KAWASAKI – The Toyota Motors Alvark have clearly been the biggest story during the second half of the NBL’s 2013-14 season. This, of course, included Toyota’s impressive 28-game winning streak.
On Friday night, the Toshiba Brave Thunders grabbed the spotlight from their Eastern Conference rivals and ended their epic winning streak. The Brave Thunders rebounded from a deficit that was as many as 12 points and came through defensively in the final quarter in a 80-74 victory over Toyota at Todoroki Arena.
Toshiba (46-7) has now clinched first place in the conference, earning a first-round bye in the playoffs, with one more game to play in the regular season.
“We expected a very tough game and thought it would come down to our rebounding and defense,” Toshiba head coach Takuya Kita said after the game. “Our players performed to their best for the entire 40 minutes.”
Toyota was ahead 37-30 at halftime, but the Brave Thunders bounced back with a hard-nosed defensive effort. The Kawasaki-based club outscored its rival 50-37 in the second half.
“In this game, there are times you have the momentum and you don’t have the momentum” Kita said. “And you’ve got to play patiently when you don’t. Our players played their defense with patience.”
The league’s leading scorer, Nick Fazekas, had a game-high 27 points and 17 rebounds for Toshiba, while sharpshooter Naoto Tsuji chipped in with 16 points.
For the Alvark (44-9), who dropped their first regular-season game since mid-December, Philip Ricci had 18 points and Jeff Gibbs followed with 16 points.
Toshiba point guard Ryusei Shinoyama insisted that his team wasn’t particularly frightened by Toyota’s outstanding achievement coming in the game.
In fact, the Brave Thunders have now gone 4-1 against the Alvark in the regular season.
“I think that we match up well against (the Alvark),” said Shinoyama, who had five points and four assists.
The teams square off again on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the same venue.