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Prep boys basketball: Bengals turn back Darts in 5A semifinal thriller

OGDEN — The final shot in the brilliant high school basketball career of Davis High's Jesse Wade hung in the air over the Dee Events Center court for what seemed like an eternity.

And when it finally came down, struck iron and bounded away, a gritty Brighton High team had turned back the heartbroken Darts in a gut-wrenching 64-62 duel to send the surprising Bengals into today's 5A state championship game.

Brighton's Derek Devashrayee stepped up to the foul line with the score of Friday's semifinal showdown deadlocked at 62-all and just 4.5 seconds on the clock. And the senior guard — who hadn't scored a point all day — calmly connected on two clutch free throws to give the Bengals a two-point edge.

"Those are the free throws you practice and dream about your whole life," Devashrayee said. "And I knew I was gonna step up and make ’em, and I had to put ’em in for my team. So glad I made ’em."

Then Wade, the Gonzaga-bound senior guard who poured in 35 points in an eye-popping shooting display, came flying down the court and launched a potential game-winning, last-gasp 3-point try from beyond the top of the key.

The huge crowd on hand held its collective breath as Wade's shot sailed toward the basket before barely missing its mark as the final buzzer sounded.

"That shot was in the air for 13 seconds, I swear. I was just watching it and hoping it didn't go in," said Brighton junior forward Simi Fehoko, who rimmed in a go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner to give his team a 62-60 lead with 41.9 seconds left, only to see Wade tie it up at 62-all 16 seconds later with a reverse layup. "But he's a great player. He had a lot of points, and he's a great player.

"I was wide open and they double-teamed Brock (Miller), so it was just a wide-open shot," he said of his huge three. "I was afraid. Until it goes in, I was afraid.

"Our coach (Jeff Gardner) always has faith in us, and we all have faith in our team that we would come through and that we would win this game," said Fehoko, who finished with 12 points and three steals. "So it puts us in the state championship and our team has a chance to win it, so we have to go out there and get it."

Coach Gardner was so proud of his team for its strong weeklong performance and the way it has earned its chance at winning a state championship when it tangles with Layton, which scored a 48-41 victory over Viewmont, in Saturday's 5A title game.

"It's a great honor and we've had to beat three really good teams to get here," he said. "And we're gonna have to beat a really good team tomorrow to win it all. But our kids are poised, our kids are confident, and we feel like we're in a good spot to go win the whole thing. Our kids are competitors, and I know one thing — our kids are gonna show up and get after it."

The Bengals (16-9), who wound up in a three-way tie for second place in Region 3, got 17 points apiece from Miller, a senior guard, and senior forward John Gremillion, who also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and handed out a game-high five assists.

Football star Osa Masina added 16 points and seven rebounds for Brighton, which built a 14-point halftime lead (41-27) and still held a seemingly safe nine-point lead, 57-48, with 4:25 remaining to play before Wade brought the Darts screaming back.

"We had some shots go in and out at the rim," Gardner said. "… We just couldn't quite get it in and, to their credit, they hit some big shots when they had to and just kept closing that lead and did a good job of continuing to fight and play.

"The first half, we played really, really good basketball. The second half, we're still in good shape but, towards the end, a lot of credit to Davis. Coach (Chad) Sims does a great job, and Jesse Wade is one of the all-time greats."

Wade wound up 12-of-22 from the field, including 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, with four assists and three rebounds. Landon Swartz added 14 points for Davis (20-4), while Caleb Leonhardt, Ben Rigby, Jarett Gardner and Tony Feick also contributed to the Darts' valiant comeback bid.

But it wasn't quite enough for Davis, which lost in the state semifinals for the fourth time since 2008. Davis also fell in the title game in 2010.

"We told our guys, try to make him make twos, try to make him make twos and try to contest," Coach Gardner said of the Bengals' defense on Wade. "He goes 12-for-22, but every one he makes feels like a 5-pointer because there's such a momentum when he makes a shot because they're shots you don't see high school kids make.

"But I was proud of our guys and really proud of us down the stretch. We've got a lot of seniors; we've got kids that are mentally tough, and I couldn't be prouder of them.

"Fehoko hits the big three and Masina hits the big layup, but what almost goes unseen is, because Brock Miller is Brock Miller, they've gotta have two guys on him, basically giving our other guys wide-open plays," he said. "And to Brock's credit, he made the pass and made the play. And I think that's the evolution of his game that he has continued to just play great basketball over the last year."

Coach Gardner was also plenty proud and pleased to see Devashrayee step up big-time with the game on the line.

"Derek is tough as nails and has been playing confidently all week," the Bengals' coach said. "And you know what, in my mind, I said if he can get the first one, that makes my stress level go down, and he did. And I couldn't be happier for the kid; he's a great kid and so tough."

"I saw my team needed it to get to the championship, and that's what I did," Devashrayee said. "So all credit to my team. I'm shaking. We have one more tomorrow."

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com