Byrne Creek was the better team in the BurWest district high school boys' basketball final but not by much.
The much-improved New Westminster Hyacks gave almost as good as they got in a highly entertaining 80-64 win by the Bulldogs in the championship banner game at Byrne Creek on Thursday.
It's unbelievable," said Byrne Creek senior guard Hamdy Farah after the game. "It felt like a once in a lifetime feeling."
For most of the 17 players on Byrne Creek it was the first district hoop title in their high school careers, and many of the players off the long Bulldogs' bench contributed.
Byrne Creek outscored New West 29-10 off the bench.
But the outcome was much different than the first meeting, where the Byrne Creek defence baffled the Hyacks en route to a 30-plus-point win during the regular season.
"We've been working hard all season ... and we're going to keep working hard and try to get to the provincials," said New West guard Jordan Zeer, who led his team with 15 points, including three from beyond the arc.
It was clear from the opening tipoff that the Hyacks' hard work would make for a much closer matchup.
After an even first quarter, Byrne Creek put some distance between them and New West with a 24-point second quarter led by senior Kennedy George.
George scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the opening half and kindled the team's second-quarter rally with six of his 12 rebounds, including four off the offensive glass.
George also led the game with five steals.
Jada Lado also showed a sweet touch in the game, nailing nine of his 13 points in the third quarter, as Byrne Creek upped its lead to 10 points heading into the final period.
Grade 11 guard Nathali George kept the pressure on the Hyacks with six of his 14 points in the final quarter.
But New Westminster showed it wasn't going to be rattled by the Bulldogs's stifling defence like in the first meeting.
New West's big man Dylan Johnson was one rebound short of a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing nine boards. Hasrit Sidhu also hit in double figures for the Hyacks.
"It felt like (New West) knew what they were doing. We had to run our plays all the way through," said Farah. "We had to play extra hard."
Zeer said his team also learned a valuable lesson.
"It's a tough loss but it's an inspiration to get better," Zeer said. "We've just gotten way better. It's a big jump from last year. We were ready for this year."
Hyacks coach John Doughty added his team has learned to battle with a lot of good teams this season.
"I think there are a lot of opportunities for a lot of teams," Doughty said. "If they play well, anything can happen, and I feel we're in that mix."
Byrne Creek too showed its improvement, getting hungry on defence when the offence was struggling early.
"It's what (coach Wayne Best) has been telling us all year. But this time we're listening," Farah said.
Burnaby South, which has gone off the boil since a promising showing at the Emerald tournament earlier this year, finished with the third BurWest berth into the Lower Mainlands following a 75-44 win over Burnaby Mountain.