The Belfast boys basketball team continues to give opponents fits with its hard-nosed, aggressive, never-quit play for 32 minutes.

That was the case again Thursday night, Jan. 3 as the Lions notched another important early-season victory, this time 71-69 over Leavitt of Turner.

Click for photos from this game.

The Lions are making a real case for being a regional playoff team for the first time in years and they are doing it with grit, determination and strong all-around play.

On Thursday night, Ryan Rice sank two free throws with less than 20 seconds to play to put Belfast up by two points. Leavitt came down the court and called a timeout. The Lions then "played a good stretch of defense and got a steal," said veteran coach Scott Benzie.

A BAHS player was fouled but missed the ensuing free throw, but that left only two seconds on the clock, so Leavitt did not have enough time remaining to get the ball down the court and get off a viable tying or winning shot.

"Leavitt's going to win some games, so that's a good win for us, for sure," Benzie said. "We've been talking to the kids about how we have to defend our [home] court and if we do that, we'll be in pretty good shape. We've just got to find a way to scratch out a few [wins] on the road."

Rice paced the solid all-around scoring from the Lions with 18 points, including an eye-opening 11-of-12 free throws (92 percent), with his final two foul shots icing the victory.

Yanni Rakis added 16 points, including sinking 8-of-13 foul shots, for BAHS, while Korey Doolan scored seven points; Levi Lapham and Asa Lewis, both six; Kaleb Benjamin, five; Stephen Paul and Zach Collier, both four; Carl Dodge, three; and Greg Clark, two. The Lions netted four 3-pointers and 25-of-35 free throws (71 percent).

For Leavitt, Andy Middleton tallied 23 points; Mitchell Davis, 13; Zac Goulette, 12; Isaiah Calder, eight; Austin Anderson, six; Matt Powell, four; and Isiah Magee, two. The Hornets made three treys and 10-of-20 foul shots (50 percent).

In the Maine Principals' Association Heal Point Standing for Eastern Class B, Belfast (4-3, 7.5617 points) is 10th, while Oceanside of Rockland/Thomaston (7-1, 27.0062 point) is first in the 19-team region. The top 13 teams qualify for the regional playoffs.

Leavitt is 3-5 and 10th in the 18-team Western Class B region.

The last time the Lions qualified for a regional prelim playoff game was the 2007-08 campaign when No. 12 lost to No. 5 Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln. The last time BAHS qualified for the tournament in Bangor was the late 1990s or early 2000s.

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