Bandits advance to semifinals with dominant win over Nighthawks

The Fraser Valley Bandits are moving on to the CEBL semifinals after claiming a 104-84 home win over the Guelph Nighthawks in the quarter-finals at the Abbotsford Centre on Sunday.

Centre Brandon Gilbeck scored a game-high 26 points for the Bandits, who will face the Niagara River Lions next Friday for a spot in the final. The seven-footer also led all players with 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Malcolm Duvivier was second on the team with 21 points, while Kenny Manigault also had a major impact with 16 points and a game-high five three-pointers. Bandits guard Shaquille Keith dished out a game-high nine assists.

Fraser Valley rolled out to a 24-15 lead in the opening quarter, led by strong starts from Duvivier and fellow guard Alex Campbell. 

Guelph pulled within a basket midway through the second quarter with the score 27-25, but a big three-pointer from Duvivier quickly restored momentum for the Bandits.

Michael Bryson powered the Nighthawks early with a team-high 17 points in the first half, but the Bandits found a way to respond each time.

Moving the ball with speed and confidence, the home crowd’s cheers grew louder with every possession. A thunderous dunk from Gilbeck put the Bandits up 41-27, prompting Guelph to call a timeout in an effort to halt surge.

“It’s time to raise your game,” said coach Charles Kissi during the timeout.

But the shots kept falling for Fraser Valley, with key three-pointers from Campbell and Manigault extending the commanding lead.

Guelph suffered a major loss in the second quarter when star guard Ahmed Hill was ejected following technical and unsportsmanlike fouls.

Keith also had a strong first half with five points and five assists to help his team go up 58-35 at halftime.

Fraser Valley continued where it left off in the third, taking a 75-49 advantage with just under five minutes to play in the quarter.

The Nighthawks began to claw back later in the third with more impact plays from Bryson, but Fraser Valley continued its relentless offensive onslaught throughout the quarter. 

Manigault, Duvivier, Campbell, Keith and Gilbeck all had double digits in points entering the fourth quarter, with the Bandits leading 88-65.

Guelph showed tremendous fight down the stretch to cut the Bandits’ lead down to 11 points. But Manigault answered back by knocking down a three to put Fraser Valley up 95-81 entering the Elam Ending.

Manigault hit another big three to put his team four points away, and Gilbeck followed it up with a dunk before Keith scored the winning bucket.

The top-seeded Edmonton Stingers will take on the Ottawa BlackJacks in the other semifinal matchup, following Ottawa’s stunning upset victory over the Hamilton Honey Badgers.

The Bandits finished as runners up last season after dropping the final to the Edmonton Stingers.

WATCH | Ottawa upsets Hamilton to advance to CEBL semifinals:

CEBL Quarter-final: Ottawa at Hamilton

The Hamilton Honey Badgers welcome the Ottawa BlackJacks to FirstOntario Centre for the first quarter-final match of the CEBL championship. 1:50:40

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