Bandits big man Brandon Gilbeck elevates for the opening tip-off. Gilbeck and the Bandits opened the CEBL season with a 92-74 win over the Saskatchewan Rattlers on Saturday. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Bandits big man Brandon Gilbeck elevates for the opening tip-off. Gilbeck and the Bandits opened the CEBL season with a 92-74 win over the Saskatchewan Rattlers on Saturday. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

Fraser Valley Bandits open CEBL season with win

Abbotsford-based basketball team defeats Saskatchewan Rattlers 92-74 on Saturday

The Fraser Valley Bandits achieved something on Saturday they’ve done just twice in team history – win a game at the Abbotsford Centre.

Sure, there may have been no fans in attendance, but the Canadian Elite Basketball League club made a big statement in game one, defeating the Saskatchewan Rattlers 92-74.

The Bandits overcame a shaky first quarter that saw the club shoot poorly and trail 25-16. Things started coming together in the second, as guard Alex Campbell began heating up and the Bandits led 38-33 at the half.

The Rattlers cut the lead to two points (43-41) early into the third, but a timely time-out called by Bandits head coach David Singleton righted the ship and Fraser Valley went on a 12-0 run following that. Saskatchewan again drew within four (53-49) but another scoring burst put the Bandits up 72-55 after three.

Fraser Valley led 83-63 heading into the Elam Ending, with a target score of 92. Big man Brandon Gilbeck then ended the game with an exclamation point slam dunk and the Bandits earned the 92-74 win.

Campbell had an excellent game with 25 points on 8/14 shooting and was a perfect three-for-three from downtown. He also added four rebounds and was a plus-18 on the court. Gilbeck added 17 points and six rebounds, while Shaquille Keith contributed with 15 and six. Abbotsford’s Marek Klassen contributed with a team-high nine assists to go with eight points.

The Bandits as a team shot 46 per cent and held the Rattlers to 39 per cent from the field.

Campbell said coming off the bench does not matter to him, and that he believes one of the strengths of the Bandits is the team’s depth.

“We’ve built this team that you can go one through 10, one through 12 or whatever and there is a method to the madness of this coaching staff,” he said. “I believe I played my role in order to get wins just like today.”

Campbell, the CEBL championship most valuable player with the Rattlers in 2019, said playing against the team he won a title with didn’t bother him. He added that he thinks this Bandits team has the potential to have the same chemistry that team had in 2019.

“There’s three of us from that championship Rattlers team here,” he said. “We also know a few guys from playing in Toronto and we knew Marek [Klassen] and Malcolm [Duvivier] from the first year. The chemistry was there from day one of training camp and coaching staff did a great job of integrating us.”

Singleton collected his first career CEBL victory with the win and said Campbell and Gilbeck were big factors in the win.

“Right now we have him [Campbell] in a sixth man role and a lot of people at his level and caliber of player he is wouldn’t accept that role but he is humble and understands it,” he said. “He worked that position really well today and he’s just such a hard worker.”

Singleton said the first quarter was a little rough, but the team’s defence stepped up and the shots began dropping. He praised the work of Gilbeck, Kenny Manigault and Ryan Ejim. He said the team wants to exploit some of the match-up headaches that the seven-foot Gilbeck will create.

“We want to give him the ball,” he said. “He’s the biggest guy in the league and will be a big point in the offence. As a coaching staff we have to do a better job of giving him the ball and you will see him getting more touches moving forward.”

The Bandits return to action on Tuesday (June 29) when they host the 1-0 Niagara River Lions. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Niagara defeated the Ottawa Blackjacks 103-78 on Thursday (June 24).

RELATED: Fraser Valley Bandits return to the court Saturday

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