The bounces aren’t going the way of the Fraser Valley Bandits in their first season in the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
A 106-99 overtime loss to the Hamilton Honey Badgers dropped the Bandits to 0-4.
Three of the losses have been by a combined 11 points, so the locals are playing competitive basketball. But with a season that’s not terribly long, the Bandits need to start posting Ws to get in the playoff chase.
Fraser Valley was poised to get off on the right foot against the Honey Badgers thanks to the recent additions of two British Columbia born sharpshooters, Abbotsford’s Marek Klassen and Vancouver’s Diego Kapelan. Rodney Pryor (Evanston, IL) faked a backdoor cut and got open for an elbow jump shot to give the Bandits an early 6-4 lead in the first quarter. But the Honey Badgers responded with a run of their own, capped off by a Ryan Ejim dunk and a Justin Edwards three-pointer that pushed Hamilton’s lead to 14-6.
Klassen checked in for his first game in a Bandits uniform and immediately stabilized the offence. His steady ballhandling and distribution helped bring the Bandits to within 20-25 at the end of the first quarter.
Hamilton buckled down defensively in the second quarter thanks to tight rotations and great help-side defence, which thwarted several Bandits drives to the basket. Kapelan recorded his first points as a Bandit when he nailed a three-pointer at the five-minute mark of the second quarter, but it was all Honey Badgers for the rest of the frame. Back-to-back threes by Ricky Tarrant Jr. and Demetrius Denzel-Dyson pushed the lead to double digits, and a late drive by Tarrant Jr. resulted in an and-one that sent the Honey Badgers into half-time with a 48-35 lead.
The Bandits opened the third on a strong run that was finished by a Dallin Bachynski (Calgary, AB) dunk that brought the score to 56-47. Tate brought the Bandits closer with a three-pointer that drew Fraser Valley to within 61-57. With the Bandits threatening to take the lead, Tarrant Jr. calmly sunk two free throws with eight seconds left in the third quarter to restore a 70-63 lead for the Honey Badgers.
With the game in the balance, the Bandits and Honey Badgers traded blows in the final quarter. The Honey Badgers maintained a six-point lead in the opening minutes of the final quarter, but two free throws by Anton Gill (Raleigh, NC) trimmed Hamilton’s lead to just 82-81 with less than three minutes left in the game. Bachynski followed up Gill’s efforts by tying the game at 86-86. A late three by Denzel-Dyson gave the Honey Badgers a lead in what appeared to be the game’s closing moments, but Tate showcased great leadership and converted a difficult left-handed lay-up to send the game to overtime at 89-89.
The Bandits were unable to scrape out the victory in the extra frame as Hamilton went on a decisive final run that helped cement victory for the home side.
“The guys were putting it all out on the line tonight,” said Fraser Valley head coach Peter Guarasci. “This is the type of game we have been working towards since the beginning. Given the effort level that we saw tonight, I thought the team deserved the victory because they left it all out on the court and showed a lot of heart and grit.”
The Bandits take on the Niagara River Lions Friday at Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, ON.
“Niagara is a team that has proven that they have been able to win big at home and on the road. They have some great shooters, and we’re just going to have to learn from this quickly, regroup tomorrow, and be ready to compete,” Guarasci said.