The Vancouver Bandits (-105), hosts of Championship Weekend, will take on the one-seed Calgary Surge (-133) tonight with a spot in the CEBL championship game on the line. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 local at the Langley Events Centre.
The game will be live on TSN and also available for streaming on TSN+, CEBL+ powered by BetVictor, and on the CEBL Mobile app available on iOS and Android devices.
Tonight’s game marks the fourth meeting of the season between Vancouver and Calgary. The Bandits took two of three contests against the Surge in the regular season, however, the margin of victory in all three games was under five points.
Vancouver knocked off Calgary by three points on June 3, and five points 11 days later. The Surge got their one and only victory over the Bandits this year, so far, in a 93-88 win at the Langley Events Centre at the end of June.
Sean Miller-Moore, Stef Smith, and Admon Gilder combined for 54 points in that last contest, while the duo of Nick Ward and Giorgi Benzhanishvili also totalled 54 points of their own for the Bandits.
Both Vancouver and Calgary are riding late-season win streaks heading into this evening’s Western Conference Final.
Despite finishing fourth in the western conference, the Bandits ended the regular season by knocking off two eastern conference playoff teams on the road. The Bandits defeated the Ottawa BlackJacks on a Duane Notice game-winning three in target score time on July 27.
Vancouver then followed that up with a three-point win over the Scarborough Shooting Stars—who will take on the Niagara River Lions in the Eastern Conference Final earlier tonight—on July 30.
All season, Vancouver has relied on big men Nick Ward and Giorgi Benzhanishvili. Ward averaged over 18 points and eight rebounds in the regular season, and Benzhanishvili added 15.7 points per game and 8.7 boards this summer. Forward Marlon Johnson Jr. also stepped up with 13 points and three threes in Vancouver’s regular season finale against the Shooting Stars.
As a team, Vancouver led the CEBL in rebounds per game (42.8). Defense, though, has been their achilles heel, as the Bandits gave up the second most points per game in the regular season (89.6).
Calgary, meanwhile, is fresh off dispatching the Edmonton Stingers 84-68 in the Western Conference Semi-Final last weekend. The win, which clinched them a spot in Championship Weekend, marked the Surge’s fifth consecutive victory.
Like they have done all season, the Surge imposed their physicality and relied on strong defence to overpower the Stingers.
Calgary outscored Edmonton 50-34 in the paint, and held the Stingers to zero fast break points.
“We knew coming in that Calgary was a physical team, they want to get to the paint, they want to impose their will on you from a physical standpoint,” Edmonton head coach Jordan Baker said after the August 6 game. “They’ve done a great job of doing that all year long.”
The Surge average the fewest points against in the CEBL this season (80.9), and average about eight steals per game.
Miller-Moore and Smith will be tasked to lead the charge for Calgary on offence. The backcourt combination racked up 16.5 and 15 points respectively this year, while Smith added nearly six assists per contest, the fourth most by any player in the league.
Calgary, however, will be without big man Simi Shittu, who left the team ahead of their win over Edmonton to join a professional team in France. Shittu led the CEBL in rebounds and defensive boards per game in the regular season.
Jordy Tshimanga stepped into the starting lineup, though, and hauled in eight boards and scored seven points on Sunday. Seven-footer Kylor Kelley also scored six points and had two blocks off the bench, while Terry Henderson Jr. totalled double-digits in points for the fourth straight game in a reserve role.
Look for Ward and Benzhanishvili to try and match Calgary’s physicality inside, and gain an edge in the rebound battle. The Surge, meanwhile, will hope their stingy stretch of defensive play continues—Calgary has given up more than 80 points only twice in their five-game win streak.
The winner of tonight’s game will represent the western conference in the CEBL championship game, and take on either the Niagara River Lions or Scarborough Shooting Stars on Sunday at the Langley Events Centre.
Tip-off for that match is slated for 7:00 p.m. ET.