The Burnaby Mountain Lions need look no further than the free throw line to see where their final game at the B.C. high school AAA boys' basketball championships was lost.
The Lions went to the foul line a total of just nine times, while Belmont made good on 17-of-34 attempts from the charity stripe in a 61-58 win over the Burnaby school on Saturday.
Mountain was in foul trouble from the opening tip-off but still managed to rally to take a 14-12 first-quarter lead on last-minute markers by seniors Danny Song and Atdhe Hajrizi.
Belmont took its biggest lead of the game in the second quarter, making good on eight-of-13 free throws. In fact, the Vancouver Island school went to the line 23 times in the first half, while the Lions had none.
Despite the discrepency in number of fouls and two players, including Hajrizi fouling out of the game at the beginning of the final quarter, Mountain made a comeback.
The Lions led 55-51 - their biggest lead of the game - midway through the final quarter on a pair of free throws by Karan Sanghara.
Belmont continued to press for the lead until Jaryn Bailey nailed a trey, for three of his team-high 21 points, with two minutes to go to knot the score at 58-58.
But player of the game Owen Vaags of Belmont scored on a jump shot in the final minute to put the Vancouver Island second seed into the lead for good.
"It was a tough game to coach, but the way the boys perservered, you had to give (credit) to them," said Mountain head coach Greg Matic.
For the Lions, the adversity started on opening day following an upset loss to Caledonia.
The Lions lost again on Day 2 to Pitt Meadows before finding their rhythm in an 83-31 victory over North Peace.
Hajrizi nearly matched the Northern B.C. champs with a game-high 30 points and 10 rebounds.
"We could have done so much better," said Song, a senior Mountain forward who did not try out for the team last season. "(The first game) was a tough one. It definitely did (set the tone). When we create plays that's when we're dangerous and that's what happened against North Peace. But we didn't give up. You saw the game."
Despite the 15th-place finish, Matic said the boys made him and the school proud to be the first Mountain team to earn a berth to the B.C.s and to win a district banner.
"They just compete, compete, compete. That's the beauty of them," Matic said. "What we accomplished was a credit to their commitment and sacrifice."