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WEST VALLEY CITY — During its first-round game against Weber, Brighton looked like a team capable of beating anyone in the tournament and then proved it in the quarterfinals — defeating favorite American Fork, 59-53, on Wednesday.
The Bengals used clutch foul shooting and a complete team effort to come out on top.
"We had to play our best game to beat them," said Brighton coach Jeff Gardner. "They're extremely well-coached, they have great players and basketball is a crazy game — you catch it on the right night, the shots fall for you, they have some (misses) that they normally make and the outcome came out how it came out."
Having some or even most of your foul shots fall is an accomplishment, but to have them all fall for you is rare. While Brighton missed its share of field goal attempts, it was perfect from the line — hitting all 20 attempts.
The Bengals weren't bad from the field either, hitting 17-of-34 shots and 5-of-10 from 3-point range.
"We're an 80 percent foul shooting team on the year, so we shoot it well," said Gardner. "We've never shot 20-for-20, but again, like I said, to beat that team everything kind of had to fall into place and it was one of those nights when it did."
The game was close throughout with American Fork taking a 29-28 lead into the half. Brighton took the lead early in the third and maintained it until the final two minutes when the Cavemen closed it out with a 7-0 run to take a 45-42 lead into the fourth.
The momentum quickly switched back to the Bengals, however, as they stormed out in the final quarter on a 9-0 run, taking a 51-45 lead into a timeout at the 4:28 mark.
"I think we just continued to share the ball well and play with a lot of confidence," said Gardner. "We had some players step up for us, and it was a complete team effort."
American Fork wasn't done, however, and found itself down just 51-49 at the 1:59 mark after a basket by senior Zac Hunter. On its next possession, Brighton ran some clock until Brandon Miller drove it hard to the hoop, only to have his layup swatted away by Cavemen senior Quincy Bair. Marcel Davis received the ball with an opportunity to tie it up, but a controversial jump-ball call gave possession back to the Bengals.
The story from there was free throws — eight of them for the Bengals. Miller led the team from the stripe — hitting on all of his 10 attempts including six in the final minute.
"Brandon Miller was spectacular," said Gardner. "He's hit so many big shots for us all year and this game was no different. He's such a tough kid and no stage is too big and he showed that tonight. To get the shots that he gets without forcing anything with how people guard him, in my opinion is unbelievable and I'm just so fortunate to be able to coach him."
Miller finished with a game-high 23 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 shooting from behind the arc. American Fork was led by Bair's 16 points with Hunter contributing 12 more.
With the win, Brighton moves on to the semifinals where it'll take on Riverton.