A Battle Of The Ages! Whats Next For Edmonton?
The Edmonton Stingers extend their winning streak to nine games after defeating the Fraser Valley Bandits. The Bandits entered this game with a vengeance on their shoulders as they felt confident that they could end the Stingers win streak. However, Mamadou Gueye and the rest of Edmonton’s roster had a different opinion as they ended up dominating the game for the most part. This game was a statement game due to what the outcome was if Edmonton won this game. Despite the Bandits almost winning this game in the fourth quarter, what disrupted their chances?
The moment tip-off struck, the intensity in the arena immediately felt as if this game was the finals. Whether it was lockdown defence or high volume shots, the fans could tell that both teams wanted this victory. For the most part, this quarter was fairly even when it came to shooting the ball as both teams displayed incredible three-point shooting. Both the Bandits and the Stingers were mostly even in every statistical category, which made the game more competitive. However, the main difference in this quarter was, the incredible performance by Mamadou Gueye as he was lights out in the first half. Gueye managed to score an impressive 23 points in just the first half with most of his shots being from the three-point line. Even though Travis Daniels was not present in this game, Mamadou managed to take his game to the next step to ensure that his teammates can rely on him. The Bandits had a few weapons to strike with as well. Whether it was Levon Kendall making easy lay-ups or Marek Classen nailing threes with ease, the Stingers had difficulties trying to guard Fraser Valley’s offence. This quarter was very even for the most part until the very end as the Stingers finally took off. Mamadou continued his scoring streak as he managed to increase the Stingers lead with the score of 33-26.
The second quarter was where things started to get interesting. Throughout the whole game, this match-up felt more intense than it needed to be. This was due to head coach Peter Guarasci of the Fraser Valley Bandits who seemed off-edge the moment tip-off started. Guarasci felt the need to express himself throughout this game due to the assumption of him feeling ignored during some plays. As a result, Guarasci was gifted a technical foul which set the tone for the remainder of the game. Once the technical foul was given, the Bandits lost their grove and started to collapse, which gave the Stingers a considerable advantage slightly. It was this quarter that the Stingers managed to score lights out as they were unable to miss for the most part. Both Akeem Ellis and Mamadou Gueye carried Edmonton towards the end of the first half. They were unstoppable in this quarter as they always managed to answer back. Edmonton managed to silence the Bandits as they lost all composure at the end of this quarter. Fraser Valley led to only 17 points in this quarter compared to Edmonton’s 25 in only 10 minutes. Gaurasci was what allowed Edmonton to gain momentum in this quarter. Even though the Bandits overall struggled in this quarter, they continued to match the Stingers shooting percentages in every category. However, the difference was, the Bandits committed five more turnovers compared to the Stingers, which caused the downfall. As a result, the Stingers managed to finish the first half with 58 points compared to the Bandits 43.
Once the third quarter started, the tone of the arena changed dramatically. Most if not all the fans of Edmonton already started to celebrate considering how large the deficit was for the Bandits. Even though most people thought the Bandits would give up, the Bandits used that doubt by the fans as motivation. It was this quarter where the Bandits shifted their perspective of the game and decided to raid the Stingers with a new attitude. However, Gaurasci continued his antics towards the referees as he was still frustrated. Despite the Bandits coach expressing his frustration, the players continued to compete at a high rate. Typically when a coach seems to be upset or angry, the players emit that same energy on the court. However, these players valued winning over emotion, which allowed them to take over in the second half. Marek Klassen, Kevin Bercy, and Joel Frieson carried the Bandits to a decent comeback as they managed to score 17 out of the 31 points the Bandits produced. This trio led the charge to success considering how they made their deficit to merely eight points! However, their success quickly vanished as Grandy Glaze, and Jordan Baker scored endlessly in the paint. The final score at the end of the third, 85-74.
