Bengals Hungry for State TitleJan 28, 2016 03:43PM ● By Bryan Scott
By Sarah Almond | [email protected]
Cottonwood-Holladay - The Brighton High School boys basketball team is preparing to take the 2015-2016 season by storm. After losing by just two points to Davis High School in last season’s state championship, the Bengals are hungry for this year’s state title.
“The season is going really good. I really like our team and how we are playing right now,” Simi Fehoko, senior captain for the Bengals, said. “We’re playing really quick, and we’ve grown up playing together so it’s really good.”
Jeff Gardner, head coach for the Bengals, agreed.
“So far we are doing pretty good,” Jeff Gardner, head coach for the Bengals, said. “We’re seven-and-five and starting to gear up for regions.”
Gardner, who played guard at Idaho State Bengals from 2003-2005, has been head coach at Brighton since 2011. Prior to coming to Brighton, Gardner spent five years coaching at Mountain View High School in Orem. He was named 5A Coach of the Year in 2012 after leading Brighton to the 5A State Championship game and continues to teach math at Brighton High School.
“Coach Gardner is a great coach,” Fehoko said. “I mean his record speaks for himself. He’s been to the playoffs every year he’s coached here, and all his years coaching have been successful. So he’s obviously doing something right.”
Each year, Gardner continuously encourages his players to play unselfishly and to focus on the greater success of the team. So far, it seems to be working.
“We’re really playing for each other this year,” Fehoko said. “ We are all longtime buddies, so the chemistry is already there on the court.”
The team’s affinity on the court has been invaluable to this team of first-time varsity players.
“We lost most of our varsity players this year,” Gardner said. “Simi is really the only one who played much varsity last year, so we’re working with a new crew.”
The group of 16 varsity players is comprised of five seniors, seven juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.
“We’re definitely more inexperienced this year than we have been in years past,” Gardner said. “But we just want to get as far as we can get and do the best we can. And the kids have been great. We have great players and everyone is working really hard. My five seniors have done a great job in terms of leadership.”
What makes the Bengals team unique is that while everyone is passionate about playing basketball, the players are encouraged to get involved in other activities and sports outside of the basketball season.
“We’ve got a lot of multi-sport kids, and I think that ultimately benefits our team,” Gardner said.
Take Fehoko for example. As one of the leaders of the team, he has been playing basketball at Brighton since he was a freshman. However, he’s also a wide receiver for Brighton’s football team and recently played in the Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas on Jan. 9. Though he has a passion for basketball, he’s committed to play football at Stanford University after graduation.
“Even though these kids are committed to playing different sports, they are also committed to basketball and I think it’s really a great dynamic for us,” Gardner said.
Team dynamics and experience aside, the Bengals’ determination to improve and their drive for success have led them to preseason success.
“We’ve done a great job on the defensive end,” Gardner said. “We have a lot of guys that work really hard and understand what it takes to be successful as far as work ethic goes.”
While Gardner and his team are confident in their strong defensive abilities, they recognize their weaknesses and are working tirelessly to improve in those areas.
“We need to get to where we shoot the ball consistently. This is an area we are constantly focusing on,” Gardner said. “We need to get better at making shots and taking care of the ball.”
As long as the team can increase shooting and making more shots per game, both Gardner and his players believe they can find great success this season.
“Our hustle and intensity is by far our greatest strength,” Parker Gile, senior captain, said. “We’re playing really well as a team right now and I think we just keep getting better. If we keep playing as a team and pushing hard to the end of the game, we can make it far.”