Brave Thunders eliminate Alvark, advance to JBL Finals

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

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.