Bandits guard Marek Klassen attacks offensively during CEBL action at the Abbotsford Centre on Thursday. Klassen and the Bandits won for the first time on home court by posting an 85-72 win over the Guelph Nighthawks. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits record first home win

Bandits post wins in Abbotsford and Hamilton, riding three game win streak

After a disastrous start to the Canadian Elite Basketball League regular season, the Fraser Valley Bandits are heating up.

The Bandits recorded the team’s first-ever win on home court at the Abbotsford Centre on Thursday, and then followed that up with a win in Hamilton on Saturday to extend the club’s win streak to three games.

Fraser Valley held the Guelph Nighthawks to just 34 per cent shooting, in a dominant 85-72 win. The victory was the biggest win margin in team history by the Bandits.

The locals took over in the second quarter, outscoring the Nighthawks 23-13 and controlled play from that point.

Debuting player Jelan Kendrick made an excellent first impression picking up 18 points (8 for 10 shooting), 10 rebounds and three steals. The Georgia native previously played college basketball at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and last season averaged 10.2 points per game with the NBLC’s London Lightning.

Kendrick also played on the 2010 McDonald’s All-American Boys Game with NBA champion Kyrie Irving.

The Bandits also got solid games from Jamal Ray (17 points and six rebounds), Yale Secondary grad Marek Klassen (15 points and four assists) and a 10-point night from Abbotsford’s Joel Friesen.

“This was a great win for the group. We didn’t always execute the way that we’d like to offensively, but we were able to put together a solid game defensively that allowed us to limit Guelph’s chances and get out on the run in transition” said Bandits forward Levon Kendall, who celebrated his 35th birthday tonight and collected eight points and six rebounds off the bench.

The defensive intensity continued on Saturday against the Hamilton Honey Badgers, as the Bandits opened up an 18-point lead in the first half to cruise to a 100-82 win on the road.

The Bandits were led offensively by Abbotsford products Klassen and Friesen.

Klassen collected 18 points, 15 assists and five rebounds, while Friesen had a team-high 21 points and three rebounds. Kendrick had another solid game with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Clint Robinson added 15 points and six boards.

Fraser Valley shot an impressive 53 per cent from the field in the win, and held the Honey Badgers to 36 per cent shooting. The Bandits record now sits at 3-9.

“We know what we are capable of and I am proud of the guys for fighting through adversity. We are a long way from where we want to be, but this group believes in itself and I am excited to continue to grow as we continue to fight as a cohesive unit each and every night,” Guarasci stated after the game.

He said the team is looking forward to Thursday’s big game when the Niagara River Lions, the top team in the Canadian Elite Basketball League, come to town.

“This Thursday’s matchup against Niagara is pivotal. They can hurt you in a number of ways and we have to prepare accordingly. It’s an important test and I am looking forward to returning to the Fraser Valley and competing in front of our fans.”

The River Lions (10-3) and the Bandits tip-off at the Abbotsford Centre on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game is billed as “Country Night” and will feature pre-game and half-time performances from country artists Me and Mae.

For more on the team, visit thebandits.ca.

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