Determined Bengals made progress through girls basketball season
Feb 21, 2019 11:35AM
● By Josh McFadden
Brighton’s Claire Owens (No. 33 in dark jersey) gets set for the tip-off against Corner Canyon earlier this season. Brighton’s Annabelle Warner (No. 4) looks on. (Photo by Carrie Owens Photography)
By Josh McFadden | [email protected]
In a season filled with adversity and roadblocks, the Brighton girls basketball team kept moving forward.
The Bengals entered the season with just two seniors and also had to play some games without one of their leaders, Nicky Vyfvinkel, who missed time with an injury. Also, two starters from last season moved, forcing head coach Cameron Wood to accelerate the development of some younger players who suddenly found themselves in starting roles.
Add to this the fact the Bengals play in the competitive Region 7, and it’s easy to see why the team has had its struggles.
Still, heading into its final regular season game, Brighton still had a chance to qualify for the Class 5A state tournament.
As the Bengals prepared for the regular season finale at home against Jordan on Feb. 12, they sported a 3-6 mark in league play, tied for fourth with Alta. The top four teams of the six-team region make it to the playoffs.
Wood said the team’s 5-14 overall mark (as of Feb. 11) wasn’t necessarily indicative of its success and accomplishments. He’s pleased with the girls’ tenacity and perseverance.
“We have created a culture of learning,” Wood said. “Our record doesn’t necessarily show the growth that this team has had, but we are starting to figure out and to play together and compete. I’ve been most pleased about our ability to overcome adversity. We have had some tough breaks this year with players, but the girls have never let up on their competitive growth.”
A prime example of Brighton’s positive attitude and determination was on Jan. 29 when it faced Alta in a key region home game. The Hawks had blasted the Bengals in the earlier meeting on Jan. 8 by the lopsided score of 60-13. In the rematch, Brighton scored more points in the first quarter (17) than it had the entire first encounter with Alta. Brighton rode 21 points from Abby Burg and 12 points from Lily Cheatham to a 52-47 victory. The 52-point swing from the first game between the rivals was critical in helping the Bengals stay in postseason contention.
Brighton has come up on the wrong end of some blowouts, but Wood insists the girls have stayed positive and continue to work hard.
“The kids have been great all year,” he said. “Every team has its ups and downs, but these girls have all stayed committed to me and to the staff. They work hard for what we believe in, and they work hard for each other. I have never had to worry about that with this team.”
Despite some injury bugs, Vyfvinkel has led the squad in scoring with more than 10 points per game. Cheatham, a sophomore, is third in scoring at more than seven points an outing. Wood also has praise for Annabelle Warner, the second-leading scorer at more than eight points a game, and newcomer Nicole Marcoft.
“(Marcoft) is so coachable and the type of athlete that you want in your program,” Wood said. “She actively listens and takes coaching really well. She is a good example for the girls of persevering through the tough times. Even when things aren’t going well, she is still engaged and trying to improve.”
“Warner wasn’t a surprise,” he continued. “She is definitely our leader, but I don’t think I realized how impactful she was. The girls rally behind her, and she never wavers in her commitment to us and the program. I have been so impressed with her throughout the season. She carries us, and at times I have had to play her the entire game because of what she means to the program. She is a spectacular player and a better person.”
Next year, the Bengals should return much more experience to the roster. Wood is optimistic about the future of the program, but knows the girls have to maintain their strong work ethic.
“We just need to keep improving,” he said. “Growth has been our No. 1 goal.”