KAWASAKI – Toshiba center Nick Fazekas scored 23 points and grabbed 22 rebounds as the Brave Thunders edged the reigning JBL champion Toyota Motors Alvark 64-62 in the decisive third game of the playoff semifinals at Todoroki Arena on Tuesday night.
With the victory, the Brave Thunders, who finished last in the league standings with an 8-34 record last year, earned their first berth in the championship series since the 2004-05 campaign.
“We definitely expected a tough game as the first two games went into overtime,” Toshiba head coach Takuya Kita said. “But I’m proud that the team played such a great game against the champion team today. I’m pleased we advance to the next round.”
The Brave Thunders built a 13-point lead in the third period, but Toyota Motors bounced back and got three successful free throws by Keijuro Matsui with 1:35 left in the game.
But Toshiba quickly went ahead as Ryusei Shinoyama hit a 3-pointer, and rookie Naoto Tsuji calmly sank a pair of shots from the charity stripe to secure the win with 34 seconds remaining.
“It feels good,” said 210-cm Fazekas, who has played for the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers. “We had a heck of a season and we didn’t want to stop in the semifinals. Toyota’s a tough team, but we just found a way and we got two wins.”
Behind Fazekas, the JBL’s top regular-season scorer (21.6 points per game), guard/forward Shohei Kikuchi chipped in for the team with 11 points.
Matsui led Toyota Motors with 16 points and four teammates followed with double-digit scoring efforts in the loss.
Toshiba will face the Aisin Sea Horses in the JBL Finals, which begin on April 17 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.