the game tied at 28-28 at the half, Lehi opened up a 41-33 lead with under three minutes remaining in the third, capitalizing on sloppy offensive execution by the Bengals, who turned it over on four of five possessions to open the second half.
Miller's driving layup at the third quarter buzzer trimmed Lehi's lead to 43-42, and then a pair of Miller 3-pointers early in the fourth helped Brighton build a 52-43 lead.
"Guys knocked down shots, but our defense, that's where it started," said Miller.
A defensive switch definitely gave Lehi some troubles.
"We went small with three guards and they did a real nice job pressuring the ball. Lehi shot the ball really well in the first half, and we did a better job getting out on their shooters," said Gardner.
Brighton's defense was particularly good on Colledge, who only scored seven points after averaging 16 last season.
Despite falling behind by nine with 4:37 remaining in the game, Lehi hung around with quality defense of its own. Trailing 58-52 with under 40 seconds remaining, Blake Cleveringa cut the lead to 58-54 with a rebound putback, and then a few seconds later Brad McGregor cut it to 58-56 following a quick steal.
That was as close as the Pioneers would get, though. They were whistled for an intentional foul with 28 seconds remaining, and Brighton knocked down 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch to pull away for the victory.
Along with Miller's game-high 26 points, Travis Devashrayee chipped in with 14 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
McGregor's 15 points led Lehi, which has to feel a bit unlucky to lose after shooting 46 percent on the road. It didn't help itself by making just 3 of 10 foul shots.