Sunflowers secure eighth straight WJBL title


Staff Writer

For another year, the JX-Eneos Sunflowers finished the season on top.

The Sunflowers wrapped up the best-of-five WJBL Finals with a 75-66 win in Game 4 at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 and captured the league title for the eighth consecutive year.

The “eight-peat” is the second-longest streak in WJBL history, only behind the 10 straight championships won by the Chanson V-Magic (1990-91 season through 1999-2000).

Sunflowers star forward/center and WNBA player Ramu Tokashiki racked up game-high totals of 24 points and 13 rebounds to contribute to the victory for the Sunflowers, who have now earned 19 WJBL titles.

JX-Eneos captain and point guard Asami Yoshida, the Finals MVP, followed Tokashiki with 21 points and five assists. She hit five 3-pointers in seven attempts.

In a physical defensive battle, Fujitsu trailed JX-Eneos by just three points at the end of the first half (30-27). But the Sunflowers came through in the third, outscoring their rival 26-17 to seize momentum.

“We knew that whichever team would have a stronger spirit in the remaining 20 minutes would win,” said Tokashiki, who earned her third WJBL season MVP this year, of how her team entered the second half. “We surely did enter (the second half) with a tough mindset.”

The Red Wave, who were swept by JX-Eneos in last year’s Finals, displayed some resiliency in the final quarter, but were unable to stop the scoring by the Sunflowers.

“All of us refuse to lose, that’s our strength,” said Yoshida, the starting point guard for the Japan women’s national team, who will compete in this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics along with Tokashiki. “All our players think they don’t want to be the losers.”

Young point guard Rui Machida led Fujitsu with 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Red Wave, who won the JBL Finals during the 2007-08 season, the year before JX-Eneos began its championship streak. She had a game-high six turnovers as well.

Fujitsu’s lone win came in Game 2 on Saturday, when it crushed the Sunflowers 103-78.

“Both teams had fatigue, but we were able to keep up with them until the third quarter,” Fujitsu head coach BT Toews said in fluent Japanese. “But we started running out of gas and our offense got confused.”

Fujitsu was hurt by its poor shooting from behind the 3-point arc, going 7-for-30.