After a pair of road losses to start the season, an intense finish at Langley Events Centre saw the Vancouver Bandits earn their first win of the season with an 84-81 victory over the Calgary Surge on Saturday night (June 3). 

“That was a grind of a road trip for us—a bunch of stuff didn't go well,” Vancouver head coach Kyle Julius said. “I think this will be a turning point for us and this was a really huge game.”

The Surge entered the game as the last undefeated team in the CEBL but couldn’t complete another target score period comeback as they suffered their first loss of the season. 

Nick Ward’s 19 points led all scorers and powered the Bandits to victory in their home opener. The big man also secured 9 rebounds in the win. 

The Bandits had a balanced attack with five players reaching double figures. Giorgi Bezhanishvili tallied 17 points and 8 rebounds, Diego Maffia contributed 15 and 11 assists, Duvivier added 14 points and 7 rebounds, and new acquisition Derek Brown Jr. added 12 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. 

Simi Shittu secured another double-double for Calgary with 17 points and 12 rebounds.  Admon Gilder also netted 17 for the Surge in the loss, while Trevon Scott scored 14, Sean Miller-Moore added 12 and Justin Jackson had 10. 

Neither team shot well from beyond the arc in the contest with each team shooting at below 25 percent. The Bandits won the rebounding battle 59-50 with 18 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points. 

“[Vancouver] did a good job of going inside and that slowed the game down a little bit,” Calgary head coach Nelson Terroba said. “I think that that gave them some advantages.”

The first quarter saw the Bandits come out with a new-look starting five with Nick Ward coming off the bench and DJ Steward inactive. Gilder opened the scoring for Calgary and proceeded to hit a pair of corner threes later in the quarter to force a timeout from Vancouver. The Bandits closed the gap coming out of the timeout, but back-to-back buckets from Scott extended the Surge’s lead to 20-10 after 10 minutes. 

Scott continued his strong stretch in the second quarter with a transition slam to kick off the scoring before Jackson connected on a pair of threes to force another Bandits’ timeout. However, Vancouver came out of the chat with renewed energy. They went on a 13-3 run to force Calgary into a timeout of their own. The two Western Conference squads traded blows for the remainder of the half and the Surge took a 43-41 lead into the locker room. 

The Bandits were cold to start the game from beyond the arc at 0-8 in the first quarter but bounced back to shoot 4-7 in the second. Ward led all scorers in the first half with 13 points, while Gilder powered the Calgary offence with 12 points. 

A pair of contested transition layups from Shittu to begin the third quarter forced Julius into an early timeout. New Bandits guard Derek Brown Jr. made an impact late in the frame, burying a corner three, finishing a contact layup and scoring on a putback to tie the game. Another offensive rebound and finish from Bezhanishvili beat the buzzer to give the Bandits a 63-61 lead after three quarters. 

The Surge and Bandits traded buckets to start the fourth, with six lead changes and one tie leading up to target score time. Coming out of a Calgary timeout, Miller-Moore finished a floater to tie the game, but Duvivier answered with one of his own to give the Bandits a 75-73 lead with a target score of 84.

Tempers flared at the start of target time, with Ward and Gilder each unwilling to let go of a jump ball. Diego Maffia subsequently buried a triple off the dribble to put the Bandits six points away from victory. After an offensive foul on Calgary, Ward and Gilder shared words again and picked up offsetting unsportsmanlike fouls. 

Bezhanishvili made a free throw to put the Bandits one shot away from a victory. Brown Jr. hit a floater to give the Bandits an 83-79 lead before Miller-Moore scored in transition and each team a chance to win with a bucket. Scott had two chances to win from three but couldn’t connect. 

Maffia was fouled on the rebound and hit the game-winning free throw in front of the home crowd. Vancouver improves to 1-2 while Calgary drops to 3-1.

The Bandits will continue their home stretch on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in a school-day game at the LEC against the Winnipeg Sea Bears. Meanwhile, the Surge will return home for a matchup with the Ottawa BlackJacks.