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Bandits ride hot start to defeat Montreal in home opener

Vancouver’s pro basketball team kicks off season with 95-75 triumph at home in Langley

During the home opener Thursday, May 23, a hot-shooting first half set the tone early as the Vancouver Bandits delivered a dominant season-opening victory.

Opening the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) season at Langley Events Centre (LEC), the Bandits were 95-75 winners over the visiting Montreal Alliance.

Bandits head coach Kyle Julius said he knew during the first days of pre-season practice “this group was going to jell. I could just feel it.”

That’s what he saw, for the most part, in the team’s first game of the season.

The Vancouver Bandits shot a scorching 56.3 per cent from the field – including 8-for-17 from beyond the arc in that first to lead by as many as 20 points.

The Alliance would get it down to single digits in the third quarter, before Vancouver closed it out.

“I would say the first half surprised me,” admitted Julius. “For having three days of practice – I think we only did maybe 20 minutes of 5-on-5 contact, we just walked through everything.”

Koby McEwen led all scorers with 22 points – including hitting five of his eight 3-point attempts – while Zach Copeland chipped in with 19. And combined with 17 points apiece from Taze Moore and Nick Ward.

Julius said the Bandits offensive depth was too much for the Alliance.

“That is how we built it: we want to be able to play two different styles, inside and out and we have the guys to do it,” Julius said, referencing his three-headed guard attack of McEwen, Copeland, and Moore, combined with the inside game of Ward (six rebounds) and James Karnik (nine points, nine rebounds).

Ward’s sixth and final rebound of the game came during Target Time as he followed up his own miss with a putback for the game’s final points.

By comparison, Montreal had just two players in double figures: 18 points from Chris Smith and a dozen from Ahmed Hill.

“I think everyone is going to have their time to shine. When people are scouting us, they are not going to know which way to go,” Karnik said about the challenges teams will face when defending the Bandits.

The Alliance did manage to cut the deficit to six points early in the fourth quarter.

“We got stagnant in the third quarter and early in the fourth,” Julius said, adding he would have liked to have seen more ball movement during that 11-minute stretch.

For a young Montreal squad, the game was a learning experience, said Alliance coach Ryan Thorne.

“I think when we followed our game plan, the takeaway was that we can be solid defensively and make them take tough shots,” Thorne elaborated. “There were some times when they hit some really tough buckets, we did all we could and forced a tough shot and they made it, so hats off to Vancouver.”

Bandits host another home game this weekend, welcoming the defending CEBL champion Scarborough Shooting Stars to play at LEC Sunday afternoon. Game begins at 2:30 p.m.

Then, the team heads to the Prairies for a game Thursday, May 30 against the Saskatchewan Rattlers.

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