West Valley City • Two underdogs met on the court in the semifinals of the Class 5A boys’ basketball tournament Friday night: Brighton had pulled off a perfect 20-for-20 performance from the foul line to get by American Fork, while Riverton scored 35 points in the fourth quarter to overcome Alta on Thursday.
But something had to give Friday, and it gave Brighton’s way. Despite another valiant fourth-quarter comeback by Riverton and poor free-throw shooting one game after perfection, the Bengals escaped with a 61-56 victory and a trip to the state finals for the first time since 2000.
“We’re thrilled to be in the position we’re in,” Brighton coach Jeff Gardner said. “I couldn’t be prouder of our kids. To play three good, worthy opponents and to come out on top in all three is a great accomplishment.”
In the first quarter, both teams came out nervous, settling for outside shots and quick releases. Riverton especially was ice cold, going 2-for-14 from the floor and 0-for-5 from behind the arc in the first quarter. The Silverwolves came back to even up the game in the second with five minutes to play, but junior forward Bryce Callahan hit a 3-pointer from the corner to break the tie and start a Bengal rally.
“We call him Bryce ‘Iceman’ Callahan – that’s his nickname,” junior guard Brandon Miller said. “He’s so tough. He’s one of our toughest guys. I have all the trust in him to hit big shots, and he’s done it time and time again.”
Brighton took control of the game in the third quarter, working more aggressively to get points in the paint. Riverton remained outside, ultimately taking a total of 24 3-pointers in the game but making just seven.
The Silverwolves did make their third push in as many games to come from behind to win. Riverton outscored Brighton 19-12 in the fourth but wasn’t able to capitalize on six missed free throws by the Bengals down the stretch.
Miller led the way for Brighton with 24 points, while senior D McCleary and junior Stephan Holm each scored 14 points for Riverton in defeat.
The Bengals will face Lone Peak, last year’s defending champions, in the finals on Saturday.
R Brighton beats Riverton 61-56, and will meet Lone Peak in the finals Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Maverik Center.
• Brandon Miller leads the Bengals with 24 points.
• D McCleary and Stephan Holm lead the Silverwolves with 14.