A week after their first franchise win, the Fraser Valley Bandits rode a strong defensive game to their first ever home win Thursday night at the Abbotsford Centre, beating the Guelph Nighthawks 85-72 and moving their record to 2-9.
“We had a plan defensively, which we did quite a good job of sticking with, and then offensively, we’re just trying to run and get up and down as much as possible, they seemed a little bit tired with the travel, so we tried to take advantage of our energy,” said forward Levon Kendall, who celebrated his 35th birthday with family and friends in attendance.
“It was great, I’ve got about 35 people here to watch, so it’s definitely satisfying to get a win on my birthday, and especially our first home win makes it extra special.
“It was a long time coming. We needed that one.”
The first quarter saw a relatively back and forth affair, with the Bandits having the slight edge at the time of the buzzer by way of 20-19. They really took over in the second quarter, keeping the Nighthawks to just 13 points, while scoring 23 points of their own.
By the end of the half, Fraser Valley had only allowed 32 points.
Making his debut for the Bandits, former UNLV and Ole Miss shooting guard Jelan Kendrick proved to be a key pick up, leading the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds and playing 31:30.
While they’re having a tough start to their inaugural season, the team feels they’re trending upwards.
“We’ve been really close,” said guard Marek Klassen, who finished with 15 points. “I feel like we’ve been right there for a long time.
“I think we’re building good chemistry now, and I think we have the players to go on a good run.”
For Klassen, a native of Abbotsford, who played at Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego before beginning a successful pro career in Europe, most recently in Turkey, it means a lot to be able to play at home — especially with the win in front of family and friends.
“I love playing in front of my crowd,” he said. “I had 20, 25 family members tonight, I had a lot of friends and family that I saw out there in the crowd, and it’s just great to connect, and it’s real special. I played in Europe for four or five years and it’s real special to be able to play at home.”
What’s the key to keeping the momentum rolling?
“It’s doing the little things, like when I first came, we lost several games in overtime, and the difference between then and now is we’re making winning plays on the defensive end, whether that’s box-outs or that’s taking charges, getting little extra touches, steals, rebounds, just doing the little things. And honestly, not changing too much — keeping the same effort and belief,” said Klassen.
“Just sticking with it. I think we’ll try to use some of this momentum and we’re starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t, so we just gotta stay focused on those things.”
The Fraser Valley Bandits will have a chance to make it three in a row this Saturday as they travel to Hamilton to take on the Honey Badgers. Tipoff is at 2 pm PST.
Written by Austin Cozicar