For the first time in franchise history, the Ottawa BlackJacks played their home opener in front of fans at the Arena at TD Place. The contest was tightly contested right into the Elam ending, and it would come down to the final possession, as the Fraser Valley Bandits stunned the BlackJacks 90-87.
“It’s a fantastic way to start the season,” said Bandits head coach Mike Taylor. “We had a really productive training camp, but you never really know what you have until you get here and play. Give credit and respect to the BlackJacks, they controlled much of the game. We played with great heart, we never quit, and we got some breaks towards the Elam ending.”
Offensively for the BlackJacks, Deng Adel was the catalyst. Adel, who played the 2021-22 season in the NBA G League with the Maine Celtics, the Boston Celtics affiliate, shot the lights out, hitting 14 of his 16 shots, and scoring 37 points, setting a new franchise record for the BlackJacks.
“My shot got falling early,” Adel said. “I work a lot on my game, so it’s just keeping my confidence high and taking the shots they give me.”
Unfortunately for the BlackJacks, Adel got himself into foul issues and spent the Elam ending on the bench after fouling out of the game. That, combined with Chad Posthumus succumbing to the same fate, sunk Ottawa.
“He was fantastic,” said BlackJacks’ head coach Charles Dubé-Brais. “He was as good in this game as we have seen a player be in this league. He made almost every shot he took. It hurt us a lot that he took that fifth foul, we felt we needed him out there to finish the game off.”
For the Bandits, however, it was their adjustments throughout the game that allowed them to secure the victory in dramatic fashion. They found themselves in a hole early and often over the course of the game, but each time, they came back, and in the end, they were the better team on the floor when it mattered the most.
“We changed the game by trying to go zone,” said Taylor. “I think that helped us. Secondly, we played smaller lineups. We played with Murphy Burnatowski and Maxie Esho together just to try to create some different looks and opportunities.”
The loss is heartbreaking for the BlackJacks. They controlled the game for large portions, but saw their shooting go cold and defence breakdown, allowing the Bandits back into the game numerous times when they could have instead put their foot down and put the game out of reach. Right to the end when they had a layup opportunity that would have won the game go in and out, Ottawa was oh so close, but it wasn’t to be.
“Their zone slowed us down a little bit, but we also had a bunch of great looks that just didn’t go in,” said Dubé-Brais. “I thought we could have done a better job of executing, but I still think we had our shots. We had some great looks in the corner, from three, and we had some layup opportunities that we missed, and I think those added up. We just left a lot of things on the table tonight.”
The Bandits head back to BC with a hard-fought win in their back pocket, but there was never any panic.
“We got faith,” said Bandits guard Kadre Gray, the former BlackJack. “It’s a long summer, and we believe that we will be coming back here to Ottawa for the finals. Simple as that.”
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