In front of a sell-out crowd of 2,250 fans inside the Abbotsford Centre, the Fraser Valley Bandits fell 91-77 to the Edmonton Stingers on Tuesday (July 27)
The raucous crowd saw the Bandits trail for most of the game, and the club’s biggest lead was a 16-14 lead in the first quarter.
In that moment, Bandits forward Adam Paige nailed a three-pointer and got a reaction similar to All Elite Wrestling star ‘Hangman’ Adam Page (Google that one non-wrestling fans), but that brief moment was the only time Fraser Valley led.
The Bandits had few answers defensively for reigning league MVP Xavier Moon, who collected 39 points, six rebounds and four assists. Moon shot an impressive 62 per cent from the field in one of historically the best individual offensive nights in Canadian Elite Basketball League history. He set a CEBL record for most points in one game on Tuesday.
Moon had some help from big men Jordan Baker and Brady Skeens. Baker had a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Skeens scored six points to go with five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block. But it was defensively that the duo helped frustrate the Bandits inside game and were contributing factors to the Bandits brutal night for turnovers.
Fraser Valley turned the ball over 19 times, with most of those occurring in the first half. Edmonton scored 16 points off of those turnovers and mismanaging the ball helped put the game out of reach for the Bandits.
Bandits head coach David Singleton was assessed a double-technical and was ejected from the game to start the fourth quarter. That left capable assistant coach Tanner Massey as the bench boss for the fourth quarter and the Elam Ending.
Big man Brandon Gilbeck led the way for the Bandits with 20 points to go with five rebounds. Shaquille Keith added 18 points and seven rebounds. Gilbeck also fouled out early into the Elam Ending. He said the two losses to Edmonton on home court stung.
“We have to get them,” he said when asked about the fact that Fraser Valley has two more games against Edmonton in Alberta on Aug. 4 and 6. “We’re known for defending our home territory so it’s unfortunate we dropped these games. We need to stay out of our holes and take care of our own mistakes. It’s always our own mistakes, if we take care of that we should be fine.”
Tuesday marked the final home game for the Bandits barring them hosting a playoff game, and Gilbeck said he was wowed by the local fans.
“I came from a small high school, a small college and play in front of smaller crowds overseas so this Abbotsford crowd - there is nothing like it man,” the Wisconsin native said. “It’s unfortunate we only got a couple games with them because I couldn’t imagine those crowds for those games early on. They give us energy and really are a game changer. These really are the best fans in the league and I’m sorry we dropped those games.”
Massey said it was a combination of Edmonton’s defence and Fraser Valley mistakes that led to the loss.
“We have a lot to clean up in regards to turning the ball over,” he said. “Having more space on offence and just getting the ball up the floor with proper spacing so we don’t have a lot of guys bunched together. We have to be able to handle that and handle tougher situations.”
He said he wasn’t sure what exactly led to Singleton’s ejection, but said whatever they attempted to do to stop Moon failed.
“It didn’t work,” he said of the Bandits defensive game plan for the star. “When you have 39 points, he was in full control of the game. He’s a fine player and we did some good things defending him but we have to be better and more alert.”
Massey admitted that getting the ball into Gilbeck was difficult at times, but they need to find ways to use the big man.
“We have to use him as a big threat,” he said. “We need to continue to look to him in the post, especially early in possessions. When teams take that away and we get into the latter part of the shot clock, we need to get back into some new actions or other movement to get shots.”
Massey said Gilbeck works hard in practice and is continuing to develop his post game and he believes that Gilbeck will be a key as the season draws to its conclusion. He said he think the team can return to its winning ways and also complimented the Abbotsford crowd.
“They were so much fun,” he said. “I really enjoyed being a part of the game because of them and they made it more exciting for everyone. You could really feel their energy and I give them a lot of credit for helping us and supporting us.”
The Bandits averaged close to 2,000 fans over the club’s three home games, nearly the maximum amount that could attend due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Fraser Valley drops to 5-5 with the loss, while Edmonton improves to 10-1 and they sit atop the CEBL standings.
The two teams meet two more times in Edmonton next week and then the Bandits travel to Saskatchewan to take on the Rattlers on Aug. 8 and Aug. 10.
There is the possibility for the Bandits to host a quarterfinal game depending on if they finish third or fourth overall in the standings. The club currently sits fourth overall.
For more on the team, visit thebandits.ca.