The birthday boy came through and the Fraser Valley Bandits clinched a spot in at least the playoffs, winning in front of a raucous crowd at Langley Events Centre.
James Karnik–who was celebrating his 24th birthday–delivered the decisive points on a spin move to the hoop, converting the bucket despite being fouled as the Bandits ended a season-high three game losing streak with a 95-88 victory over the visiting Ottawa BlackJacks at Langley Events Centre on Sunday afternoon.
The win improves Fraser Valley to 10-7 on the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) season – while Ottawa saw their record drop to 5-11 – and it clinches a postseason berth for the Bandits.
Bandits held Ottawa to 30 first-half points, building a 47-30 lead and trailing just once – 63-62 in the third quarter – in the game.
“The guys put forth a great defensive effort,” said Fraser Valley coach Mike Taylor, who singled out Alex Campbell specifically for his effort in guarding Ottawa’s Deng Adel.
“Adel has played fantastic basketball against us the first two games, scoring a lot of points, but Alex just responded really well to the challenge; it starts with a leader like him, being committed to the defensive effort,” Taylor said. “And then the size and physicality of our team helps us.”
With Campbell concentrating on defensive duties, the frontcourt duo of Thomas Kennedy (27 points, six rebounds) and Karnik (23 points, nine rebounds) combined for 50 points while Shane Gibson had 25 points, five rebounds and four assists. Point guard Marek Klassen finished with 10 assists to go along with seven points and six rebounds.
The victory ensures the Bandits will be playing in August once the regular season is over.
“This is what we have been talking about for the last three games. This is great for us: the vibe in the locker room, everyone is able to be happy with the situation but not complacent,” Karnik said. “We are happy with where we are at but ready to keep fighting.”
Next up for the Bandits are a pair of road games against the teams directly in front and behind them, as they visit the Niagara River Lions (11-4) on July 25, and then face the Scarborough Shooting Stars (8-6) on July 28.
READ ALSO: VIDEO: Fraser Valley Bandits down Growlers
Fraser Valley hosts its final home game of the regular season on Saturday, July 30. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.
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