WEST JORDAN — Brighton trailed for 31 minutes, 31.4 seconds of a possible 32 minutes against Copper Hills on Tuesday.
In a flash, the Bengals fell behind the Grizzlies by nine points in the first quarter, but they continued to scrape and scratch the rest of the way. However, each time they had an opportunity to get over the hump and finally take a lead, they’d let it squander away. In fact, on 13 occasions, Brighton missed what would have been a go-ahead bucket.
But the fight within the Bengals never died.
And behind their relentless half-court trap and efficiency at the free-throw line in the second half, they finally tasted their first lead with 28.6 seconds remaining. They ultimately pulled away, 54-51, in overtime to emerge with a gutsy victory.
“I’m proud of our kids — the way they came back and hung in there. I’m just real proud of them,” Brighton coach Jim Gresh said. “We got off to a tough start but we battled and it’s tough on the road.”
Copper Hills (8-8, 2-3) jumped out to an 11-2 cushion when Shirsten Wissinger drained a 3-pointer from the wing. The Bengals' lone points had come at the free-throw line from McCall Christensen. It wouldn’t be until there was 1:12 left in the first quarter that Brighton connected on a field goal.
“Being on the road, we watched the earlier (JV and sophomore) games,” Brighton’s Lindsey Johnson said when asked what she thought caused the miserable start. “We just need to pick up our warm-ups (and be) more intense at the very start.”
After starting 2 for 11 from the field, the Bengals (11-4, 4-1) gradually started to find an offensive identity, specifically from Johnson.
With 4:37 remaining until halftime, Brighton's Sammie Smith knocked down a 3 ball from distance before Maddy Chin evened things at 15-15 with a free-throw-line-extended jumper.
“That’s us,” Gresh said of the grittiness of his squad. “We’re just a battling team and I’m real proud of them — great team effort."
Chin, a junior, entered as Brighton’s leading scorer at just under 16 points per outing. She still managed 15 points, but was 5 of 20 from the field and 5 for 8 from the stripe. Johnson, cognizant of Chin’s off night, steadily became more aggressive offensively.
“She’s been working on getting to the basket and she did a good job tonight getting to the line," Gresh said of Johnson.
The Grizzlies, maintaining a paper-thin lead behind Savannah Sandberg and Yarima Gutierez, finally looked to insert the dagger with five minutes in the fourth on a Gutierez layup for a 41-34 advantage.
Sandberg finished with a team-high 17 points and Gutierez chipped in 16 points.
However, Johnson quickly traveled across midcourt and sunk a midrange jumper. Then, after two Copper Hills’ turnovers, Chin connected on two free throws to pull within three, 41-38.
From that point forward it was all Johnson.
The deceivingly quick, physical sophomore guard buried six straight free throws after the Grizzlies’ inexplicably continued to foul while in the bonus situation. Eventually, with 28.6 seconds left, she put Brighton up 44-42 for the first time.
“Just got to stay calm (at the line),” Johnson, who finished with 23 points while shooting 13 of 14 from the line, said. “You can’t think of anything or it builds up pressure and you’re more likely to miss it.”
With Brighton leading 45-44 with 6.4 seconds remaining, Copper Hills quickly found Gutierez in the post, and she was fouled with 0.1 seconds remaining. She hit the first and rimmed out the second, forcing overtime.
The Grizzlies scored the first bucket in extra time, but Brighton, with the help of Alyssa Hirchi’s multiple offensive rebounds, reeled off a 6-0 run capped by a two-dribble baseline stepback from Johnson before capping off the win at the stripe.
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