Bandits forward Tyrrel Tate drives to the hoop against the Guelph Nighthawks in CEBL action on Thursday. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits fall in inaugural game

Guelph Nighthawks down Bandits 106-103 in front of packed house at Abbotsford Centre

The game featured dancers, drummers, dunks, (some) defence and a handful of other “d” – words, but the Fraser Valley Bandits debut didn’t include that ‘w’ word – win.

The Canadian Elite Basketball League squad welcomed the Guelph Nighthawks to the Abbotsford Centre on Thursday night, and an estimated crowd of over 3,000 were vocal, but the team fell 106-103 in the game’s dying moments.

Bandits guard Anton Gill tossed an airball from beyond the arc with just 3.4 seconds remaining, and that sealed the deal for the locals.

Things were tight early on, with the Bandits up 19-18 after one. Guelph caught fire offensively in the second quarter, and entered half-time up 53-50.

The Bandits began clicking in the third quarter, leading 77-75 after three, and the club was up as much as eight points late in the game but the Nighthawks poured it on and ramped up the defensive intensity.

Bandits head coach Peter Guarasci said it was a solid debut for his club, but more time together – both on and off the court is needed.

“In terms of compete level for our guys and attempting to play together I think it wasn’t too bad,” he said, following the loss. “But I thought we got away from things we’ve done in practice offensively. It’s a very new group, and the ball didn’t move around as much as we’d like it to. It became a bit of one man trying to find solutions at some points. We just need more practice time with this group.”

Guarasci said he liked the way his team came out of the second half, and wants to try to capture more of that play.

“I thought we had a good stretch in the third where we competed really hard and defended,” he said. “That gave us some energy and we shared the ball a bit more on offence. But then it became disjointed – it’s nothing to do with the effort it’s just a matter of getting more practice.”

He added he was impressed with the play of forwards Drew Urquhart and Troy Gottselig, as well as Gill.

“Troy gave us some great minutes and Anton Gill for his first pro game was very aggressive and had some good moments,” he said.

Guarasci said there is still work to be done crafting the identity of the team.

“We need to work on ball screen coverage and we weren’t active enough on the ball,” he said. “Team defence and being on the same page offensively are also what we need to work on, but that’s just reps.”

From an operations standpoints, there were a few minor hiccups, but Bandits marketing and communications manager Andrew Savory said he was pleased with opening day.

“The fan engagement was great and preparation was a huge thing for us and we want to continue to do that,” he said. “What we want to do is make sure people have a better experience next time. We can’t show the same event twice, and we want fans to feel like it’s a new entertainment experience each game.”

He pointed out the crowd was loud on day one.

“We’re really happy with our numbers tonight and I think we, along with Saskatchewan [who also hosted a game tonight], have set a strong precedent for the league,” he added.

Urquhart said the atmosphere was electric.

“The vibe here was rocking,” Urquhart said, noting he previously played in Estonia. “We really appreciate everyone coming out to the game and supporting us. The facility is fantastic and when the crowd got into it more at the end of the game, we could see the potential this city and the league has.”

Guarasci agreed, and also tipped his hat to Bandits staffers for putting it all together.

“It was fantastic atmosphere tonight,” he said. “If you knew how hard our staff works behind the scene to put this together, with very few hours of sleep, they poured themselves into it to make this happen. They have to be commended.”

Game statistics were not made available at the time of this story.

The Bandits now travel to Guelph for a re-match on May 18. The next home game for the team is on May 22, when the Hamilton Honey Badgers come to town.

For more on the team, visit thebandits.ca.

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