Fittingly, it was a three-pointer that won the game for the Fraser Valley Bandits on Friday night.
With a defender in his face, Malcolm Duvivier sunk his team’s 18th shot from beyond the arc, capping off a 97-81 win for the Bandits in a game they led wire-to-wire over the visiting Montreal Alliance at Langley Events Centre.
Alex Campbell hit a pair of free throws to put the Bandits within three points of reaching the Elam Ending target score of 97.
“In my head, I told myself I was going to finish it with a three, so when the opportunity came, I was just ready to knock it down,” Duvivier said of his mentality on the winning basket.
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“Just time to step up. Big players are going to make big shots and I think we have a lot of big-time players on our team so anyone can step up at any time. We all have that mentality; we are ready to win the game and send it home.”
The victory was a fourth straight win for the Bandits, and improved the team to 7-2 – good for a share of first place in the Canadian Elite Basketball League standings alongside Hamilton. For the Alliance, it was a fifth straight loss as they remain winless on the road and saw their record drop to 3-7.
Fraser Valley shot more than 56 per cent (18-for-32) from beyond the arc, a better percentage than the Alliance managed from the field as Montreal was 30-for-68 (44.1 per cent) but struggled from downtown, shooting 5-for-18 (27.8 per cent).
“We just go into every game with the plan that if the shots are there, we are going to knock them down. We put up shots every day and today was just a result of our preparation,” Duvivier said.
Seven different Bandits players made at least one three-pointer.
The game began with the Bandits rattling off the first 13 points on route to a 28-8 lead after one quarter, before extending their advantage to 55-32 at the half. The lead swelled to as many as 29 points in the third quarter before the Alliance finally found traction, reeling off a 31-8 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to cut the lead down to six points.
And Montreal had an opportunity to get it down to a one-possession game but a missed three-pointer on one end of the floor was followed by a pair of back-to-back threes from Shane Gibson to put the lead back to a dozen points and from there, the Bandits brought home the victory.
“We knew they were due for a run, sooner or later, we just hoped it wasn’t that big of a run. We just stayed calm and collected. We have been in this type of situation before, we have been in close games throughout this season, and we just stayed calm and were able to execute and close out the game,” Duvivier said.
“It’s human nature – maybe it’s on me for subbing guys out too early, maybe that helped the team lose the rhythm – credit to Montreal for fighting back. Again, credit and respect to our guys to rebuild the lead and seal the game and make the plays to win,” said Bandits coach Mike Taylor.
“The game was coming easy for most of the game. Give (Montreal) credit for fighting back; we needed to assert ourselves defensively once again, get some stops. And offensively, we needed to stay within the system to create good shots for our team.”
While Gibson led the team in scoring for the third straight game, Maxie Esho and James Karnik each chipped in with 16 while Campbell had 11 and Duvivier finished with 10.
“Whoever’s night it is, they are going to step up in that moment and they are ready to knock down shots and ready to make plays for our team. That is really going to help us going deeper into the season and we are just going to continue for the next man up mentality, and whoever’s night it is, we are going to celebrate them and go from there,” Duvivier said.
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Karnik – a local Surrey bred player made his Bandits debut after just signing with the team and finished with a game-high eight rebounds – while Esho was put into the starting line-up with Fraser Valley missing a pair of key contributors in Thomas Kennedy and Murphy Burnatowski.
Esho was perfect from the field, hitting all seven of his shots. He also had five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
“He got a chance to start and showed everybody what he can do. His effort was great, he’s athletic, he’s got good shooting touch, his effort on the boards excellent. His versatility helps us and today was a really good game for him,” Taylor said.
The coach was happy he was able to get all 10 players court time, especially with the team set to face the Newfoundland Growlers less than 48 hours later, as the two teams will play at Langley Events Centre on Sunday June 26 at 3 p.m.
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