High school girls basketball: Brighton Bengals loosen up, earn first-round win over Hunter
TAYLORSVILLE — Like most teams at the 5A state tournament, Brighton entered its first-round matchup with Hunter a little tense.
The Bengals’ shooting was off, their defense was a step behind, and by the end of the opening quarter, they were facing an early deficit.
But as time ticked away, coach Jim Gresh saw his players loosening up, and by the end of the half — which was brought to a close with a 13-0 Bengal run — Brighton had sealed its spot in the quarterfinal round with a 65-43 victory.
“I didn’t adjust anything,” Gresh said of what initiated the change of momentum. “I think we were a little tight in the beginning and I think we just started to play our game and run and fast break, and we got some fast-break points.”
The Wolverines scored the first bucket and nine of the game’s first 11 points across the first three minutes of play. During that span, Jennifer Burnham hit two foul shots and a 3-pointer, her first of two during the game.
Moments later, Tess Matagi added a 3 of her own, which pushed Hunter's lead back to five points, 12-7.
“Hunter came out pretty strong. They made some shots,” Gresh said. “I thought they’d go inside to 55 (Kimauri Toia) — and they did go inside to 55 in the second half. I didn’t expect them to hit all the shots, but we just stayed the course and just played our game.”
Burnham hit her second 3-pointer with 2:53 remaining in the second quarter, and then Brighton took over. The Bengals’ defense suddenly suffocated Hunter, not allowing it to even set up an offensive set, and then turned those possessions into fast-break points on the other end of the floor.
“That was a big run,” Gresh said. “We’re not run-and-gun, but we’re fast break. We fast break, and we just play our game.”
Brighton continued to find its groove during the remainder of the game and four different players reached double figures. Barton had 17, Chin had 13, Lindsey Johnson had 11, and Alyssa Hirschi had 10.
Matagi led Hunter with 14 points and Burnham totaled 12. Toia finish with nine points, all of which were scored in the second half.
The Bengals will face Davis in the 5A quarterfinals Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.