The Aisin SeaHorses lost their lead in the final minute of regulation, but came through in overtime as they defeated the Toyota Alvark 94-87 in the semifinals of the All-Japan Basketball Championship at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Saturday.
Shooting machine Kosuke Kanamaru hit five 3-pointers and scored 30 points to help guide the Aichi Prefecture club to the championship game in the annual knockout tourney for the first time in two years.
Former UCLA player J.R. Sakuragi and versatile young guard Makoto Hiejima followed Kanamaru with 23 and 22 points, respectively.
“Both teams wound up playing an offensive game, and it could’ve gone either way,” SeaHorses head coach Kimikazu Suzuki said.
With 14.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Toyota’s Daiki Tanaka pulled the game even at 83-83 by knocking down a 3-pointer.
But Aisin turned up the heat defensively in overtime, holding Toyota to just four points.
Sakuragi made a layup after receiving a pass from Hiejima underneath the basket with 30.9 seconds remaining to secure the win.
“You only have five minutes (in overtime),” Kanamaru said. “So we told ourselves that we would not take tough shots and to play solid defense.”
Sakuragi said, “That was a tough, physical game, not many calls. But we can’t complain. We had to find a way to win. Kanamaru and Hiejima made some big plays, so we got the win.”
For the Alvark, Tanaka scored 29 points, draining four 3-point shots.
Aisin, the winner of the tournament’s 2011 edition, failed to reach the final last year as it was eliminated by Toyota in the semifinal round.
In the other men’s semifinal, the Link Tochigi Brex clinched their first berth in the Emperor’s Cup final with a 69-62 win over the Toshiba Brave Thunders.
American Ryan Rossiter collected 22 points and 15 rebounds, while star guard Yuta Tabuse had eight points and seven rebounds for the Brex.
For Toshiba, point guard Ryusei Shinoyama led the team with 19 points.
Aisin and Link Tochigi will square off in the championship game at 2 p.m. on Monday at the same venue.
In the women’s semifinals, the Jx-Eneos Sunflowers dominated inside as the two-time defending Empress’ Cup champions cruised past the Chanson V-Magic 79-52.
Yuka Mamiya led the game with 27 points and 16 rebounds, followed by WNBA player Ramu Tokashiki, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, for the Sunflowers.
On the other side of the women’s bracket, Japan national team center Maki Takada racked up 17 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Denso Iris to a 54-51 win over the Fujitsu Red Wave.
Jx-Eneos and Denso will meet in the championship game for the second straight year. The final will tip off at 2 p.m. on Sunday.