It was a proud moment for Burnaby South supporters despite the loss at the final of the the Lower Mainland high school AAA boys' basketball championships.
Playing before a packed, mainly partisan house of approximately 700 strong at Kitsilano Secondary, the unranked South Rebels pushed the No. 1 host seed to the final basket before dropping a 68-58 decision to the top-ranked Blue Devils on Friday night.
South showed from the opening tip-off that it would not be a pushover, taking an early 6-5 lead on the first two of five three-pointers by second team all-star guard Martin Bogajev.
The Rebels continued to fight for the lead well into the late stages of the first quarter, when defensive player of the tournament Dejan Posavljak put South ahead 14-13 with an offensive rebound and a putback.
Kits increased its first-half lead to 10 points midway through the second quarter, but South rallied again to close the deficit to three points on a Bogajev three and a steal by first team guard Taylor Smith.
Bogajev led all scorers with 22 points, including 16 first-half points.
In the third quarter, South pulled even again, knotting the score at 40-40 on a layin from Djordje Obradovic off the bench, with an assist from senior guard Gino Pagbilao, who had 13 points and three treys for the visitors.
South led by as many as four points before Kits' forward Noah Derappard-Yuswack hurled up a desperation Hail Mary from the back court at the third-quarter buzzer. Derappard-Yuswack topped the Blue Devils with 22 points.
Down the stretch, South appeared to get the worst of the non-calls and were outscored 15-8 in the final 10 minutes. MVP post Luka Zaharijevic chipped in with 16 points, including four-of-five from the foul line, for the winners.
"We had a great effort," said South head coach David Smith. "We are competitive and we have to keep getting better."
The last time Smith coached a South team to the provincials was in 2002, when the Rebels also lost to eventual provincial champion Kitsilano in the Lower Mainland championship final.
"It's great to get to the B.C.s and now we have to get better," Smith added. "I knew we were comfortable coming here. I was confident we could be competitive, but we have to get better to get over that hump."
The B.C. high school AAA boys' championship tournament will be held at the Langley Events Centre from March 12 to 16.
South will face honourable mention Sardis Falcons in its opening game on Wednesday, March 13 at 8:30 a.m.
Earlier, district champion Burnaby Mountain got schooled in its consolation final by St. George's, losing 90-61 in the battle for third and fourth seeding into the B.C. AAA provincials in Langley, which begins in mid-March.
Atdhe Hajrizi scored 14 points before fouling out in the third quarter and Nurzat Ahemaide added 12 off the bench for the Lions. Offensive player at the Mainlands, Drew Urquhart, netted 29 for the Saints.
Jaryn Bailey was named a second Mainland team all-star from Mountain.
Mountain head coach Greg Matic, who coached Burnaby South for 12 years and three appearances at the provincials, said it was important to get every player into the game against St. George's.
"It was determined beforehand," he said. "We wanted everyone to play. It was important for them to get the feeling of being on the team."
Mountain will face unranked Caledonia on the opening day of the tournament play on Tuesday, March 12. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:15 p.m.