TAYLORSVILLE — Brighton center Danielle Newell slept with regret Friday night, and she didn't want to do it again Saturday.

So the junior was more careful as the Bengals took the court against the Layton Lancers for the 5A state championship Saturday night at Salt Lake Community College.

"I knew I had to play smart," Newell said after Brighton won its second title in two years, 57-54. "Some of my fouls last night were stupid fouls. I tried not to go over the back."

Newell fouled out of the team's semifinal game against Fremont Friday night and didn't want to do the same in the championship game. While it was painful for both Newell and her team when she left Friday's game, her coach said it might have been a blessing in disguise.

"I think maybe it let her rest for tonight," said Brighton coach Jim Gresh. "She was incredible."

Newell finished with 19 points and six rebounds and was key for the team inside. It was her shorter but just as physical teammate, point guard Vanessa Hutson, who took over on the perimeter just when the Bengals needed it most. The junior did it last year, and again this year she almost single-handedly kept Brighton ahead in a hard-fought game.

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"She kind of did the same thing (as last year)," Gresh said. "She just had that refuse to lose thing going."

Hutson finished with a team-high 20 points, four assists and four rebounds. Her determination on both ends of the court earned her Deseret Morning News Tournament MVP honors. Newell joins her on the all-tourney team, as do Layton's Katie King and Ashley McFarland. Both teams came out with energy, with Layton jumping out to a 5-0 lead almost two minutes into the game. They relied on their full-court press to get them the ball and King came up with two big steals. She finished with five steals, three assists, two blocks and 13 points.

Layton led until the end of the first quarter, when Newell and substitute Maya Gross and forward Marissa Vandersteen went into the paint and came away with points that tied the game at 16.

The game was punch, counter-punch after that. For example, King would earn a basket, and then Newell would do the same. Then McFarland knocked down a three and Hutson answered with a 3-pointer for Brighton. McFarland and Hutson each finished with four 3-point shots each.

Gresh said he told his team to expect Layton to make some runs in the game so it didn't rattle Hutson when the team made a couple baskets in a row.

"It allowed us to play our game, which is a cool, relaxed type of game," she said. Layton had a chance to win the game with 15 seconds on the clock as they trailed by a point, but after a time out, they lost the ball on an errant pass. Hutson said it was a moment that made her both nervous and determined.

"It was a little nerve-wracking," she said. "But you do what you've got to do. We had a lot to prove to a lot of people coming in here . . . We lost a couple games at the end of the season, and I think that was good for us. We learned a lot . . . and we proved we really are the best team. We had so many players step up tonight."

Gross and Vandersteen were the most significant, but it was tight the entire game because the Lancers had girls do the same for them. Jessica Carver, Danielle McDonald and Wendy Stratford were all huge defensively. Carver added 13 points, and McDonald, a point guard, grabbed seven rebounds. McFarland led all scorers with 21 points.

It was a painful moment for a team so glad to be playing for the title just a couple hours earlier. But coach Van Price was proud of how hard his team played.

"You want that chance to win it, and we had it," he said. "It was a hard-fought game."

While it looks like Brighton, which keeps Gross, Newell, Vandersteen and Hutson may be starting a something of a dynasty, Layton loses only Stratford to graduation.

"Maybe we can rebound and come back and maybe win it next year," he said. Losing a title game by such a slight margin, he said, "cuts both ways."

The Lancers will have their work cut out for them as Hutson and the Bengals say they plan to make 2005 a three-peat.

5A Girls All-Tourney Team

MVP: Vanessa Hutson, Brighton

Danielle Newell, Brighton

Deanne Hanchett, Alta

Krislyn Wallace, Fremont

Jessica Carver, Layton

Ashley McFarland, Layton


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com