SOUTH JORDAN — The Bingham and Brighton girls basketball coaches agreed to play each other hoping that win or lose Tuesday night, it would make them a better team in February.
"That was a really, really good game," said Bingham coach Rand Rasmussen after the second-ranked Miners won an exciting 53-51 pre-season game against the No. 3 Bengals. "I would have been happy if we lost today . . . I think this will help us grow up a little bit."
Rasmussen has a young team, while Brighton coach Jim Gresh has several new players on his squad who are experienced but not used to play together.
He said coming to the Miner gymnasium early in the season helps his team understand what they have to work on if they want to have a shot at that 5A title in February.
"Our game plan was just to see what we have for the year," Gresh said. "We just wanted to run our offenses and see how we did. He zoned us a lot more than I thought he would, but I thought we played pretty well against the zone. I have such new players and they're not used to playing in our system. . . It's so early in the season you expect mistakes. There are three and a half months left."
Gresh has a lot to work with in the coming weeks. Junior guard Brenna Hahn scored a game-high 22 points and nearly won the game for the Bengals with a 3-point shot in the final eight seconds. The Miners secured the win when center Megan Marks grabbed Hahn's rebound and passed it to guard Stephanie Sampson, who let the clock run out.
Hahn kept the Bengals in the game in the final minute as she nailed back-to-back 3-pointers that brought Brighton within two points of the Miners. Brighton also had nice performances from other players like Jazmin Dickey and Tasha Dickey, who had nine points each, and Tilly Alo, who finished with six points and played well defensively for Brighton. The Dickey sisters moved to Utah this summer when their father was hired as a defensive coach for the University of Utah's football team.
Brighton's guards are quick and athletic, but Bingham had the edge in the paint with Marks, Cami Hymas, Lexe Jacobs and Erika Newbold clogging up the middle and grabbing rebounds for the Miners.
Marks, Hymas and Sampson are the only returning players with varsity experience, but that didn't seem to bother the youngsters as they handled the pressure of a big rivalry game just fine. Marks finished with 13 points, Hymas added 11 and Sampson scored nine.
The exciting part for Rasmussen has to be the performance of his freshman point guard and sophomore post players. Freshman Nicole Yazzie finished with 10 points, and she was 3-of-4 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
"I was worried with their firepower, they'd just blow us out," Rasmussen said.
He said he worries about the pressure that comes with the kind of high expectations facing the young Miner squad this season.
"Rankings this early are based on last year's team," he said. "This team hasn't earned anything yet . . . I'm just trying to win game number two, and now I will focus on getting ready to play Hillcrest on Friday."