Kashiwagi triggers Sea Horses’ win

by Kaz Nagatsuka

KAWASAKI — Shinsuke Kashiwagi came off the bench and played for only about half of the game.

But the everyone at the arena was sure that he gave everything he had while on the court.

The 24-year-old guard Kashiwagi showed his spectacular energy and gave his new team courage, helping Aisin come back from a huge first-half deficit as the Sea Horses defeated the Toshiba Brave Thunders 86-75 on Opening Day of the JBL Super League on Saturday afternoon.

A crowd of 3,700-plus spectators attended the game at Todoroki Arena.

Kashiwagi, who played for the Hitachi Sunrockers last season, scored just six points but had game-high six steals with a playing time of 20 minutes, 23 seconds in his Sea Horses debut.

“This is my new challenge,” said Kashiwagi, who played for the Japan National Team at the FIBA World Championship this summer. “I’m just focusing on doing whatever it takes to win ballgames.”

The Brave Thunders got off to a good start while Aisin struggled to hit easy shots in the first quarter.

Aisin’s struggles continued in the second period as it was unable to score a point for the first 5:40 of the quarter, As a result, Toshiba took a 16-point lead and led 43-35 at half.

But the Sea Horses never gave up and trimmed the deficit in the second half, tightening their defense and making gutsy baskets.

The Sea Horses drew near at the end of the third quarter and were down by three at 58-55, when Kashiwagi made a basket count, and in the final quarter, another newcomer, Alpha Bangura, came through. He scored 15 points in the period, helping the team surpass Toshiba and build a lead in the end.

Bangura, a former St. John’s (N.Y.) University player, had game-high 33 points, while teammate J.R. Henderson had 22 points and 16 rebounds.

“It was the marginal deficit that we could’ve (given) up,” said head coach Kimikazu Suzuki, who was named the Japan National Team coach last month, of the 16-point deficit. “If we gave up more that time, we would’ve lost this game.”

Toshiba coach Mitsunori Kamata smiled wryly after the game, saying, “We played well in the first half, though, (Aisin) came back strong in the later half.”

For Toshiba, center/forward Randy Holcomb had 23 points and seven rebounds, while power forward Jermaine Walker and point guard Takahiro Setsumasa had 18 and 10 points, respectively.

Elsewhere, the Mitsubishi Melco Dolphins beat the reigning JBL Super League champion Toyota Alvark 90-87 in Nagoya, and the Panasonic Super Kangaroos crushed the OSG Phoenix 101-63 in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture.