Fraser Valley Bandits players Shaquille Keith (right) and Malcolm Duvivier celebrate after Keith scores the winning basket in Sunday’s (Aug. 15) 104-84 win over the Guelph Nighthawks. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits players Shaquille Keith (right) and Malcolm Duvivier celebrate after Keith scores the winning basket in Sunday’s (Aug. 15) 104-84 win over the Guelph Nighthawks. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits win CEBL playoff quarter-final

Bandits defeat Guelph 104-84, will next take on Niagara at Championship Weekend on Friday

The first professional playoff basketball game in British Columbia in 74 years proved to be a memorable one for fans of the Fraser Valley Bandits.

Hot shooting, unselfish team play and ball control were the name of the game in a dominant 104-84 Bandits win over the Guelph Nighthawks inside the Abbotsford Centre on Sunday (Aug. 15) afternoon.

The Bandits shot a scorching 56 per cent from the field and collected 29 assists as a team in the victory. Fraser Valley never trailed in the game and set the pace early with a 24-15 lead after one. The offence continued in the second, with the Bandits outscoring Guelph 34-20.

The Nighthawks began producing better in the second half, but simply couldn’t make up the ground. Brandon Gilbeck controlled the Elam Ending, with a pair of dunks and a perfect dish to Shaquille Keith, who scored the playoff win clinching basket.

Gilbeck collected 26 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks and was named the player of the game. Fraser Valley also got excellent contributions from Malcolm Duvivier (21 points on 9/11 shooting, five assists and four rebounds), Kenny Manigault (16 points, seven assists and five rebounds), Shaquille Keith (14 points, nine assists and four rebounds) and Alex Campbell (13 points and four rebounds).

The Bandits also had a solid push off the bench from veteran Levon Kendall, who had nine points, three assists and two rebounds). Kendall stepped up when Gilbeck was off the floor and put in strong minutes in the middle.

Fraser Valley was playing without head coach David Singleton, who tested positive for COVID-19. According to team officials, all protocol was properly followed and no other staff or players tested positive.

Assistant coach Tanner Massey will slide into the head coach position for the remainder of the playoffs. Massey said it’s poor timing to lose Singleton.

“Whenever he told me he had it, he told me he felt fine,” Massey said after the game. “It’s unfortunate and I wish he would have been here. But David is all good.”

Massey is no stranger to the coaching game, and has served as an assistant coach in the NBA G League and has been a head coach overseas.

Duvivier said he’s not worried about Massey leading the team into the semifinals.

“This team has a next man up mentality, whether it’s the players or the coaches,” he said. “Tanner did an amazing job today and we’re just going to keep figuring it out.”

Duvivier said he was inspired to see Kendall get a chance to set the tone in a playoff setting.

“That’s the type of team we have when a guy like Levon can just step up,” he said. “It’s good to see an older guy like him out there hooping and showing guys how it’s done. I always tell him to score more and be more aggressive so it made me happy to see that.”

Massey added that the thing he was most proud of was the team’s 29 assists.

“I would be hard pressed to find the Fraser Valley Bandits have a higher number of assists in one game,” he said. “And it wasn’t just one guy, everyone was chipping in.”

The Bandits averaged 19.2 assists per game in the regular season, so the 29 was a remarkable number.

Fraser Valley next heads to Edmonton to take on the Niagara River Lions in the CEBL semifinals. The teams played each other twice in the regular season, with the Bandits winning 104-81 in Abbotsford on June 29 and Niagara winning 103-82 in Ontario on July 8.

Duvivier said he believes that the grittier team will win in Friday’s semifinal.

“I think we match up well with them but it’s going to be the tougher team that wins,” he said. “When we played them here we were the more aggressive team and when we played there they got more of those 50/50 balls so I think the team that comes out the aggressor wins.”

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Massey said it will be challenging, but he thinks his team will come out hungry.

“They bring a lot of experience but we have to be more diligent with what we do on offence and communicate better on defence to win,” he said. “One phrase we have adopted is – you can’t be happy on the farm – there is always work to do. So that’s the type of mentality we are going to bring to that game.”

The game tips off at 4 p.m. Abbotsford time on Friday. The winner of that semifinal game takes on the winner of the Edmonton Stingers vs. the Ottawa Blackjacks, which starts later that day.

 

Bandits guard Kenny Manigault bangs down low against the Guelph Nighthawks Amidou Bamba during CEBL quarter-final action on Sunday (Aug. 15). (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Bandits guard Kenny Manigault bangs down low against the Guelph Nighthawks Amidou Bamba during CEBL quarter-final action on Sunday (Aug. 15). (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)