Box score

As his team battled through adversity and a difficult region schedule this season, Brighton coach Tim Gardner loved how the group embraced its underdog role and competed with a chip on its shoulder.

Throughout, Gardner stressed with his players the goal was to be the most dangerous team in February, and that’s kind of how things have unfolded the past two weeks.

No. 8 seed Brighton exploded offensively in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 5A second round game against No. 9 Juan Diego, scoring 30 points as it pulled away for the emphatic 70-53 victory.

Bradley Easton went off in the fourth quarter connecting on five straight 3-pointers to ignite a 26-10 spurt to close the game.

“Our goal was to be the most dangerous team in February and I think that at spurts we’re playing really well, we just need to be a little bit more consistent over the course of the game,” said Gardner.

Brighton struggled offensively through the first three quarters, but it was getting the looks Gardner wanted, it just felt like there was a lid on the hoop.

That was particularly the case for Easton, who hasn’t been shooting well over the past five days.

“Going back to last Friday against East he just has not shot the ball well for the last four or five days in practice,” said Gardner, who said it was great to see Easton drain five straight 3s during a four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter.

“Teams are going to scout Brad and our team did a really good job of getting him his spots. You have to get stops to get some opportunities in transition,” added Gardner.

Easton finished with 25 points, with all six of his 3-pointers coming in the final nine minutes. With each dagger 3-pointer, Brighton’s student section got more and more rowdy.

Easton’s first of five straight 3s in the fourth quarter stretched the lead to 47-42. His next three came on three straight possessions as the lead swelled from 49-42 to 58-42 with 3:11 remaining in the game.

In a blink, a game that looked like it might come down to the final possession was suddenly a blowout.

Easton tacked one last 3-pointer in the final two minutes, finishing with 17 fourth quarter points.

“Really proud of our guys. State tournaments are hard, there’s no easy out and we had to fight, claw and claw for everything tonight against a team that has really good players. They’re well-coached and they have good size,” said Gardner.

As the No. 8 seed, Brighton had the luxury of a first-round bye on Monday whereas Juan Diego had a grind out a 52-51 win over underdog Clearfield.

Gardner can’t help but believe his team was fresher in the fourth quarter as a result.

Early on though, Juan Diego seemed sharper after getting its playoff jitters out of the way the night earlier.

The Soaring Eagle led 16-11 after the first quarter, but led by Nash Matheson — who scored 17 points — Brighton regained the lead 25-23 by halftime.

Brighton never trailed in the third quarter but still only led 40-38 after three as Juan Diego got great production in the paint from big man Luke Meyer, who finished with 21 points.

In the fourth quarter, things got out of hand quickly for Juan Diego thanks to Easton’s sharp shooting.

Juan Soto chipped in with 18 points for Brighton in his second-best game offensively this season, and Gardner said the junior guard is getting “more and more comfortable as the year has progressed.”

Gardner said unsung hero Kaden Morzelewski continues to play a big role for his team, and did so again on Wednesday despite not scoring a point, as he recorded four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

“We’ve got who I think is the best on-ball defender in the state in Kaden Morzelewski, and the impact he has on the game on the defensive side it just doesn’t get talked about enough,” said Gardner.

With the victory, Brighton advances to Saturday’s 5A quarterfinals at the University of Utah and will face No. 1 seed Alta at 11:10 a.m.

Alta and Brighton split their season series, with Alta winning 79-55 on Jan. 19 and Brighton returning the favor last week with a 60-47 win.