Justin Leon debut game for the Bandits on Thursday (July 8) turned out to be the club’s first loss this season. (Fraser Valley Bandits photo)

Justin Leon debut game for the Bandits on Thursday (July 8) turned out to be the club’s first loss this season. (Fraser Valley Bandits photo)

Fraser Valley Bandits lose first game of 2021 season

Bandits fall 103-82 to Niagara River Lions, next take on Ottawa on Saturday

The Fraser Valley Bandits’ first road game of 2021 went much like a barrel going down Niagara Falls – fun and fast to start but then complete destruction by the end.

The Bandits fell apart in the third quarter, getting outscored 37-15 en route to a 103-82 loss to the Niagara River Lions on Thursday (July 8).

That third quarter, foul troubles and turnover ended the club’s hopes to extend its unbeaten streak to five to start the season.

The first half was a solid effort on the road, as the Bandits led 44-43 and had some late-half heroics from guard Marek Klassen. But the River Lions took over in the third and never looked back.

Poor shooting plagued the Bandits, as the club shot just 34 per cent from the field. Free throw shooting also wasn’t as locked in as usual, as the team missed six of 27 from the charity stripe.

It was turnovers that killed the team, as they committed 22 and the Nighthawks capitalized by producing 32 points off of those turnovers. Fouls were also an issue, as big man Brandon Gilbeck fouled out and five players ended with three or more fouls.

Guard Malcolm Duvivier was the most consistent offensive player, with a team high 17 points on 6/12 shooting. Gilbeck added 14 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in limited playing time. Alex Campbell added 11 points, but was just 3/11 from the field. Newly acquired Justin Leon had nine points and 10 rebounds in his debut.

Niagara’s Xavier Sneed led all players with 20 points to carry the River Lions to the win. Niagara’s Javin Delaurier also had an excellent game with 18 points and 17 rebounds. When Gilbeck had to sit for long stretches of the game Delaurier dominated the paint on offence and defence.

The loss puts a blemish on the Bandits perfect record and they now sit at 4-1. The River Lions improve to 3-2 on the season.

Fraser Valley remains on the road and next takes on the Ottawa Blackjacks (1-4) in the nation’s capital on Saturday (July 10). Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. Abbotsford time.

The Bandits next home game is scheduled for Wednesday, July 14 when the Guelph Nighthawks come to town. It will be the first professional team sporting event in the province of B.C. since a Vancouver Canucks game on March 10, 2020.

For more information on the team, visit thebandits.ca.

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