With the precision of a world-class surgeon, Brighton’s girls basketball team proved Friday night against host Northville why it’s regarded as one of the best teams in the state.
Applying a full-court pressure defense that gave the Mustangs little room to breathe, let alone execute, the Bulldogs forced more turnovers in the first quarter (12) than they allowed shots (seven).
Now 17-1 overall, 13-1 in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association’s West Division and ranked ninth in Class A by MaxPreps.com, Brighton led 20-3 after one quarter and 42-16 at the half.
Brighton’s top weapon was first-player-off-the-bench Kylie Seiter who scored 15 points — nine the result of a trio of threes — and was a hawk on defense for the winners three steals and a perpetual get-after-it tenacity on defense.
Also turning in valiant efforts for Brighton were junior center Sophie Dziekan, who netted 13 points and six rebounds while proving to be a menace in the paint on defense; and senior guard Lauren Brown, who scored 13 points while swiping five steals.
Brighton drained eight threes — seven in the first half.
Despite the lopsided outcome, several Mustangs distinguished themselves with strong games, namely junior post player Morgan Thompson, who registered 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Senior center Julia Straky (seven points) and Lauren Marshall (eight points, four rebounds) also excelled.
The Mustangs slipped to 9-9 overall and 5-9 in the division.
Here are four takeaways from Friday night’s action:
No wasted energy
The Bulldogs’ efficiency on both ends of the court was stellar. Dribbling on offense was minimal while sharp without-the-ball cuts and crisp passing were maximized as is reflected by their five turnovers over the first three quarters.
On two occasions late in the third quarter and throughout the fourth, the Bulldogs milked big chunks off the clock with impatient examples of unselfish ball control. Following a timeout with 1:20 left in the third, Brighton ran the clock down to 0:02 when Brown launched a right-wing triple that found nothing but net.
Hustle not the problem
Even though their odds of pulling out a victory grew slimmer by the quarter, the Mustangs never hit the brakes on their effort.
A prime example unfolded with 4:10 remaining in the game and the hosts trailing 59-28. Sophomore reserve guard Avery Tolstyka sprinted more than a quarter of the quarter after a loose ball before laying out for a last-gasp dive for the sphere and ultimately sliding 10 feet across the floor just beyond the baseline.
The Mustangs showed a lot of spunk in the second half, playing Brighton toe-to-toe on the scoreboard (19-19) even though the Bulldogs’ starters remained in the game for the most part until the final four minutes of the contest.
At times, it seemed as if there were seven Brighton defenders on the floor — that’s how daunting the team’s full-court, girl-to-girl press appeared.
Brown and Seiter were the defensive catalysts, filling passing lanes with lightning-quick bursts and exhibiting in-your-face technique that often led to poor passes by Northville and subsequent layups for the Bulldogs.
The best example of how Brighton’s defense produced offense played out with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter when Elaine Halonen secured a loose ball caused by a turnover and finished off a smooth left-handed layup to extend her team’s 10-0 run.
Lady Luck played a small role in the Bulldogs fortunes midway through the first stanza when Dziekan banked in a three-point shot before smiling and putting her hand over mouth, signaling she didn’t call bank on the release.
Plenty of positives
Other than failing to handle Brighton’s pressure, the mostly-underclassmen Mustangs hung tough.
Senior guard Jenna Lauderback doubled-down on the much taller Dziekan on one Bulldog possession, forcing a jump ball with the possession arrow pointing Northville’s way.
Just before halftime, Lauderback defied a Brighton double team and threaded a slick pass to Thompson, who had gotten behind the Bulldogs’ defense.
Thompson returned the favor a short time later when she stole a pass near mid-court and lasered a pass to Marshall, who finished the play with a smooth left-handed layup.
Brighton canned nearly half of its shots (24-for-50) while the Mustangs found net on 11 of 31 attempts.
Contact Ed Wright at email@example.com or 517-375-1113.