Brex beat Alvark to tie semifinal series

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The Brex players gave it their all for the entire game, and sent their loyal fans nuts with an emotional victory.

Guard Hironori Watanabe had a team-high 23 points, going 3-for-6 from outside the 3-point arc, and veteran big man Daiji Yamada gave the team 15 valuable points off the bench as Link Tochigi sank the Toyota Alvark 95-81 in Game 2 of the NBL Eastern Conference semifinals at Ota City General Gymnasium on Sunday.

With the win, the Brex tied the best-of-three series at 1-all. The decisive third game will begin at the same venue at 3 p.m. on Monday.

The Brex, who gave Toyota a huge lead early in their loss in Saturday’s Game 1, set the pace from the beginning and finished the first half with a 44-38 lead.

Toyota bounced back and was ahead at one point in the third quarter, but the Brex regrouped in the final period, making some big shots down the stretch to grab the win.

Link Tochigi had a scary moment early in the game, when its scoring-leader Ryan Rossiter sprained his left ankle after he grabbed a rebound. He did not get up quickly.

But the 24-year-old forward came back into the action after resting on the bench for a while, although he was still limping on the court.

“I came down for a rebound and sprained it,” said Rossiter, who had 21 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. “I don’t think it’s too serious, though. Once I ran up and down a little bit, it was OK.”

Yamada stepped up with a huge contribution for Link Tochigi, assisting Rossiter with his big body.

“As Rossiter got hurt, I tried to play good defense to help our team keep the momentum,” said Yamada, a former national team player.

Yamada actually came through offensively as well. He poured in six points in the fourth quarter alone, including a dunk in the closing seconds of the game.

But he humbly said, “They just went in with some luck. I have to keep doing what I did tomorrow.”

The Alvark reigned underneath the basket, out-rebounding Link Tochigi 49-34. But the Brex countered with their aggressiveness and speed in the middle of the court. That they shot better from the field was also a key factor in the win.

The Brex recorded 11 steals and shot 54.4 percent from the field, while Toyota had four and 38.0 in the same departments.

“We came into the game making sure we kept moving and passing the ball, because our rhythm would get worse if we stopped,” Brex point guard Yuta Tabuse said. “I think we were able to do that today.”

For Toyota, Jeff Gibbs was the main guy again with 27 points and 14 rebounds.

“(The Brex) shot the ball extremely well today, particularly in the fourth quarter,” Toyota head coach Donald Beck said. “They made four or five shots in a row. I think that’s kind of what won the game for them. It was a great shooting night for them, bad shooting night for us.”

In the Western Conference semifinals, the Aisin SeaHorses tamed the Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Dolphins 94-84 in Game 2 in Hiroshima to complete a sweep in the series.

Aisin will face the Wakayama Trians in the Conference Finals in Nagoya next weekend.