COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS Playing for the third time in four nights, Brighton experienced the fickle nature of outside shooting firsthand.
Several missed shots forced the Bengals into an early hole. But a series of fourth-quarter 3-pointers gave them enough of a cushion to hold off a determined Judge Memorial team which refused to go away quietly.
Clark Richardson and Corbin Miller combined to drain 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions to lift Brighton to a 55-49 victory over the Bulldogs on Friday night.
That batch of outside shots fueled a decisive 14-3 run, which put the Bengals up 51-37 with 4:58 to go and paved the way to a fifth straight victory for Brighton.
Seeing Miller and Richardson hitting one outside shot after another also provided a collective dose of relief after a tumultuous first quarter. The Bengals misfired on their first nine shots and missed 14 of 15 overall, before finding a shooting touch.
"It wore us down a little bit playing three games in four days," Miller said. "We just started out slow."
Bengals coach Lyndon Johnson expected a tough game from Judge a team which sported a 4-0 record versus 4A teams and a 2-2 record versus 5A competition.
But Johnson thought his team made things too easy out of the gate. The Bulldogs threw them for a loop when they employed a different defensive strategy in the first quarter than what Brighton anticipated.
"We expected them to man us, and they actually zoned us," Johnson said. "We didn't handle it very well."
Since the Bulldogs focused major attention on stopping the big three of Jace Tavita, Ali Langford and Abe Millsap, it fell to the role players to rouse the team in the second quarter. Facing a 14-4 deficit, Miller and John Sherwood drained back-to-back threes. Mike Hanna followed with a pair of layups to bring the Bengals within one.
Brighton took its first lead, 19-18, on a free throw from Langford. Tavita stole the ball and scored on a two-handed jam to extend it to three going into halftime.
Aiding the rally were eight minutes of solid defense on Noel Hollingsworth. The senior center scored onlyone point in the quarter while dealing with a platoon of defenders rotating in and out to guard him. "We didn't want to have him get comfortable with one guy guarding him," Tavita said.
Stopping Hollingsworth in the fourth quarter wasn't as simple. He combined with Oliver Hughes to fuel a 12-0 run which brought the Bulldogs back to within two, at 51-49, with 1:23 remaining.
The comeback eventually died when Hughes misfired on his last two three-point attempts. But the duo combined for 17 points in the final quarter to keep it close.
Brighton's own late-game shooting proved especially valuable in that situation."When you got guys that can shoot, you can spread team defenses," Miller, a freshman guard said. "They can't really run zone against it, because we have so many shooters."