For 34 minutes, 33 seconds out of the 40 minutes of regulation, the Toshiba Brave Thunders led the game.
But it was their experienced opponents who ended up getting the “W.”
Aisin geared up defensively to take the momentum and prevailed late in the game as the SeaHorses defeated Toshiba 70-65 in Game 1 of the NBL Finals before a crowd of 2,706 at Ota City General Gymnasium on Saturday.
With the win, reigning champion Aisin extended its unbeaten postseason streak to five.
Game 2 will tip off at 3 p.m. on Sunday at the same venue.
The Brave Thunders got off to a hot start as they led 27-14 at the end of the opening quarter. But they were held to just 38 points for the remainder of the contest by Aisin’s grinding defense.
“Toshiba got off really aggressively both offensively and defensively, and we really played badly early on,” Aisin head coach Kimikazu Suzuki said after the game. “But we played patiently, trying to catch up with them playing resilient defense, and believing that we would have a chance to win the game. It almost feels like we won it with only two or three minutes left in the game.”
Former University of Connecticut center/forward Gavin Edwards had a big fourth quarter at both ends of the floor. The 206-cm player racked up eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks in that period alone.
“I just wanted to do little energy plays, kind of give us a boost, and get everybody excited,” said Edwards, who had 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks overall. “I just kind of did the little stuff to help us win.”
For the SeaHorses, center Isaac Butts led the team with 17 points, and Japanese youngster Makoto Hiejima chipped in with 15 points. The Aichi Prefecture-club reigned underneath the basket and scored 40 points in the paint. They notched nine blocks as well.
“They came out really hard early and we weren’t able to move the ball well,” said Hiejima, a national team player. “But we played patiently, trying to have them turn the ball over and it paid off. This is a valuable win.”
Toshiba had nine turnovers in the game, seven of them in the final quarter.
“We played our ball early on,” said Brave Thunders guard Naoto Tsuji, who hit five 3 pointers for 15 points. “We knew Aisin is capable of having extra focus when the game is on the line, but we turned the ball over and gave them the momentum.”
Center Nick Fazekas had a game-high 21 points for Toshiba.
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