Fraser Valley Bandits picked up a narrow 84-81 victory on the road against their rivals out of Edmonton on Wednesday night at the Expo Centre.
It’s Fraser Valley’s first win over the Stingers since July of 2020 and just their second all-time, with Edmonton winning 9 of 11 meetings.
The Bandits rode a career-high 22 point, nine rebound performance from U SPORTS big man Thomas Kennedy to victory over the back-to-back champs, explained the Bandits’ head coach Mike Taylor.
“What most impressed me with Thomas today was how he played through physical contact,” Taylor said. “Edmonton played a strong, physical game. In his pick and rolls, in his post moves and crashing the boards I think he did well. He played very strong and it was an important performance for us down in the paint.”
Shane Gibson led Fraser Valley down the stretch, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half, while also collecting five rebounds and delivering four assists. He also scored the game-winning layup in transition.
“Shane is a talented scorer – he got baskets for himself but he also made some beautiful plays for his teammates,” Taylor said.
“It was fitting he got the game-winning basket, because we relied on him so much.”
Two-time U SPORTS MVP Kadre Gray also had a bounce back game for the Bandits, dropping 16 points off the bench on 4-8 shooting from the field and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line.
After relying heavily on their bench in a loss to Scarborough, the Stingers’ starters provided the bulk of the team’s offence on Wednesday.
Four starters reached double figures for Edmonton with Brody Clarke leading the way with 19 points on 7-11 shooting while Mathieu Kamba dropped 16 on 7-10 shooting along with seven rebounds. Jordan Baker added 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals in a losing effort while Jahmal Jones scored 10 in a starting role. Aher Uguak had nine points off the bench for the Stingers to round out their offence.
The teams were fairly even on the stat sheet, in what was a tightly contested game that featured 10 lead changes. However, 14 offensive rebounds for Fraser Valley made a difference for the Bandits in the victory.
The first quarter saw the Bandits assert themselves with the Stingers struggling offensively out of the gate.
Kennedy scored eight points in the opening frame, with a soft touch floater, a putback, a hook shot and two free throws. The Bandits carried a 19-15 lead into the second quarter with both teams shooting 37 per cent from the floor and struggling from beyond the arc.
Edmonton was 1-8 from three in the opening 10 minutes while Fraser Valley was 2-7.
The game opened up offensively in the second quarter, with both teams exchanging blows and changing leads. After a Gray three gave the Bandits a 29-27 lead, Edmonton went on a 14-2 run to go up by 10. From there, the Bandits closed the gap to cut the lead to 45-42 heading into halftime.
Clarke led all scorers with 11 in the first while Gray and Kennedy led the Bandits with 10 points each. The Stingers were hot from three in the second, going 4-4 from beyond the arc.
Kennedy continued to dominate in the second half, opening the third quarter with a great catch and finish inside followed by an up-and-under and-one with his left hand, tying the game at 46.
The Stingers went the first 3:30 of the quarter without a field goal before Baker ended the drought.
The West Coast squads went back and forth in the third. A transition jam from Clarke gave the Stingers a 55-54 lead before the Bandits closed the quarter on a 9-2 run that included six free throws from Gray. Fraser Valley carried a 63-57 lead over the champs heading into the final stanza.
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After a Bandits’ tip-in to start the fourth, the Stingers went on a 14-4 run of their own powered by 9 points from Kamba to give Edmonton a 71-69 lead. Gibson tied it up at 71 with a slithery finish and Jones answered with a contested floater to regain the lead for Edmonton. A highlight reel poster dunk off of a screen and roll for Kennedy on Baker tied the game once again. However, Baker quickly got revenge, fouling out Murphy Burnatowski and hitting two free throws to give the Stingers a 75-73 advantage heading into the Elam ending with a target score of 84.
Shane Gibson put the Bandits on his back in Elam time. He opened the scoring by driving left and finishing with his right hand at the rim then drilled a beautiful three with a hand in his face to give Fraser Valley a 78-76 lead. Gibson then picked up an assist to Kennedy on a drive and dish to put the Bandits up four. Maxie Esho’s reverse layup extended the lead back to four and put the Bandits one bucket away from a win.
A Jones three cut the lead to 82-81 and gave both squads a chance at victory. Alex Campbell missed a three but Baker’s attempt at a response was blocked by Esho, which led to a wide open layup in transition by Gibson for the win.
This is the first time the Edmonton Stingers have lost back to back games since Aug. 9, 2019, when they lost both games of a home-and-home against Saskatchewan and just the third time they’ve lost consecutive games in franchise history.
The Stingers have never lost three games in a row.
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The Bandits host the Scarborough Shooting Stars on Saturday, June 18 at 5 p.m. at Langley Events Centre.
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