RIVERTON Jace Tavita's first game back in a Brighton uniform reminded the Bengals of why they so sorely missed him in the backcourt last season. And the senior, back in Utah after a year spent at an Eastern prep school, also quickly showed why he was one of the state's most sought-after players in the 2008 recruiting class.
Tavita had 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds to lead Brighton to a comfortable 69-55 victory over Riverton in the season opener for both teams on Wednesday night.
University of Utah head coach Jim Boylen and Ute assistant Chris Jones were both on hand to witness the future Ute point guard's homecoming to the Beehive state.
Tavita felt confident playing before his future coaches and admitted he felt eager to impress them and validate the confidence they have shown in him. Getting a victory in the home gym of last season's second-place 5A team is a good start.
"It's tough to win the first one in general," Tavita said. "But to get a road win against these guys in an atmosphere like this is real good. A big-time confidence booster for us."
Tavita wasted little time taking over and dictating tempo. With Brighton holding a 34-33 lead two minutes into the third quarter, the Bengal point guard scored consecutive baskets to ignite 11-1 run. By the time Ali Langford threw down a two-handed jam to make it 45-35 with 2:12 left in the quarter, the Bengals were firmly in control.
Brighton coach Lyndon Johnson said Tavita adds a stronger dimension to the team when he runs the offense. Teams who attempt to put the brakes on his game find the task almost impossible to accomplish.
"He makes a huge difference because he can do so many things," Johnson said. "He causes so many problems with the opposition wherever he's playing whether it's the post or the point or the wing. He's pretty effective wherever he is."
With Tavita back in the fold, the Bengals could be one of the most athletic teams in the state. The Silverwolves struggled to slow them down and got burned by various players at different points in the game.
In the first quarter, it was Ali Langford. The senior forward who finished with 16 points scored five of his team's first six baskets to help Brighton build an early 12-6 lead.
Mike Hanna also created another set of matchup problems. Hanna, a starting fullback for the Bengals' football team, muscled his way into the paint for several key baskets and rebounds.
"As a team we're more athletic than most teams in the state," Tavita said. "That's what is going to carry us is our athleticism."Brighton was one of only two 5A teams to win its season opener this week.