It wasn't the way Kayla Gordon envisioned her high school basketball career ending.
"It was like a Hail Mary play to try and get the ball back when I fouled out," said the 17-year-old guard for the Cedars Christian Eagles. "It's just that realization that your dreams are coming to a crash."
With less than 50 seconds to play in the gold-medal final of the 2013 B.C. Secondary Schools Senior Girls A Basketball championship, Gordon was forced to take her fifth foul, walking off the basketball court at the Northern Sport Centre for the final time Saturday, unable to help her team mount a comeback as the Immaculata Mustangs of Kelowna won the elusive gold medal and banner with a 58-54 victory.
"I'd just given it all I could," said Gordon. "I'm so proud of the way my team came together and represented our school. I can't ask for a better way to end the season, well obviously with a gold medal, but you know, we may have lost but we weren't defeated. We just played our hearts out and that's all we could do."
During their five-year careers with the Eagles, beginning in Grade 8, Gordon and fellow graduating senior Kayla Eby went from a sixth-place finish at the provincial tournament to fourth place before earning a trio of silver medals.
After Gordon was forced to take her last foul, Eby said it was difficult to watch her teammate take the long walk back to the bench, her hands pressed against her eyes unable to fight back the tears.
"It broke my heart to see her walk off the court," said Eby. "If it had been me I would've been heartbroken to foul out of my last game. I'm proud to be her teammate. We've come a really long way together."
Gordon said there was a lot of time in the past five years during practices, games and road trips for her and Eby to form a tight bond.
"We're the two Kaylas on the team," said Gordon. "We're both leaders. It's going to be difficult to part but it was a good season we really bonded and came together so it was fun."
The Eagles earned their first two silver medals in 2011 and 2012 when they were the underdogs, ranked second, to the powerhouse Houston Christian Wildcats, but with their northwest rivals not fielding a girls team in 2013 it was supposed to be Cedars turn to take the gold. Cedars was seeded at the top of the single-A rankings for senior girls all season, but in the end the second-ranked Mustangs did what the Eagles never could - take down the top team.
For the Mustangs it's their sixth single-A senior girls title since 2003.
The Mustangs defence kept the Eagles off balance from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. Cedars frustration resulted in Gordon taking two early fouls and Grade 11 point-guard Hannah Pudlas being dinged for four penalties in the first half.
"Everyone was a little bit on edge," said Gordon. "We didn't have that security but I thought that we kept our composure. When we came out in the second half, we came out with a fire and a passion and got it back."
The Eagles trailed 31-25 at the half but led by Pudlas' 10 third-quarter points battled back to tie the game at 44-44, but the Mustangs readjusted their strategy to take away the shooting and passing lanes from Pudlas and Gordon. Other members of the Eagles weren't able to pick up the slack and despite earning several trips to the free-throw line Cedars shooters were unable capitalize.
"It is hard because we spend so much time practicing those free throws and there's no defence," said Gordon. "It's just one of those things where you have to really focus and buckle down.
"It's a hard game, the provincial final, and they're a young group of girls," she added. "I think it was nerves and it was a very physical game and those girls aren't used to that. It's hard to really focus and hit those when you're frazzled."
Gordon hit her two free-throw shots but the Mustangs succeeded in their pre-game objective in limiting Gordon's effectiveness.
The silver-medal finish marked the end of Eby's competitive basketball career as she prepares for a future as an education student at UNBC, while Gordon has already committed to play Canadian Interuniversity Sport basketball at Trinity Western University with the Spartans for the next five seasons as she studies corporate communications and broadcast journalism.
Eagles coach Al MacDonald said everyone is going to miss the two graduating seniors at Cedars.
"We've got two special players that were a part of the fact that we went to five straight provincial championships," said MacDonald. "They've been real stalwarts in our program and they've inspired other players and now we have an established program and are in great shape."
Gordon said leaving Cedars will be hard but she knows the future is bright for both the Eagles and herself.
"Every year I just came back and it was so fun just to be able to see the team grow and our school develop a program," said Gordon. "It obviously would've been a storybook to have a gold and a banner but it's just been amazing. I've grown so much as a player and a person. It's just shaped me into who I am today and I couldn't be more grateful."