St. Catharines, Ontario – The Fraser Valley Bandits are 3-2 after the first round of the CEBL tournament in Southern Ontario. They beat the Niagara River Lions 70-57 to move into the playoff round.
The Fraser Valley Bandits are more than the sum of their parts. The Bandits emerged victorious in the lowest scoring game in CEBL history as a win at all costs approach earned them a 70-57 victory over Niagara, despite shooting just 38 per cent from the field.
No one from the River Lions scored more than 10 points as the Bandits held Niagara to the fewest points scored by an individual team in CEBL history. The previous lowest scoring game in league history was a 69-62 Edmonton Stingers victory over the Saskatchewan Rattlers on June 6, 2019.
“From a coaching standpoint it was really gritty,” said Bandits head coach and general manager Kyle Julius. “Offensively both teams missed a lot of good shots and we missed some uncharacteristic shots—even layups—but I really felt like we guarded the way we wanted to. We made certain people shoot that we wanted to take shots, and they did and it worked in our favour. I was really proud of the group in general and that was a great bounce back win and I’m excited to be a part of that one.”
The stakes were high for both teams as Niagara had to win to have a shot at getting back to an even .500 record at 3-3, while Fraser Valley was at risk of losing its third consecutive game entering their last game of the season 2-3 against a tough Guelph Nighthawks team.
It was clear from the game’s onset that it would be a physical affair. With shots from the perimeter failing to drop, both squads took aim at getting to the basket. Marek Klassen was denied at the rim by Ryan Ejim, while Marcus Capers and Olu Ashaolu did their best to protect the basket for the Bandits.
Capers signed with the Bandits thanks to his reputation as a two-way player and he has since performed as advertised. After being held scoreless by Hamilton the previous contest, Capers found his form on Sunday, finishing with five points, four assists, 10 rebounds and a block. A putback dunk by Capers off a miss by Malcolm Duvivier midway through the second epitomized the offensive approach for both teams – every basket would require a Herculean effort.
Trailing by a mere six points entering the third quarter, the River Lions appeared like they might make a come back. Kassius Robertson stepped into a three-pointer to cut the score to 42-39, but that would be as close as Niagara would get because veteran guard Junior Cadougan had other ideas.
Cadougan took matters into his own hands and drained a deep three-pointer at the end of the shot clock to restore a double-digit lead for the Bandits entering the final frame.
“Simple is better – that’s the bottom line. I think we were trying to make things too complicated before and we just broke it down and simplified it and brought a great effort of toughness and that was it – we came out with the ‘W,’” said Cadougan, who scored 16 points and collected five assists and three rebounds.
Niagara would cut the deficit to as little as nine points in the fourth, but Fraser Valley absorbed each counterattack. Duvivier stepped to the line and split a pair of free throws to ice the game.
Following Sunday’s game, Niagara takes on Ottawa (2-2) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Fraser Valley’s next contest is against Guelph (3-1) on Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT).