Bandits centre Brandon Gilbeck goes up for a shot. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Bandits centre Brandon Gilbeck goes up for a shot. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits sweep home stand to go 4-0

Abbotsford-based pro basketball red hot to start 2021 CEBL regular season

The 1996 Chicago Bulls, the 2016 Golden State Warriors, the 2021 Fraser Valley Bandits?

Not quite yet, but the Canadian Elite Basketball League club continued its dominant run to start the season with a fourth straight win on Saturday by defeating the Ottawa Blackjacks 92-77 on Saturday.

The Bandits are now one win away from tying the CEBL record for most wins to start a season (2019 – five by Niagara River Lions). Fraser Valley and the Edmonton Stingers (3-0) are the lone undefeated teams in the league.

A balanced offence set the pace for the Bandits, with guard Alex Campbell scoring a team leading 19 points and adding six rebounds. Marek Klassen contributed with 16 points and six assists, and three other players (Jamal Reynolds – 12, Malcolm Duvivier – 10 and Shaquille Keith – 10) hit double digits in points.

Big man Brandon Gilbeck grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds, but fouled out early into the Elam Ending portion of the game. Fouls were an issue for the Bandits, as the team committed an eye-popping 35 in the game. Ottawa received just 17 fouls. The Blackjacks didn’t make the Bandits pay for their penalties and only hit 25/36 from the charity stripe.

Ottawa led briefly early into the game but Fraser Valley remained on top from the first quarter on. They led 50-36 at halftime and Ottawa was unable to make up any ground in the second half. The Bandits led by as many as 18, and stifled Ottawa’s comeback early in the third quarter when they got as close as eight points.

The ornery game saw heated words occur in the handshake and Duvivier chipped a tooth and tossed it onto the sidelines after he was smacked in the mouth in the third quarter.

The Bandits hustle on defence saw them collect 28 defensive rebounds and seven steals. Those 28 boards were just one less than what the Blackjacks collected both on offence and defence. Bandits guard Jamal Reynolds, who had 12 points and seven rebounds, said that side of the ball has been huge for the team.

“We’re hungry, straight up,” he said. “All guys one through five on the floor can guard the ball, we all can switch. Guys like Malcolm [Duvivier], Kenny long arms [Manigault] and Brandon [Gilbeck] – he’s the best shot blocker in the league and he’s anchoring everything. Our coaches also give us the game plan and help us execute.”

Reynolds was one of three Bandits players who fouled out at five, and five other players had four fouls. He said he doesn’t think the team is too aggressive defensively.

“There are going to be games where we go get frozen because we are super aggressive but at the same time we can’t lose that because it’s our identity,” he said.

Bandits head coach David Singleton agreed, but said his team can play smarter and avoid more whistles.

“It’s a balance that we have to figure out,” he said. “We’ve got to use our hands a little less and using our feet better but defence is what this team is built on.”

Singleton said he’s satisfied with his team’s start, but now they hit the road which could lead to other challenges.

“This group is a well-put together group,” he said. “We’re all really enjoying each other’s company but there are tougher roads ahead. Our chemistry is really helping us get through some of the tough moments we face each game. But now we have to travel from city to city and there can be flight delays. It’s about us being prepared for that and ready for that.”

The Bandits now hit the road with games against the River Lions on Thursday (July 8) and Ottawa on Saturday (July 10). They return home to take on the Guelph Nighthawks on Wednesday, July 14.

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Fraser Valley Bandits guard Jamal Reynolds attacks the rim during CEBL action on Saturday. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits guard Jamal Reynolds attacks the rim during CEBL action on Saturday. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)