On Thursday night the Edmonton Stingers returned to the Edmonton Expo Centre, affectionately known as the Hive, for the first time in three weeks. Following a three-game sweep in Ontario, the Stingers were riding high as they hosted the last-place Fraser Valley Bandits. In what on paper looked like a complete mismatch turned out to be a tight 108-104 victory for the Stingers.
The first half had an interesting vibe to it. Despite both teams being almost identical statistically, the Stingers took advantage of ten Bandit turnovers to take a 58-43 lead going into halftime. With this season’s Most Outstanding Player so far, Travis Daniels, resting this week, Mamadou Gueye took the bull by the horns and dropped 23 points in the first half. To his credit, however, he gives full credit to his teammates for his success this half.
“First of all, I want to give a shout out to my teammates for putting me in such a great position,” said Gueye post-game. “They were feeding me the ball as soon as they saw I was hot. When you see the ball go in once or twice, it gives you a lot more confidence. Travis (Daniels) not playing today did not make much of a difference to me, because every game is a chance for me to step up, and prove what I can do.
“Obviously, Travis is a huge piece of our offence, it is important for everyone to step up, and I was just happy that my shots were falling tonight.”
Tale of Two Halves
However, whether it be complacency by the Stingers or desperation by the Bandits, the tide of the game changed in the second half. After not playing in the first half, Kevin Bercy stepped up with 22 points on 9/11 shooting to bring the Bandits back. Point Guard Marek Klassen was balling all game, leading the Bandits with 27 points. However, in the end, the game came down to composure. With six seconds remaining and the Bandits down by three, Joel Friesen picked up a disqualifying foul after picking up a technical in the first half. Jordan Baker went 1/2 from the line, sealing the victory for the Stingers.
“I feel we got outplayed in the second half, completely, and a reflection of that to me is always the glass,” commented Stingers Head Coach Jermaine Small after the game. “I have to give them credit. They knew we were at a disadvantage with Travis (Daniels) being out, and they took advantage of us on the glass.”
“This game was a testament on how close our guys are on and off the court,” Small continued. “We talked about it, we know that the games are going to be tight and we have to stick together.
“The tighter they get, the closer we get. I am proud of our guys.”
Thanks to a victory earlier Thursday by the Guelph Nighthawks over the Niagara River Lions, the Stingers have moved a half-game up for first place in the CEBL with three games remaining. Up next for the Stingers, the team plays out a home-and-home series with the team they are most likely to meet in the CEBL semifinals, the Saskatchewan Rattlers.
The first of those games will be at the Hive, in the final home game for the Stingers, next Thursday, August 8. Tickets are available at thestingers.ca. For a more detailed analysis of the game, check out our basketball partners here at the WCSN, Husain at dunkindooma.com.
Quotes of Note:
Coach Small on the matchup: “Next week, to me, is our Championship week. We play back-to-back with Saskatoon, and we know they are a team that has nothing to lose. We don’t care that much about the seeding, as we can match up well with anybody. To me, it is ‘Can we win a back-to-back?’ So it will be a big test next week.”
Mamadou Gueye on the team and its run: “It is great that a group of guys who just started playing together a couple of months ago now have been able to get nine wins in a row. We might be in first place, but that is not going to stop us from working hard and working on achieving our goal. We need to stay locked in, we need to be able to step on a teams throat, and we need to send a message.”
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