The Brave Thunders again outplayed Aisin down the stretch as Toshiba cruised past the Sea Horses 74-67 in Game 3 of the best-of-five JBL Finals at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No.2 on Saturday afternoon.
Toshiba, which finished last in the league in the 2011-12 season, is now one win away from earning its first title in eight years.
Center Nick Fazekas led the Brave Thunders with 22 points and 15 rebounds, while rookie guard Naoto Tsuji chipped in with 12 points.
The Sea Horses had the momentum early on and led 40-32 at halftime. But the Brave Thunders, who came back strong in the latter half and went on to defeat Aisin in overtime in Thursday’s Game 2, clicked in the third quarter, taking advantage of Aisin’s miscues, to take the lead.
Aisin regrouped in the final quarter and got as close as four points with less than 40 second left. But Toshiba guard Ryusei Shinoyama hit in a huge inside jumper, and Tsuji hit three of four free throws to secure the win.
The Brave Thunders had 14 offensive rebounds (Aisin recorded eight), and outscored Aisin 36-22 in the paint. Mamadou Diouf, plagued by foul trouble, only played 10 minutes, but forwards Yuya Kagami and Yoshifumi Kuwahara (eight points) were solid defensively coming off the bench for Toshiba.
“We thought the opponent would get tired in the second half,” said Toshiba’s Takahiro Kurihara, who had 10 points. “So our plan was to put more pressure on them than in the first half, and the key for the win was that we were able to do that throughout the game today.”
For Aisin, league MVP J.R. Sakuragi had a double-double with 18 points and 17 boards. Kevin Young had 11 points and Shinsuke Kashiwagi scored nine.
Game 4 will tip off at 3 p.m. Sunday at Yoyogi.