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High school basketball: Brighton girls survive furious Riverton rally

RIVERTON — In the first round of the 5A girls' state basketball tournament at Riverton High on Tuesday night, two teams found themselves in a sticky situation.

This wasn't a typical first-round game, as both teams sported identical 17-4 records heading into the contest. The hype surrounding the game was surely justified, as Brighton escaped with a 46-44 win in thrilling fashion.

Throughout the first half, it looked as if the UHSAA committee might as well pencil the Bengals into the second round, as Brighton methodically scored with ease and left Riverton searching for answers on the offensive end of the floor. Brighton led by 21 points at intermission.

Riverton was desperate, but they battled back when senior Caitlin Nelson caught fire. The nimble center would sink 17 of her game-high 19 points in the second half, including a momentum-changing three pointer that put the Wolves in striking distance.

With 25.7 seconds remaining, Riverton's Allee Carter drained a contested three pointer to cut the lead to three. On the ensuing position, after Brighton missed two free throws, Kylee Hogue added a layup, slicing the lead to one with 13.3 seconds remaining.

With 12.2 seconds left, after desperation foul — Brighton's Katie Tominaga stepped to the charity stripe for two crucial free throws. She would hit 1-of-2, allowing Riverton the choice to tie or to go for the win.

The Wolves chose the latter. After a scrambled attempt to advance the ball past half-court, Nelson found herself wide open in three-point territory.

However, after the ball seemed halfway through the cup, it popped out — leaving the Bengals with the electric victory.

"From where I was, it looked like it was going in. I was about to hang my (head). I was just like, 'Oh my goodness, we're so lucky,' " said Tominaga.

With the win, Brighton will play Syracuse.

e-mail: tphibbs@desnews.com