Junior Cadougan of the Bandits goes up for a shot during Sunday’s CEBL Summer Series final. (Submitted)

Fraser Valley Bandits reflect on 2020 turnaround

Abbotsford-based CEBL team goes from worst to almost first at Summer Series

Sunday’s Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series championship game saw the Fraser Valley Bandits’ gauge finally reach empty.

After a dramatic comeback 76-75 win over the Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal, Fraser Valley couldn’t get into an offensive groove and ultimately fell 90-73 to the Edmonton Stingers.

Bandits head coach and general manager Kyle Julius said it was a disappointing way to end what was a memorable title run.

“We just did not play well,” he said. “We did not execute offensively. Everyone knew the magnitude of the game, but when I got to the locker room at half time I started to process why we were playing the way we were playing, but it came down to us being exhausted. I don’t want to take anything away from Edmonton, they played very well but our guys were doing things out of character for us that game and I think the tournament and the way we played took a lot out of us.”

Julius said the intense style of play the Bandits employed wore the club down. They played eight games in the two-week event, and the Bandits were also down a key player when they parted ways with forward Cameron Forte after four games.

Edmonton’s Xavier Moon scored at will on Sunday, collecting 31 points, five rebounds and two assists. He was named the game’s most valuable player in the win. The Bandits also had issues containing some of Edmonton’s size, as the club was out-rebounded 43-31 and had problems with Stingers forwards Travis Daniels (14 points and eight rebounds) and Brody Clarke (14 points and three rebounds).

The Bandits shot just 35 per cent from the field in the loss. Junior Cadougan led the way with 13 points and five assists. Abbotsford’s Marek Klassen added 11 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Despite the loss, Julius said the experience at the St. Catharines, Ont. event was one he will remember for a long time.

“I’m so appreciative of how hard the guys played,” he said. “I really do think we flat out played harder than anyone, we won the vast majority of loose ball battles. We were obviously a smaller team too and we either won the glass battle or were within a few rebounds of the other team in every game. I’ll remember the camaraderie, the togetherness and the toughness of this group.”

The nature of player movement in the CEBL means it’s unclear how many players will be returning for 2021, but Julius said he’d like to coach many of those players again.

“I think there’s a lot of guys on that team that the people in the Fraser Valley would love to see live and in person,” he said. “Like every season you want to take your time to go over where you can get better and make adjustments. Hopefully everybody still wants to come back and then we can decide where to go from there.”

The 2019 Bandits finished last in the CEBL at 4-16, but the Summer Series saw Fraser Valley go 4-2, finish second and advance to the championship game. The only guy from last year’s team to rejoin the team in 2020 was Klassen, and Julius said he emerged as an important fit on the team. He provided a spark off the bench and played big minutes for the club.

RELATED: Abbotsford’s Marek Klassen re-signs with Fraser Valley Bandits

“The championship teams I’ve coached and played on we have always had one of our best players coming off the bench and I really wanted that for him,” he said. “I think he struggled a bit with it at the start, but I can’t say enough good things about him. His energy was always through the roof, he’s a great team guy and he was one of our best at generating shots and creating offence off the dribble. He was a big part of our success.”

As for Julius himself, he now heads back to Taiwan to resume his coaching duties with the Formosa Dreamers of the ASEAN Basketball League. He said he wanted to thank the Fraser Valley fans for their support in 2020.

RELATED: Fraser Valley Bandits name new head coach, general manager

“We were really proud as a team to turn things around from last season and be in the finals,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we ran out of gas in the final, but I’m really fired up and looking forward to finding a way to get over that hump next year.”

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