Released For Publication - August 15, 2021
The Fraser Valley Bandits used an explosive offence to defeat the Guelph Nighthawks, 104-84, and advance to the CEBL Championship Weekend for a second straight season.
Setting a CEBL playoff record for most assists in a playoff game (29) and tying the high for most points, the Bandits, who were without Head Coach Dave Singleton, reminded the league how impressive they can play both inside and outside the paint.
Bandits centre Brandon Gilbeck owned the rim. He recorded game highs of 26 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks. The final play of the game included Gilbeck who was double-teamed in the key, but made a terrific dish to Shaquille Keith who scored the game-winning layup.
Keith, who is a finalist for the CEBL Sixth Man of the Year Award, led all bench players with 14 points but it was his passing that stood out most, recording a game-high nine assists, finding Gilbeck on multiple occasions down low.
Despite a late surge by the Nighthawks in the fourth quarter, Fraser Valley was in control for most of the game and never trailed in the quarterfinal contest. Leading by as much as 31, the Bandits withheld a desperate Guelph team who pulled to within 14 (95-81) heading into the Elam Ending.
Tanner Massey was placed into the head coaching role for the Bandits with Singleton out due to Covid-19 protocols. He orchestrated an offence that was fluid throughout the entire game with players willing to share the ball and play as a unit.
“It was great to get back into that seat,”
“We have a collection of players that really compete. The message going into the game was ‘no excuses.’ Our guys, they are really resilient. It’s the best thing of this roster. We have hungry guys, we have gritty guys who have been there before at a high level. They have competed for championships, they have won championships. They know what it takes.”
The Bandits used a boisterous sellout crowd at Abbotsford Centre to bring unmatched energy to the court. Nine of the 10 players on the Fraser Valley roster scored in the first quarter, led by Alex Campbell and Malcolm Duvivier, who each netted eight points as the Bandits took control 24-15 through 10 minutes.
The Nighthawks managed a successful defensive zone that helped Guelph go on a 10-0 run early in the second frame, pulling to within two, 27-25. However, Duvivier stopped the momentum with a triple, followed by a massive dunk from teammate Gilbeck. Fraser Valley scored 19 of the next 21 points and never looked back. Duvivier finished with 21 points and five assists.
Nighthawks guard, Michael Bryson, who led all scorers with 17 points in the first half, was limited to just seven points in the final two quarters, finishing with a team-best 24 points.
“I thought in the second half we fought but we didn’t fight in the first,”
said Nighthawks Head Coach Charles Kissi.
“Michael Bryson is a high level basketball player. He came here and proved that. It was good to see him perform. I think overall it (the season) was pretty good. Overall, some really good growth and you can’t really ask for much more than that.”
After shooting two-for-11 from the field, Nighthawks guard Ahmed Hill picked up his second technical late in the second quarter, resulting in a disqualification and was unable to help his team the rest of the way. Hill was the fifth-leading scorer in the CEBL during the regular season (17.5 ppg) and was hugely missed for the remainder of the game.
The Bandits will travel to Edmonton for the CEBL Championship Weekend, where they will face the second-seeded Niagara River Lions on Friday night (9:30 p.m. ET, 7:30 p.m. PT). The two teams split the regular season series, 1-1, with blowouts for the home team in each game.
Notes and Numbers
Fraser Valley also set the CEBL playoff record for the largest margin of victory. The previous mark found the Bandits on the receiving end when Edmonton captured the 2020 CEBL crown with a 17-point win (90-73).
Championship Weekend Schedule
Semifinals: Friday, August 20, 2021
No. 2 Niagara River Lions vs. No. 4 Fraser Valley (7 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. MT)
No. 1 Edmonton Stingers vs. No. 6 Ottawa BlackJacks (9:30 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. MT)
Championship Game: Sunday, August 22, 2021
Semifinal Winner 1 vs. Semifinal Winner 2 (4 p.m. ET, 2 p.m. MT)
All CEBL Playoff games will be available for live streaming on the CEBL’s new OTT streaming service CEBL+, cbcsports.ca, the free CBC Gem streaming service, the CBC Sports App for iOS and android devices, and on Twitch.
A league created by Canadians for Canadians, the CEBL has the highest percentage of Canadian players of any professional league in the country, with 75 percent of its current rosters being Canadians. Players bring experience from the NBA, NBA G League, top international leagues, the Canadian National team program, and top NCAA programs as well as U SPORTS. The only First Division Professional League Partner of Canada Basketball, the CEBL season typically runs from May through August. Head to CEBL.ca for more information or follow us on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook & YouTube