Nick Ward’s double-double night led the Vancouver Bandits to an 82-79 victory over the Scarborough Shooting Stars in the team’s regular season finale on Sunday night.

The big man notched 24 points and 11 rebounds as he shot 77 per cent from the field, helping the team to their second consecutive win, and third in five games.

Ward was supported by Marlon Johnson Jr. who added 13 points and six boards as he knocked down three of his four attempts from beyond the arch. The forward led a second unit that finished the game with a +23 edge on points off the bench, each player scoring six or more points.

“Shoutout to Marlin,” said Giorgi Benzhanisvhili post-game. “He came out super aggressive, doing all the little things on the court…and just everyone off the bench picked up the energy and we got the win because of it.”

Isiaha Mike nearly put up a double-double of his own as he was Scarborough’s top contributor by way of 23 points and nine rebounds. Cat Barber was the team’s next leading scorer as he tallied 19 points, five rebounds, and six assists as his squad lost their second consecutive game.

Despite the loss, Barber still hit a personal milestone when he hit a transition triple at the 2:41 mark of the first quarter. The three-points gave him 1000 career points in the CEBL, reaching the record just two days after Ahmed Hill did it with the Montréal Alliance. 

The two guards are now the only players in league history to score over 1000 points and Hill made sure to be in attendance at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre to see his former teammate reach the same mark as him.

“He’s my brother,” said Barber on having Hill in attendance for the record. “I wish I was there for his game…it means a lot. Not a lot of guys get that done, and to be the second player in the CEBL to do it, it’s a special moment.”

Coming into the night, the Bandits strength had been described as the play of their bigs, and throughout the first quarter of this contest they showed why that was the case. Ward scored Vancouver’s first seven points, before Johnson Jr. came in off the bench and dropped eight points of his own. 

Despite the team committing seven turnovers in the frame – nearly halfway to their game average of 15.7 – the Bandits were able to avoid going down big thanks to some hot shooting from beyond the arch. Vancouver made four triples in the first, on a 57 per cent clip, three of which came in the final two minutes of the quarter. The hot start from distance helped the Bandits cut down a nine-point Scarborough lead to just a possession, down 23-21 headed into the second. 

Unfortunately for Vancouver fans, the team’s struggles holding onto the ball persisted throughout the second as the team committed seven more turnovers, bringing them to a total of 14 at halftime, six more than Scarborough. Luckily for the Bandits, the Shooting Stars were unable to capitalize on the extra possessions, as they were a -2 on points from giveaways despite their edge in the category. 

However, even with some missed opportunities, Scarborough earned themselves a three-point advantage at the break, and it was thanks to their dominance inside the paint. The squad scored all but three of their baskets from two-point range as they shot 53 per cent from inside the arch and were a +16 on points inside the paint, up 41-38 at the break.

The guard-forward pairing of Barber and Young led the way, each putting up 10 points through the first two quarters of play, the big man pairing of Ward and Johnson Jr. put up 12 and 11 points respectively.

Coming out of halftime, Vancouver finally got some production out of starters not named Ward, as the team went on a 15-5 run to begin the third. Benzhanishvili scored the team’s first five points in the frame, before Alex Campbell and Duane Notice each chipped in a bucket which helped the Bandits go up seven, their biggest lead to that point.

Scarborough however responded immediately as they rattled off an 11-3 run in response, capped off by a Barber buzzer-beating jumper that gave his team back the lead, 57-56 headed into the fourth.

The runs didn’t stop there as the Bandits opened the fourth with a 9-2 run that had them up by as many as eight points, before they ultimately took a 72-67 lead into Target Score Time. Scarborough came out of the timeout looking determined to avoid back-to-back losses as they quickly tied up the game at 79-79 thanks to a Mike triple, one of his three on the night. 

Vancouver entered this contest following a 90-89 win where Notice ended the contest by way of a game-winning triple. It was a bit of déjà vu for Bandits fans, as this game ended similarly when Benzhanizhvili splashed a shot from beyond the arch, hitting one of his two three-balls on the night and ending the contest, 82-79 the final. 

This game concluded the Bandits regular season, and they’ll now head back home where they’ll await a Western Conference opponent to meet them for Championship Weekend semi-final action.

Meanwhile, with the loss, Scarborough are now locked into the third seed in the East and will be taking on the Brampton Honey Badgers in the play-in come next week. However, fans won’t have to wait till then to see the two squads face-off as they can get a playoff preview when the Shooting Stars host the Honey Badgers tomorrow night in both teams final game of the regular season.