Just what kind of surprise do the Ottawa BlackJacks have in store for the Fraser Valley Bandits Friday night?
In keeping with what has been a wild and crazy roller coaster ride of a young season so far, the BlackJacks are fresh from delivering their most dominating victory in franchise history.
The BlackJacks rolled over the Saskatchewan Rattlers 101-50 on Wednesday at TD Place, establishing a litany of new standards along the way.
The 51-point margin of victory tied a Canadian Elite Basketball League record. The 50 points allowed in a game were also the fewest in league history.
Yes, this is from the same squad that fired head coach Charles Dube-Brais after an 0-3 start. After University of Ottawa Gee-Gees coach James Deroiun took over, the BlackJacks then slipped to 1-7.
Since then, though, the BlackJacks have turned a corner, with general manager Jevohn Shepherd busy re-shuffling the roster.
Including Wednesday’s lopsided win, they’ve won three of their past four games and now own a 4-8 record.
During that string, the BlackJacks rebounded to stage the largest comeback in CEBL history against the Scarborough Shooting Stars on June 27.
The league employs the ELAM ending to finish games. It kicks into place upon the first whistle with less than four minutes remaining.
At that point, a winning score — nine points more than the team that is leading at the time — is determined.
Against Scarborough, the BlackJacks headed into ELAM trailing by 14 points, but somehow pulled out a 91-90 victory.
The BlackJacks scored the final 13 points, 11 of them coming from Tyrell Green.
That win, coupled with the lopsided romp over Saskatchewan, provides some renewed optimism that the squad can turn around its season leading up to CEBL championship weekend on Aug. 12-14.
As the host team, the BlackJacks are guaranteed one of the final four spots.
The victory over Saskatchewan was an exercise in stifling defence and ball movement, with Walt Lemon, Jr. (20 points) and Jackson Rowe (19 points) leading a well-rounded offensive output.
The game also marked the return of Kadre Gray to the BlackJacks after he started the 2022 season with Fraser Valley.
Gray, a former U Sports most valuable player while at Laurentian, averaged 14 points per last season with Ottawa. In a quarterfinal playoff victory over Hamilton last August, he scored 32 points.
Gray’s second tour of duty with the BlackJacks is yet another example of the team’s push to be as competitive as possible for the remainder of the season.
Shepherd could never have expected such a slow start, but at the outset, he said the team would mix and match throughout the season with the ultimate goal of being as competitive as possible in August.
“We learned a lot (from 2021) going into this year and that makes me more enthusiastic,” he said back in May when the league formally introduced Ottawa as the host city for the CEBL championship. “Our goal is to be the hardest playing team every night. We feel like that will translate into our central goal. It’s an interesting league in the sense that it’s intricate because of the timing and the number of guys coming from Europe.”
Indeed, lineups are fluid because many players have other commitments.
Former Carleton Ravens star Thomas Scrubb was late arriving to the team after playing in Spain during the winter and spring.
Scrubb, who won five national university titles with Carleton, also missed time last month while training with Canada’s national team.
The BlackJacks will have revenge on their minds Friday.
The season opened with Fraser Valley defeating the BlackJacks 90-87.
Gray was wearing opposition colours at the time.