The JX-Eneos Sunflowers came through when it mattered most and once again proved that they are genuine champions.
The Sunflowers were outperformed by Fujitsu but rallied in the final quarter with a fierce defensive effort to edge the Red Wave 60-56 in Game 3 of the WJBL Finals at Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex on Sunday.
JX-Eneos swept Fujitsu, and earned its seventh straight WJBL championship, 18th overall.
Regular-season MVP Ramu Tokashiki had 25 points and 12 rebounds. Inside player Yuka Mamiya chipped in with 12 points and 13 rebounds and floor leader Asami Yoshida had 11 points, 11 assists and five steals, too.
With JX Eneos ahead 58-56 with about 10 seconds left, Fujitsu guard Rui Machida drove in the lane to attempt to equal the contest, but her layup was perfectly blocked by Tokashiki. Yoshida made a layup afterward to seal the victory for the Sunflowers.
The Sunflowers limited Fujitsu, which failed to win its first league title since 2007-08, to just three points in the fourth quarter.
“We believed in our team and played our basketball until the end. That was the key element for the win,” said Tokashiki, who was named the playoff MVP after the game. “We didn’t give up until the very end.”
Yoshida, who was sidelined with a leg injury in last year’s finals, said: “I wasn’t on the court last year, so this gives me extra joy as I was able to battle along with my teammates and share the championship with my teammates.”
The Sunflowers had the best record (26-4) in the regular season, but lost twice to Fujitsu (24-6) in the three games they squared off. Ultimately, JX-Eneos may have known how to handle the postseason just a little better than the young Red Wave.
Fujitsu lost to JX-Eneos 77-51 and 73-57 in the first two games of the finals. Its first-year coach, Canadian BT Toews, said that the series may have been different had his players come into those games with a stronger mind-set.
“We lost in the first and second games because we lacked spirit, we lost because of the nervousness we had,” Toews said in Japanese. “We didn’t have that today and finally played a better game. Our players did their best.”
Machida led the Red Wave with 16 points. The speedy point guard grabbed eight boards, too. Mio Shinozaki followed with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Meanwhile, Tokashiki, a 192-cm center/forward, was the center of attention during the closing and award ceremony after the game. The regular season MVP led the league in scoring (18.0), rebounds (11.53), blocked shots (2.13) and field-goal percentage (59.83).
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