Photo Credit Vancouver Bandits
The start of a new season for any team and/or organization is one that’s anticipated by not just the team but also their volume of loyal fan’s.
Locally we have seen the relocation and rebranding of the Fraser Valley Bandits now known as the Vancouver Bandits from Abbotsford to play out of the Langley Events Centre.
Waiting for the start of the season was like redefining a remake of the Beatles Long and Winding Road which was a transition that ownership were relying on given the local fan base.
We can state that for us at Sportswave and Eastlink TV the open communications from league Commissioner & CEO Mike Morreale has been nothing but exceptional with any of our requests put forward.
The first game of the 2023 season saw the Bandits travel east to Saskatchewan falling to the Rattlers by a 109-85 margin in their home opener.
After one quarter the Rattlers led 25-22 managing to connect on 22 three-pointers putting the pressure on the squad from the west.
Saskatchewan attempted 51 threes, connecting on 43.1% of long shots with five Rattlers managing a trio of threes, all reaching double figures.
Justin Wright-Foreman collected 23 points, four rebounds, eight assists along with four steals on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
It should be noted that 4-of-5 from three in his League debut while former Utah Jazz draft pick managed it in his 21 minutes playing time.
Jermel Kennedy, Rattler’s forward also managed 22 points for the win finishing with a team-high six threes.
Bandits Nick Ward got 22 points going 6-of-9 shooting from the field along with 10-of-15 from the free-throw line along with 13 rebounds.
Giorgi Bezhanishvili added 15 points and 10 rebounds while Malcolm Duvivier got a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
After scoring 30 points in the season opener, DJ Steward got 30 in the season opener, but was hard pressed to find a basket, scoring just 12 points on 6-of-20 from the floor, while former Rattler and 2019 CEBL Finals MVP Alex Campbell reached double figures with 13 points.
Three-point shooting and turnovers were the biggest difference statistically in the contest.
The Bandits shot just 25 per cent from three-point distance and committed 17 turnovers in the loss.
The Bandits outscored the Rattlers 16-10 while both Malik Benlevi and Michael Nuga scored twice allowing Saskatchewan to start the season 1-0 while Vancouver drops to 0-2.
Bandits Home Opener
Bandits Deigo Maffia has seen a lot of the hardwood at the LEC, but tonight was different for the former Oak Bap Secondary player who was able to sink his free throw giving the Bandits to an 84-81 win over Calgary Surge in their home opener.
The local squad were leading by 75-73 when the Target Score was triggered with 3:13 to play in the fourth quarter, which set the target at 84.
In his first pair of games this season he has played 21:54 managing only three points, four rebounds and three assists.
He found out he would be in the line-up and playing just prior to tip-off in a contest that saw him finish with a double-double of 15 points, 11 assists and four rebounds in 31:06 of playing time.
One of those rebounds came on the defensive end of the floor after the Surge missed back-to-back three-point attempts which would have won the game.
Following the second miss, Maffia was fouled, sending him to the free throw line for two shots. He only needed one for the win, which he calmly delivered.
Vancouver general manager and head coach Kyle Julius mentioned “Diego’s IQ and poise is off the charts. He is special. You watch this young man play out there like a grown man. Diego Maffia has been coached properly growing up; he has been raised properly, the right way; he has poise, he has confidence; very, very high IQ.”
The win was the first on the season for the Bandits (1-2) while the loss was the first defeat in four games for the Surge (3-1).
Early in the contest it appeared that the Bandits would continue to struggle being held to 10 first-quarter points, trailing by twelve early in the second period but managed to connect four triples,going from 10 first-quarter points to 31 in the next 10 minutes, ending the half trailing 43-41.
The game was emotional with Ward and the Surge’s Gilder Jr. twice having to be separated in the second half. Julius was pleased with his team’s effort and emotion.