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High school boys basketball: Lander Barton keys comeback to lead Brighton to overtime 5A playoff win over Orem

Orem battles Brighton in a second round boys 5A state basketball tournament game at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.
Orem battles Brighton in a second round boys 5A state basketball tournament game at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Lander Barton rose high at the top of the arc and let it fly, burying a 3-pointer to complete a furious comeback and send the Brighton Bengals home crowd into a frenzy.

“No question in my mind that 3 was going in. It’s not even a question to me,” Brighton coach Garrett Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad this kid plays. When the moment is at its highest, it’s when he shines.”

Brighton erased a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter through Barton’s heroics and survived Orem in overtime, 63-59, to advance to the 5A quarterfinals.

Orem led 55-46 with under two minutes left, but Brighton’s suffocating defense and up-tempo offense on the break put Barton at the line. He missed the second of two free throws, gathered his own rebound and laid it in.

He followed that up with a steal off a tipped inbounds pass for another quick basket, and suddenly Brighton had slashed the deficit to one. Barton, who labored to six points in the first half, poured on 15 in the second-half.

“All game, my shot was a little off. I was shooting short on the free throws, so I knew if I was going to miss short, they’re not going to box me out so I just got in there quick, got that rebound and put it up,” Barton said.

After Orem answered with a pair of Aisake Toiavao free throws to make it 57-54, Barton found the bottom of the net and completed the comeback.

“I never once thought I was going to miss that,” he said. “I just went in there thinking it was a regular shot. Just got to knock it down.”

Neither team gained separation in the first half, but Orem came out of the break with the hot hand, burying five shots from deep between Dane Christensen and Koy Berge to gain a nine-point lead on a 20-14 scoring run. Brighton struggled to close out on shooters and contain Orem’s smooth ball movement on the perimeter.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Wilson said he encouraged his team to “create havoc,” complimenting their toughness in harassing Orem with a full court press defense to wrest momentum back. Brighton outscored Orem 17-4 down the stretch and the visitors’ hot shooting ground to a halt.

“I just said ‘Look guys, we’ve just got to keep going, just got to be a little bit more aggressive, get things going for you on the defensive side and it’s going to pick up the offense,’ Wilson said. “Sure enough.”

In overtime, Toiavao jolted Orem’s offense back to life with a smooth drive to the basket to tie it up, 59-59, but Barton answered immediately with a quick layup and a pair of Jace Matheson free throws after an intentional foul iced the victory.

“There’s no words to describe it. So much excitement, so much nervousness and anxiety not knowing what’s going to happen,” Barton said. “Right now, I’m happy. On to the next one.”