Takuya Kawamura single-handedly guided the Link Tochigi Brex to their first-ever JBL championship with a late-game explosion on Monday.
The reigning league-leading scorer hit a game-tying 3 as the clock expired in the fourth quarter and added five in overtime as Link Tochigi swept the defending champion Aisin SeaHorses with a 71-63 victory in Game 3 of the Japan Basketball League Finals at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
The second-year club in the JBL top league grabbed its first title before another sell-out crowd, while Aisin failed in its quest for its third-straight championship.
Kawamura knocked down a 3-pointer with just 7.2 seconds left in regulation to cut the deficit to 57-55, right after SeaHorses forward J.R. Sakuragi set the table as he dropped one of two free-throws to make it 58-55.
After a timeout, with 6.3 seconds remaining, Kawamura caught a pass from Shunsuke Ito then launched a high-arching long shot from the top of the key. Despite being double-teamed by two Aisin defenders, he still managed to nail the money shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
Kawamura sank another key 3 and added a layup later on to secure the win for the Utsunomiya-based club.
“It just feels great,” said Kawamura, who had a game-high 27 points, 15 of which came in the fourth period and overtime.
“During the timeout I knew the ball was coming to my hand. So I was determined to make the shot,” he said of the buzzer-beater.
The SeaHorses were on pace to prevent a series sweep with their energetic defensive effort inside the paint. They outrebounded 55-39 and blocked 13 Link Tochigi shots.
But it was all spoiled by Kawamura’s phenomenal offensive surge and his Brex teammates’ hustle chasing the ball.
Ex-NBA player Yuta Tabuse had nine points and a game-high five steals, leading the team’s 16. Veteran Ken Takeda contributed 11 points.
“Aisin was very strong as we expected. Their defense was just so tough,” Tabuse said. “But fortunately we were able to win this championship.”