Brighton girls basketball welcomes new era under coach Doug NielsonNov 24, 2020 12:50PM ● By Tavia Dutson
The Brighton girls basketball team huddles up for a cheer in a fall league game earlier this year. (Photo courtesy Doug Nielson)
By Tavia Dutson | [email protected]
The Brighton girls basketball team will enter the 2020 season with a new head coach and only two returning seniors, but they are far from discouraged. Even with the precautions taken due to COVID-19, the Bengals have been able to play together throughout the summer and fall. They have used this time to bond both on and off the court.
Lilly Cheatham, the only returning starter, has already been able to see a shift in this year’s squad.
“This year we have more of a team aspect. Last year we were a group of individuals,” Cheatham said. “This year we are focused on team goals rather than doing well as individuals.”
The team had to put a hold on tryouts because of the statewide two-week pause on extracurricular activities, but are feeling confident in the work they have put in.
“They’ve been going since May, then we went really hard this fall. Now we’re just waiting,” head coach Doug Nielson said.
When Nielson took over the program in May, he relied on Cheatham’s natural leadership. A senior in her fourth year of the program, she has plenty of experience to lean on. Cheatham helps Nielson lead the team in practice, but she also leads them on the court quite literally. Cheatham led the team in points, rebounds, and assists throughout their successful fall league.
Although they have a young team, it has allowed Nielson and Cheatham to work toward establishing a new dynamic within the program. Cheatham has shared wisdom with the underclassmen on what has and has not worked during her time in Brighton basketball.
“We’re working on starting a new culture here,” Cheatham said. “One built on hard work, dedication and integrity.”
Nielson believes these girls have the potential to win a Region title this year, but the team is currently focusing on some intangible goals.
“Commitment and dedication are the kinds of goals we are working on,” Nielson said. “We are trying to do something as a group that we can’t do as individuals.”
The hope for this young team is to return Brighton to the basketball powerhouse status that it earned in the early 2000s. In the last 20 years, Brighton has made it to the Final Four six times. In three of those campaigns the Bengals returned home with a state title.
Part of the success of those teams came from community support. Having fans come out to games and rally behind the team has made a big difference. Cheatham hopes that the team’s newfound enthusiasm will be felt all the way in the stands.
“I think that we are building the kind of environment and culture that people will want to see,” Cheatham said.
With the community of Brighton High School and Cottonwood Heights behind them, Nielson and his team hope to achieve big things this year. Brighton High School’s YouTube page will be live streaming every game, so you can still watch while staying safe. You can also follow along with the team on their website brightongirlsbasketball.com and their Instagram @brightongirlsbasketball.