The atmosphere of the arena quickly shifted to concern as the Bandits were surprisingly attempting an incredible comeback. The second half was the Bandits territory due to how they managed to score a whopping 61 points compared to the Stingers 50. Even though the Stingers has an advantage with not just their lead but their fan base as well, the Bandits had heart which was starting to look concerning. Kevin Bercy was the story of the fourth quarter as he scored multiple threes to silence the Edmonton crowd. The Stingers were unable to stop the dominance of Bercy as they slightly lost their composure towards the end of the game. Whether it was a rushed shot or committing a turnover, the Bandits came to the Expo Center with a vengeance on their shoulders. The Bandits felt the need to prove something to Edmonton considering how the fans were provoking them too soon. As a result, Kevin Bercy and the Bandits were eager to win this game as they managed to be down by a single point in the final minute of the fourth quarter! With the Stingers stressing about what to do, the Bandits felt confident when it came to scoring the ball. Fortunately for the Stingers, Mamadou Gueye makes a crucial three, which was an Easter egg for what was about to happen next. Kevin Bercy continues his incredible performance off the bench as he managed to get fouled to make the score 106-104. However, the Bandits managed to keep the ball as Joel Frieson commits a clutch foul to tie the game potentially. Both the fans of Edmonton and the Stingers were terrified about these free-throws considering that these shots could lead to an overtime game. Joel Frieson regrettably managed to miss both free throws, which is something that will forever haunt him.
To make matters worse, Frieson expresses his frustration towards one of the referees, which resulted in him getting ejected from the game to give the Stingers a free-throw to extend their lead. With only three seconds left, all hope was lost for the Bandits despite their incredible comeback. Even though they worked so hard to try to win this game, the Stingers managed to defeat the Bandits with the final score of 108-104.
Overall, this game was very lopsided. Both teams had its ups and downs, which is something I haven’t seen in a while. Edmonton managed to dominate the first half while the Bandits took over in the second. Even though the Bandits lost, the Stingers should not celebrate this victory. If Fraser Valley took this game away from Edmonton, this game would by far become the most embarrassing game in the entire CEBL. Fortunately enough, Mamadou Gueye and the rest of the roster came out stronger than the Bandits despite the comeback. However, the root cause of the Bandits downfall was by far Peter Guarasci, who was unable to stay calm. Due to his antics, the Bandits lost their composure, which allowed the Stingers to go on an incredible scoring run. If Guarasci didn’t let himself to get upset, the Bandits would have most likely won this game considering how similar both teams statistics are. The other crucial element of this game was, Joel Frieson who missed both of his free-throws towards the end of the game. If he made both of them, he would have led the Bandits to a potential overtime victory. Both teams were fairly even for the majority of the game; however, due to these flukes, the Bandits went home empty-handed.
Even though this victory for the Stingers was something that should not be celebrated, Edmonton managed to be crowned as the best team in the CEBL! For a team who started with various struggles, no one would have expected this Edmonton squad to be the best team in the entire league. Despite this incredible feat, what’s next for Edmonton Stingers?
What’s Next For The Edmonton Stingers?
This victory was crucial for Edmonton to acquire. Now that Edmonton is crowned as the best team in the entire league, most people would think that they will also be crowned as champions later this month. Despite their nine-game win streak, the Stingers still need to improve on various aspects to ensure a secure victory in the CEBL playoffs. The reality is, Edmonton almost lost this game despite being up by 15 points at the end of the first half. Even though Mamadou stepped up when the Stingers needed him the most, the rest of the team needs to step up for them to have an easy path to the finals. This game may have been essential to win, but the Stingers need to look at the bigger picture. The primary goal for this team is to win the CEBl championship, which is something the entire roster has been seeking to accomplish. Edmonton should use these remaining regular-season games as an opportunity to make new adjustments to become stronger. This Edmonton team has the right pieces to become successful; they need to learn how to maintain a lead without messing it up. If they struggled the way they did in this game, then the playoffs will be a challenge for them. If the Stingers can manage to follow this, they can easily be crowned as the CEBl champions.
Throughout this article, I expressed how incredible Mamadou Gueye was in this game. I was fortunate enough to interview him to see how he felt about his performance as well as what he expects for the remainder of the season. Click the play button to find out what he has to say!