TAYLORSVILLE — The Brighton Bengals and Riverton Silverwolves celebrate President's Day by working as hard as they could to hang onto their playoff dreams.
"That was a great way to start the tournament," said Riverton head coach Ron Ence after the second-ranked Silverwolves won an early morning thriller 54-50 against co-Region 2 champion Brighton. "This was not coach (Jim) Gresh's first rodeo. He did I great job of getting the balls to their scorers, and we could not stop them."
The game was back and forth the first half, but the Bengals came out and junior Maddy Chin scored 14 of her game-high 18 points.
The Bengals did a decent job of keeping Riverton from running on them.
"We played hard," Gresh said. "We just tried to stop their fast break. They're a really good team. I was going to play zone, but then we came out and I saw man to man was working better."
Senior forward Whitney Saudners said she and her teammates looked up at the scoreboard as the game clock was counting down the final minutes of the game, and felt an urgency that she hadn't felt earlier in the first game of the 5A state tournament played all day Monday at Salt Lake Community College.
"I think we weren't pushing ourselves enough," Saunders said. "Then it was like, 'Oh, we could lose this.'"
Saunders said they were prepared for a tough battle, but for some reason, they struggled against he pressure the Bengals applied.
"We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game," she said. "We knew we would have to gut it out. We needed to want it more."
Saunders helped the Silverwolves edge the Bengals by shooting near-perfect free-throw shooting when it mattered most. She was six-of-seven and finished with a team-high 14 points.
"I think I just saw the opportunity more," she said of doing more to create her own shots in the fourth quarter.
The Silverwolves also got important contributions from Tiena Afu, who finished with 10 points and Jamie Smith, who scored seven points, but hit two big 3-point shots that helped swing momentum in favor of her squad.
Even though Brighton ends the season with a loss in the first round, Gresh said he's a happy coach.
"We did some good things this season," he said. "I'm proud of their effort tonight. We fought Riverton all the way to the end."
Riverton will play the winner of the Davis-West game on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at SLCC.