By James Edward
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Leading by 23 points late in the third quarter of Friday's game, it was only natural for No. 3 Weber to relax a bit. It turned out to be a very false sense of security.
Over the next 10 minutes, No. 5 Brighton got hot from 3-point range, erasing the deficit completely and tying the score at 59 on a Travis Devashrayee layup with five seconds remaining.
Just when it seemed overtime was an inevitability, though, two momentary lapses by Brighton allowed Weber to ultimately escape with a wild and bizarre 61-59 road victory to improve to 6-0.
After the tying basket, Brighton strangely tried to trap Weber's leading scorer Hayden Schenck instead of letting him heave a desperation full-court shot at the buzzer. The defensive pressure was too tight, and the ref whistled a foul with one second remaining.
Brighton coach Jeff Gardner charged 10 feet onto the court to protest the call, which resulted in a technical foul.
Schenck, who came into the game averaging over 30 points a game, missed the two technical free throws but made his second two freebies to seal the victory.
"It's pretty tough for them to make a hold call on Hayden with one second left, but they were on him so much, there was contact," said Weber coach Mark Larsen. "Another day they'd probably let that go and we'd still be in overtime. We're fortunate we got a break at the end; we were able to capitalize and sneak out of here."
Even though Larsen didn't like to see his team blow a 23-point lead, he admitted it will probably help his team down the road in what should be a very difficult Region 1 schedule.
Even though Schenck finished with just 15 points, well below his average, beating Brighton was extra sweet for personal reasons. He tore his ACL in the playoffs against the Bengals last year, and Friday night was a game he'd been looking forward to for a while.
"I've had that game marked for a long time — nothing toward Brighton, that was just the game I went out — so there was a lot of nerves and emotion coming out, and it was nice to get the win," said Schenck.
It looked like the win would come easy as the Warriors' 1-3-1 zone defense allowed them to outscore Brighton 18-2 in the second quarter to build a 27-11 halftime lead. The lead ballooned to 40-17 with 2:13 remaining in the third with the ice-cold Bengals shooting just 17 percent.
Almost instantly, though, momentum changed hands — not uncommon for the streaky shooting Bengals.
Brighton ended the third on a 10-0 run to trim the lead to 40-27 and then methodically chipped away at the lead throughout the fourth quarter. Over those final 10 minutes, Brighton came storming back, thanks to nine 3-pointers.
"We had the lead early, and when you're up early it's really hard to keep up the intensity, and I give credit to Brighton, they started shooting lights out," said Schenck.
To Weber's credit, it made some big shots in the fourth quarter as well and ultimately made just enough free throws down the stretch to survive.
Zach Barnardo led Brighton in the loss with 16 points, with Brandon Miller adding 14.