The Burnaby Mountain Lions looked every inch the champion, upsetting league winner Byrne Creek Bulldogs 85-72 in the BurWest boys' basketball final last Friday.
The Lions pounced on the Bulldogs from the tipoff, outscoring their No. 10-ranked hosts 26-13 in the pivotal opening quarter. The two teams played even-up for the remaining three quarters.
Mountain's all-stars Karan Sanghera, Jaryn Bailey, Taymoor Khan and Burnaby NOW MVP Atdhe Hajrizi figured prominently in the win.
Hajrizi scored a game-high double-double with 28 points and 13 rebounds, including 22 points in the second half. Bailey chipped in with 21 points and Khan had another 16. Sanghera had seven points and five steals for the Lions in a spirited game at point guard.
Angelo Cruz was also a big factor in the opening 10 minutes, contributing seven points, including the game's first three-pointer.
Nathal George led the Bulldogs with 23 points, including four three-pointers, and five steals.
Earlier, Mountain got by Burnaby South 71-66 in its semifinal match.
"All the early games we struggled through are paying off now," said Burnaby Mountain head coach Greg Matic. "What we lacked was basketball knowledge and now they know what it's all about, and that's what makes us dangerous. And it's our first banner - that's beautiful."
T h e Bulldogs tried their best to hang in against the aggressive fast-break system of the Lions, but appeared too individual in their play and turned the ball over too many times to get the deficit closer than eight points.
"I can't say I'm surprised. (Mountain) has always had the pieces, and today they kept their main guys on the floor," said Byrne Creek assistant coach Mike Dunkley.
"Full marks, (Mountain) came in here, they wanted it and they took it," added Byrne Creek head coach Wayne Best. "I've seen them three times this year and I was very concerned of their unbridled enthusiasm for getting after it."
Mountain led by as many as 20 points at one point of the second quarter, but David Majstorovic got the defict to single digits in the third quarter with back-to-back free throws.
Wilson Anteros also brought Byrne Creek to within eight points of the lead in the final quarter with a couple more points from the foul line.
But Harjrizi had an answer, replying with two of his own from the charity stripe to regain a double-digit lead.
"We've worked really hard for six months. We never stopped. We outworked (Byrne Creek) - composure and all that," Hajrizi said, adding it was all possible because of coach Matic.
"He makes everything so simple and easy, all we have to do is listen and execute," Hajrizi said.
Burnaby South earned the third BurWest berth into the Lower Mainland championships, outlasting New Westminster 89-76.
South all-star Taylor Smith led the Rebels with a game-high 25 points, including four threes and 19 points in the opening half.
"We didn't execute against Mountain (in the semifinals), so going forward we want to make sure it doesn't happen again," said South senior Nick Garcha, who had 14 second-half points, including a game-turning trey in the final quarter. "We want to show more performances that we can be proud of. It's all about getting there (to the Mainlands)."
The Mainlands tip-off today (Wednesday) with Byrne Creek hosting No. 11 Killarney and Burnaby South at home to No. 10 David Thompson. Both games are 7: 30 p.m. starts.
Burnaby Mountain hosts the winner of Byrne/ Killarney on Thursday.