In the game of basketball, sometimes an unexpected hero comes through and wins a game for his team.
Forward Takayuki Kumagai electrified the Alvark, coming off the bench and scoring 12 points in Toyota’s 79-70 win over the Aisin Sea Horses in Game 2 of the JBL Finals on Thursday night.
The Alvark, who dropped Game 1 after blowing a 19-point lead, have tied the series at 1-1.
“We took a lead early, like yesterday, but allowed (Aisin) to come back to win the game,” said Kumagai, who also contributed to the team with his energetic defensive. “So we tried to not let the same thing happen today, never getting loose until the end.”
The 25-year-old Kumagai had a game-high three steals.
Jeff Gibbs scored a game-best 17 points and veteran forward/center Michael Takahashi also chipped in with 11 points, making some key shots for Toyota. Three more Alvark also scored in double digits, including popular star Kosuke Takeuchi (10 points and seven rebounds). Gibbs had 10 fourth-quarter points.
“I felt pretty good (on my shots) today, and I’m excited we won today’s game,” Takahashi said.
From the second period on, Toyota got on a roll and at one point extended its lead to 20 points at the start of the final quarter.
Like in Game 1, Aisin showed some resistance in the final period, led by bench players Anthony Richardson and Shuhei Kitagawa, but the Alvark wouldn’t let the lead slip away this time.
Four of the Sea Horses had double-digit scoring performances, led by Shogo Asayama and Shinsuke Kashiwagi, who each scored 14. J.R. Sakuragi added 12 points and 15 boards.
“It was an interesting and competitive game,” Toyota head coach Donald Beck said at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
“To beat Aisin, we worked very hard and executed our defense and offense very, very good today.”
Aisin bench boss Kimikazu Suzuki regrettably said that his team gave the 190-cm Kumagai, who had only four points in Game 1, too much space in front of him to launch open shots.
“We were going to be cautious about his 3-pointers,” Suzuki said. “But we got tired offensively, and (then) couldn’t really guard him to allow him make the shots. We knew he is a good energetic defender, but at the same time we knew he would continue to make shots once he gets hot.”
The Finals resume at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the same arena.