After an entertaining regular season and the first weekend of playoff games, it's finally championship weekend in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
Four teams remain, all with the dream of hoisting the title at the end of Sunday afternoon's Final.
First up is the semifinal doubleheader on Friday. The Niagara River Lions will take on the Fraser Valley Bandits (7 p.m. ET), followed by the Edmonton Stingers taking on the Ottawa BlackJacks (9:30 p.m ET). Both games will be available to stream on CEBL plus, CBC GEM and live coast-to-coast on CBC TV.
After an upset win over the Hamilton Honey Badgers, the Blackjacks will look to continue their Cinderella run when they take on the league's best team in the Stingers. While the Stingers, who were 13-1 in the regular season, are the runaway favourites heading into the championship weekend, their lone loss this season came at the hands of the BlackJacks.
Can Ottawa continue its improbable run and knock off the team many have pegged as champs? Or will the Stingers avenge their only blip this year?
I'm going with the Stingers in this one. Edmonton just has a superior team, there's no way around it. For Ottawa to make a game of it, it will have to muck it up and try to slow the game down to a grind. The Stingers know that, and I'm sure CEBL Coach of the Year Jermaine Small has his team prepared to run Ottawa out of the gym. Huge credit to the BlackJacks for making it this far. I know the front office is determined to have a much better regular season next year.
Make It Count 🏆#OurGame | #ChampionshipWeekend pic.twitter.com/ALAhaFqvyE- CEBL (@CEBLeague) August 20, 2021
The Bandits could surprise some people in the first semifinal game. They have a balanced unit that could see one of three or four players take over offensively on any given night. Shaq Keith looked great for Fraser Valley last week and CEBL Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Gilbeck was dominant inside, going for 26 points and 10 boards in the Bandits' 104-84 blowout win over Guelph.
The River Lions have been impacted by COVID-19 protocol and haven't been able to spend as much time on the court as they would've wanted to. And while getting Javin DeLaurier back after his Summer League tour is a plus, who knows if he'll jell quick enough with the team to make the same impact he had before his departure.
This feels like an upset waiting to happen - and honestly, I'm going with it. I'm taking Fraser Valley to end up in the Final on Sunday.
In the Final, I have Edmonton over Fraser Valley. It's a rematch from last season's championship game and it will go the same way. The Stingers have been the best team over the last two seasons in the CEBL and they'll continue to be the standard until further notice.
Details for 2021 Championship Weekend, as well as tickets, can be found here.
CEBL Championship Weekend Schedule
Semifinals: Friday, Aug. 20, 2021
No. 2 Niagara River Lions vs. No. 4 Fraser Valley Bandits (7 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. MT)
No. 1 Edmonton Stingers vs. No. 6 Ottawa BlackJacks (9:30 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. MT)
Championship Game: Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021
Semifinal Winner 1 vs. Semifinal Winner 2 (4 p.m. ET, 2 p.m. MT)
2021 CEBL award winners
· Clutch Player of the Year: Lindell Wigginton (Hamilton)
· U SPORTS Player of the Year: Lloyd Pandi (Niagara)
· Sixth Man of the Year: Adika Peter-McNeilly (Edmonton)
· Defensive Player of the Year: Brandon Gilbeck (Fraser Valley)
· Canadian Player of the Year: Lindell Wigginton (Hamilton)
· Player of the Year: Xavier Moon (Edmonton)
· Coach of the Year: Jermaine Small (Edmonton)
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