After trailing for the majority of the game, the Fraser Valley Bandits came back to defeat the Ottawa BlackJacks 90-87 in a thrilling season opener last night in Ottawa.
Bandits guard Alex Campbell hit an absurd contested three and scored the team’s final 7 points to lead Fraser Valley to victory.
“It was a great play from our point guard,” Campbell said of his game-winner. “He found me, I felt good, I elevated and I hit the shot.”
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Campbell, the Bandits’ MVP last season, produced 23 points and 9 rebounds—both leading the team. Murphy Burnatowski and Kadre Gray each contributed 17 points for Fraser Valley with Gray also chipping in a team-high 6 assists.
Langley’s own Ty Rowell, a former Walnut Grove Secondary and 2017 B.C. provincial champion, made his professional debut for the Bandits, scoring eight points on 3-of-5 shooting.
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South Sudan native Deng Adel had a monstrous debut in a losing effort for the Ottawa BlackJacks, scoring a franchise record 37 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 5 assists. After saying hello to Ottawa fans, it might be him they’re looking for.
Walt Lemon Jr. also had a strong debut for Ottawa, adding 12 points and a game-high 8 assists. Chad Posthumus established an inside presence for the BlackJacks, scoring 9 points to go along with 10 rebounds, going 7-12 from the free throw line.
It was an entertaining fourth quarter with each team exchanging blows before entering the Elam Ending within a point at 80-79 in favour of Ottawa. Deng Adel and Chad Posthumus both fouled out for the Ottawa BlackJacks late in the game before Campbell closed it out for Fraser Valley.
Despite outrebounding the Bandits and boasting higher percentages from the field and three, the BlackJacks suffered from 20 turnovers and foul trouble for star players.
The BlackJacks carried a 46-41 lead into halftime, shooting 54 per cent from the field while Fraser Valley shot 48 per cent.
Adel had a huge first half for Ottawa and showed off his well-rounded game. He scored, facilitated and rebounded in the opening stanza, putting up 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, including 10 straight points in the first quarter. In his first quarter run he hit a transition three, drove and scored, tipped in a rebound and hit a pull-up three off a screen.
The first quarter was largely absent of defence with Ottawa taking a 27-21 lead into the second. The BlackJacks shot 62 per cent from the field in the first and 66 per cent from three. Both teams shot well from beyond the arc with Ottawa hitting 4 threes and the Bandits hitting 5.
For the Bandits, Burnatowski’s smooth left-handed jumper was hot in the first half. He netted 11 points before halftime, going 3-4 from three. Campbell had 9 points at half on 3-6 shooting, while Shane Gibson’s interior finishing led to six more points off the bench.
The BlackJacks got off to a hot start in the third quarter, extending the lead to 10 and forcing the Bandits into an early timeout just over a minute in. Down 12 points, Rowell hit a huge corner three to stop the bleeding and cut the lead to nine. Burnatowski then hit another big three to cut the lead to 55-49 and force the BlackJacks into a timeout.
The Bandits made an adjustment to zone in the third quarter and were able to cut the lead to four heading into the final frame.
With Adel in foul trouble and on the bench for large stretches of the fourth, the Bandits were able to gain their first lead since 5-2 in the first quarter off of a fadeaway jumper from Maxie Esho.
Bandits struggled for a lot of the game to get their feet under them, said head coach Mike Taylor.
“We made a couple adjustments in the second half that helped but I want to give credit to our team. They played with heart, they never quit and we got some breaks down the stretch,” he said.
Taylor will lead the Bandits under the Friday night lights of FirstOntario Centre against the Hamilton Honey Badgers in their second game of a three-game road trip at 4 p.m. (PT).
Games are available on CEBL+ live internationally and in Canada at cbcsports.ca, the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices and the free CBC Gem streaming service. Games are also available on the CEBL’s official app, CEBL Mobile (available on iOS and Android devices), as well as TELUS Optik TV Channel 1901 Lower Mainland and via live streams on 604 Now’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Following a three-game road swing to start the year, the Bandits will debut at Langley Events Centre (LEC) for their home opener against the Rattlers on Saturday, June 4.
Full and partial season ticket packages, as well as group and single game tickets are available for purchase at thebandits.ca/tickets. Fans are kindly asked to call 604-866-0529 or email email@example.com for any questions or ticket related inquiries.
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