The Ottawa BlackJacks (12-7) (-163) will look to snap a two-game losing skid and enter the CEBL playoffs with some momentum in their regular season finale against the Vancouver Bandits (6-12) (+118) at 7:30 p.m. ET at TD Place.
The game will also be available for streaming on TSN+, CEBL+ powered by BetVictor, and on the CEBL Mobile app available on iOS and Android devices.
After winning eight consecutive games, and vaulting into first place in the eastern conference, the BlackJacks have dropped two straight contests and risk losing an automatic bye into Championship Weekend next month. Ottawa lost both games last week to the Niagara River Lions, who are now only one half game back of Ottawa for first place in the conference.
The Scarborough Shooting Stars are third in the east and are also fighting for a top-two finish in the conference. Despite losing to Brampton last night, Scarborough has two games left in the regular season and sit one and a half games back of Ottawa for first place.
The BlackJacks won the turnover battle and scored more points in the paint against Niagara in their last game — a 15-point loss at the Meridian Centre on Sunday — but struggled to contain the River Lions’ sharpshooters.
Khalil Ahmad went off for a game-high 29 points, shooting nearly 70 per cent from the field and 60 per cent from three point range. As a team, Niagara shot 56 per cent in the game, and converted 13 of their 16 three point attempts.
Kadre Gray, who leads the CEBL in assists per game (6.6), led the way for Ottawa with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Bandits, who have sealed their ticket to Championship Weekend by virtue of hosting the event, snapped a five-game losing streak with a 10-point victory over Edmonton on July 21. But followed that up with a 90-79 loss to the Winnipeg Sea Bears on Sunday.
All season, Vancouver has been led by big men Giorgi Bezhanishvili and Nick Ward, who’s 17.8 points per game ranks him eighth in the league. Ward, who gets a majority of his buckets near the hoop, is also shooting 61.3 per cent from the field, which is leading the CEBL.
Bezhanishvili has been averaging just under 16 points and nine rebounds per game this year.
In their last game, the Bandits had another scoring option pick up some of the slack on offence. University of South Carolina guard Duane Notice, making his seventh start of the season, scored a season-high 19 points against the Sea Bears.
Tonight’s matchup promises to be a battle between Vancouver’s big men and Jackson Rowe, a 6’7” forward from Toronto who has scored less than double-digits in a game only three times this season. Forward Deng Adel is leading the BlackJacks in points per game (16.8) and will also look to rebound from a 11 point and 33 per cent shooting night on Sunday.
The Bandits are leading the CEBL in rebounds per game (43.4) and hold the edge over Ottawa on the offensive glass, however, defence has been the team’s achilles heel. Vancouver is giving up a league-high 90.2 points per game. Ottawa’s defence, meanwhile, is middle of the pack in the CEBL, averaging just over 85 points against per contest.
Ottawa and Vancouver last faced off on July 9, when the BlackJacks earned a four point victory at the Langley Events Centre. Ward and Bezhanishvili combined for 30 points, and Notice chipped in with 14 points off the bench, but Rowe paced Ottawa to victory with a game-high 26 points.
After tonight’s game, the Bandits will travel to Scarborough to cap off their regular season with a meeting against the Shooting Stars on July 30.
Ottawa will look to strengthen their grip on the top spot in the eastern conference with a win tonight.
The River Lions, who are chasing that top spot in the east, are scheduled to face off against the Montréal Alliance and Brampton Honey Badgers later this week to cap off their 2023 regular season.