St. Catharines, Ont/Fraser Valley – – There was no love lost between the Fraser Valley Bandits and the Edmonton Stingers on Sunday afternoon. The Bandits dropped all four games of the 2019 regular season against the Stingers. But on Sunday it was a different story. The Bandits jumped in front early and captured a 113-100 victory in the CEBL Summer Series opener for both clubs.
“I think it was really sloppy at some points, but what can you expect after three, four months off and guys not being in the gym five-on-five,” said Abbotsford native Marek Klassen of the Bandits. “I think our team executed really well for 36 minutes. The Elam Ending was a different take. None of us have played that before, so I think we slipped a little bit, but we’ll take all that and get ready for tomorrow.”
Newcomer Kyle Johnson opened the scoring for the Bandits with a breakaway finger roll. Cameron Forte made his presence felt early for the Bandits, scoring six of Fraser Valley’s first eight points. Forte’s finesse allowed the talented big man to get to the rim, which forced the Stingers’ defence to collapse, allowing for open Bandits shooters on the wings. The Stingers were unable to find an answer for Fraser Valley’s marksmanship from three-point range.
With Fraser Valley’s lead growing throughout the first quarter, a corner three-pointer by Stingers guard Mambi Diawara cut the lead to 20-10 midway through the frame, but the Bandits were relentless in their attack. A three-pointer by Jahenns Manigat put Fraser Valley ahead 32-19 after one quarter.
The Bandits threatened to break ahead in the second quarter, but returning star guard Adika Peter-McNeilly had other ideas. The former Ryerson Ram traded buckets with various Bandits scorers and hit multiple three-pointers in the second. Despite Peter-McNeilly’s best efforts, a late three-pointer made a dent in the deficit, but the Stingers entered halftime trailing, 59-42.
Edmonton shot just 38 percent through the first two quarters of play, while Fraser Valley connected on 56 percent from the field and 47 percent from beyond the arc through one half of play. Peter-McNeilly led Edmonton at the half with 14 points, while former Alberta Golden Bear and Canada West all-star Brody Clarke had 10 points. Johnson was the game’s high-point scorer at halftime with 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the field, including 3-of-3 from downtown.
Edmonton came out firing on all cylinders to open the second half. Back-to-back three-pointers by Mathieu Kamba helped the Stingers claw to within 59-49 early in the third quarter, but the Bandits responded to each Edmonton run. A three-pointer from Junior Cadougan and a three-point play from Klassen pushed the Fraser Valley lead to 84-63.
The Stingers kicked it up a gear in the fourth quarter and trailed 102-80 at the start of the Elam Ending. They outscored Fraser Valley, 20-9, in the late stretches of the game, but a three-pointer by Jahenns Manigat ended the game at 113-100.
“It’s a 40-minute game and everybody’s coming off not having played in a long time,” said Stingers head coach Jermaine Small. “It’s a game of runs, but like I told our guys, ‘It’s a 40-minute war.’ We had some really good runs there, but at the same time we have to keep focussed on that and just build from it.”
“I was very pleased with how hard we played and how we came out of the gates,” said Johnson. “I think the Elam Ending – we definitely got to get better at that. You know, we stopped playing. But for three quarters and a half we did a really good job of setting the tone, weathering their storm. At the end of the day it’s a win, so we’ll take it. It’s important for us to get that first win.”
Forte led all scorers with 28 points on 13-of-21 shooting from the field, while also hauling in 10 rebounds in a double-double performance. Peter-McNeilly scored a team-high 18 points, two rebounds and two steals.
Fraser Valley’s next matchup arrives Tuesday when the Bandits take on Saskatchewan (1-0) at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. PT).
All CEBL Summer Series games are available to watch on Twitch, CBCSports.ca and the CBC Gem App. A complete broadcast schedule can be found here.