The SeaHorses Mikawa dominated the first three quarters of Saturday’s series opener against the visiting Alvark Tokyo.
The fourth quarter was a different story.
The Alvark overcame an 11-point deficit entering the final stanza and forced overtime by making clutch plays down the stretch at Wing Arena Kariya.
Tokyo went on to prevail 69-65 in Game 1 of the B. League Championship semifinal series.
Game 2 is on Sunday at the same venue.
If necessary, a Game 3 (mini-game tiebreaker) will be held afterward to determine which team will face the Chiba Jets Funabashi-Ryukyu Golden Kings series winner in the title game on May 26 at Yokohama Arena.
Alvark guard Seiya Ando sank a game-tying 3-pointer with 49 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. That made it 61-61, and shortly after an 11-0 run brought Tokyo within 59-58 on a Daiki Tanaka free throw with 2:16 remaining in the fourth.
SeaHorses star J.R. Sakuragi turned the ball over with 5 seconds left in regulation, with Alvark forward Jawad Williams making a steal.
In overtime, Tokyo’s Alex Kirk had the first points, scoring on a dunk at the 3:35 mark.
Mikawa’s Kosuke Kanamaru answered with a jumper to tie it at 63-all. Williams made a layup to put the Alvark ahead 65-63, and Tanaka’s layup gave the visitors a four-point lead.
A Kanamaru jumper cut it to 67-65 with 1:20 to play.
Ando completed the scoring with a pair of free throws with 6 seconds left in OT.
Kirk, a University of New Mexico product, paced Tokyo with 22 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Ando finished with 14 points, four assists and two steals. Tanaka had nine points and seven assists with three steals and Williams contributed seven points and three steals. Joji Takeuchi scored five points and pulled down eight rebounds and Zack Baranski had seven boards.
Mikawa led 41-30 at halftime.
Kanamaru had 21 points, but only four in the second half as the Alvark mounted their comeback. Kirk, meanwhile, scored 11 fourth-quarter points.
Makoto Hiejima had 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks for the SeaHorses, who were the league’s winningest team during the regular season (48-12). Isaac Butts contributed eight points and 11 rebounds. By his lofty standards, Sakuragi had a quiet game (four points, eight rebounds and four assists).The Alvark held a 22-2 edge in fast-break points.
Jets 74, Golden Kings 61
In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Gavin Edwards and Michael Parker notched double-doubles and Yuki Togashi contributed 11 points and nine assists to lead the hosts past Ryukyu in their series opener.
Edwards led all scorers with 26 points on 10-for-15 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. Parker added 22 points while making an identical 10 of 15 shots from the floor, 10 boards and three steals. Backup swingman Shuta Hara contributed seven points off the bench.
For the Golden Kings, who trailed 30-22 after two quarters, Ryuichi Kishimoto scored 18 points, but took 19 shots and made 4 of 12 3s. Hassan Martin had 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks and Ira Brown provided 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Free-throw shooting woes hurt Ryukyu. The Kings made 5 of 13 shots. Brown was 0-for-6.
Chiba established control in the paint, scoring 42 points and limiting the visitors to 24.
The teams combined for 54 3-point attempts, with only 13 of them finding their intended target.
Second-division final (Game 1)
Northern Happinets 83, Rizing Zephyr 69
In Akita, the hosts, who sent 54-6 in the regular season, surged past Fukuoka in the third quarter and held on for a series-opening victory.
Both teams have earned promotion to the top flight for next season. The series, which resumes on Sunday with Game 2 (and a possible Game 3, mini-game tiebreaker), is for bragging rights.
Five Happinets players scored in double figures: Kadeem Coleby (14 points on 7-for-10 shooting), captain Shigehiro Taguchi (12 points), Ryosuke Shirahama and Chris Cayole (11 apiece) and Nigel Spikes with 10.
Shirahama dished out eight assists and Spikes, a Marshall University alum, snared nine rebounds and blocked four shots.
In a game filled with miscues — the hosts had 27 turnovers and the Rizing Zephyr committed 23 — rebounding played a big factor. Akita grabbed 42 boards and held the visitors to 26.
Fukuoka led 38-35 at halftime.
By the end of the third quarter, Akita was ahead 63-51. Coach Pep Claros’ club used a 9-0 spurt to take a 44-40 advantage, and led by as many as 16 points.
For the Rizing Zephyr, Josh Peppers led the way with 28 points on 10-for-11 shooting (highlighted by 7 of 7 on 2s) and three steals, while Daisuke Kobayashi had 23 points, including 5 of 10 on 3s. Faye Pape Mour added seven points and six boards and Eric Jacobsen finished with five points.
“(It was) just a tough all-around game as expected,” Peppers told The Japan Times. “A couple plays here or there could be the deciding factor of the game against good teams. We have to take advantage of each possession tomorrow in order to win.”
He added: “Defensively we played well, just needed to come up with a few loose balls. Tomorrow is going to be tough, (but) I feel like we are up to the challenge.”
In a two-game series played on March 31 and April 1 in Fukuoka, Akita won the opener 91-73, then dropped an 81-71 decision the next day. (The Happinets’ 22-game winning streak came to an end in the series finale.)
After a pair of victories last weekend kept them in the hunt to fight to remain in B1, the Yokohama B-Corsairs topped the Toyama Grouses 79-76 on Saturday to lock up a spot in the 18-team top flight for the 2018-19 campaign.
Takuya Kawamura and Hasheem Thabeet sparked Yokohama with 22 and 18 points, respectively. Thabeet collected 12 rebounds and blocked two shots.