Rolle sparks Mitsubishi in All-Japan quarterfinals triumph over Toshiba

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Mitsubishi forward/center Magnum Rolle scored a game-high 29 points to lead the Diamond Dolphins to a 75-67 victory over the Toshiba Brave Thunders in the men’s quarterfinals of the annual All-Japan Basketball Championship at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Sunday evening.

Guided by the 211-cm player Rolle, the Dolphins seized the momentum for much of the game, building a 59-44 lead at the end of the third quarter.

Toshiba began its rally and pulled to within two points with 45 seconds remaining in the final period. But soon after, Mitsubishi point guard Kei Igarashi nailed a big 3-pointer and the team grabbed the win.

“We made some mental mistakes toward the end,” said Rolle, who was on the NCAA Final Four-making LSU team when he was a freshman in 2006 (he later transferred to Louisiana Tech). “But we stayed together and believed in ourselves. We played a tough-nosed defense. That’s our identity.”

Behind Rolle, a former second-round draft pick of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, three other teammates had double-digit scoring games. Igarashi had 11 points and nine assists.

For the Brave Thunders, center Nick Fazekas scored 22 points with 11 rebounds.

It is the first time that Mitsubishi makes a final four in the tournament. The Aichi Prefecture-based JBL side finished runnerup in the 2006 edition of the annual win-or-go-home championship, which is also dubbed the Emperor’s Cup.

“It gets a little pressure off our shoulders, because my guys, you know, (have experienced) losing, losing and losing,” said Antonio Lang, head coach of the Dolphins, who’ve struggled with an 8-16 record and are currently in sixth place in the JBL standings.

“Sometimes I’m told, Tony, you think you’re going about it right way, but you’re not getting results? So it’s always good to get results.”

In other men’s action on Sunday, the Aisin Sea Horses defeated Link Tochigi Brex 82-74.

In the women’s tournament, Toyota Motors Antelopes crushed Aisin AW Wings 92-46, and the Fujitsu RedWave defeated Tsukuba University 76-68.

The women’s semifinals will be held on Friday, while the men’s semis will be played the following day.