TAYLORSVILLE — Jim Gresh was worried about his opponents’ outside shooting.
The coach of the Brighton girls basketball team knew the Davis Darts could shoot, and his fears were confirmed when two different players each hit long 3-pointers in the opening quarter of a 5A quarterfinal meeting at Salt Lake Community College Thursday afternoon.
So the Bengals extended their defense, focused on pressuring the Darts’ ballhandlers, and steadily pulled away with a commanding 61-41 victory.
“They’ve got great 3-point shooters and I was worried about that,” Gresh said. “They got a few 3-point shots, but our man-to-man defense, I thought, was the difference today.”
In spite of the two quick 3s, the Darts hit just two more — one at the end of the second quarter and another to start the third — for the rest of the game.
That defensive effort also led to a quick six-point run to start the second quarter and eventually extended to a 12-point lead, 31-19, by halftime. The scoring continued easily from that point on as the Bengals kept a healthy and growing cushion between themselves and Davis.
“We just wanted to be really intense with everything we did — our offense, our defense, hustling,” said senior Maddie Chin. “We wanted to stay tight on them. Just clinging tight up on them, not letting people drive by. I think we did really well with that.”
Firing on all cylinders, the Bengals shot 51.9 percent from the floor, dished out 20 assists, and totaled 31 rebounds as a team. Brighton forced the Darts into 16 turnovers and then scored 20 points off those giveaways.
“We were just able to find the open girls,” senior Maddie Chin said. “We were passing really well tonight. It wasn’t about any one (player). It was about the whole team.”
At 5 foot 10, Chin was a force inside the paint on offense, leading the Bengals with 16 points, 12 of which were scored in the second half. She was 7 of 15 from the floor and had four assists, two boards and two steals.
“She’s been everything. She’s been awesome,” Gresh said of Chin. “She leads a lot by example and is vocal at the right times. That’s what makes her so great — she’s vocal at the right time.”
Brighton was sparked early in the game by the seamless play of a confident freshman in Dani Barton. The forward had a string of six straight points in the second period and went on to score 10 of her total 15 points in that same quarter. Barton hit 7 of 13 shots and totaled four boards, two assists, two steals and a block.
“She’s just an athlete,” Gresh said when asked of Barton’s composure. “I think her being so young, she just has no fear. She has no fear out there.”
Lindsey Johnson and Alissa Hirschi each reached double figures for Brighton, totaling 11 and 10 points, respectively. Hirschi led with nine boards and five assists while McCall Christensen had six assists.
Brighton will meet the Fremont Silver Wolves in the 5A semifinals at 4:10 p.m. Friday. The Silver Wolves beat the Bengals by 15 points when the two met at Fremont in mid-December.
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.