There was no comfort zone for either team at Aoyama Gakuin University Memorial Hall on Sunday afternoon.
No lead was safe.
Baskets were hard to come by.
It was a scrappy defensive battle that tested the will and the skill of the Sunrockers Shibuya and Tochigi Brex before a rowdy, packed house of 3,133.
It was memorable classic in the B. League’s opening season — one of the most dramatic games of the 2016-17 campaign — that ended with the Brex prevailing 82-78 in double overtime.
Tochigi improved to 25-7; Shibuya slipped to 15-17 after its second four-point loss of the weekend to the Brex.
Early in the second OT, Ira Brown’s layup put his team in front 76-74. Ryan Rossiter followed with a jumper in the lane to tie it again, and Brown was called for an offensive foul on Shibuya’s next possession.
Moments later, Tochigi took a 78-76 lead on a pair of Hironori Watanabe free throws.
In the closing seconds of the second OT, Brown nailed a pull-up jumper, cutting the Brex’s lead to 80-78.
Tochigi held on to the lead the rest of the way.
Yusuke Endo made a key block seconds later, and Takatoshi Furukawa sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 9.5 seconds to play. Furukawa finished with a team-high 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
But the Sunrockers had one more chance to win it. Kenta Hirose’s 3-pointer was an air ball just before the final buzzer.
In the first OT, Robert Sacre was sent to the free-throw line with 1:09 left. He missed the first attempt, then sank the second. That gave Shibuya a short-lived 74-73 lead.
Rossiter made his second foul shot after missing his target on his first attempt with 9.5 seconds remaining in the first overtime period.
Following a timeout, Shibuya worked the ball to Sacre near the left baseline. Guarded tightly by Rossiter, Sacre missed his jump shot at the buzzer, sending the game into double OT.
With about 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Shibuya trailed by six points. Hirose’s layup, which pulled his club within 63-59, helped spark a late rally in regulation.
And even though the Brex were up 68-62 after a Jeff Gibbs layup with about 2 minutes left, the hosts’ resilience was a driving force in crunch time.
Brown delivered a forceful jam to cut it to four, and after a Brex miss at the other end, Sacre answered with a hook shot in the lane to make it 68-66.
Fast forward to the final 10 seconds of the fourth, when Hirose knocked down a left baseline jumper to tie it at 68-68 and send it into the first OT.
Sunrockers coach B.T. Toews acknowledged that it was an exciting contest for the fans to watch. But, he told the crowd afterward, “it’s a bitter loss, a tough loss.”
Tochigi coach Tom Wisman said, “It was exciting for the fans, it was a great game to be a part of.
“We are not scoring points at the rate or the percentages that we would like to, but our defense is still giving us a chance. To shoot less than 37 percent and still win (illustrates that). We’ve got to correct our offensive woes here. We shot 19 percent today from 3s, but we made our free throws, we made the ones that counted.
“We made defensive plays when it counted, and it’s a great game to be in to get that double-overtime game in as an experience going into the second half of the season as we’re getting ready for the playoffs.”
Tochigi shot 36.4 percent from the field, including 4 of 21 on 3s. But the Brex’s 11-0 edge in points off turnovers greatly helped their cause.
Shibuya shot 40 percent on the afternoon.
Though the Sunrockers were whistled for 21 fouls to Tochigi’s 20, the visitors were sent to the line far more frequently based on when those fouls occurred. The Brex sank 22 of 28 foul shots, including Furukawa’s 8 of 10.
Brown delivered a dynamic 23-point, 10-rebound performance for the Sunrockers, who trailed 17-12 after one quarter, then took a 32-21 lead into halftime. Ex-NBA big man Sacre, a January acquisition, scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots, but the Brex made him work for every point. Sacre, who vowed after the game to keep improving, shot 5-for-20 from the field.
Sunrockers forward R.T. Guinn chipped in with 10 points and Leo Vendrame and Hirose both had seven for the hosts. Point guard Takashi Ito dished out four assists.
For the Brex, Rossiter had 17 points, 16 rebounds and four steals. Watanabe scored 14 points with three assists, while Gibbs poured in 10 points and Kosuke Takeuchi had eight. Floor leader Yuta Tabuse added six points, four assists and three steals.
The largest lead of the game was a nine-point advantage for Tochigi.
Watanabe called the win a “positive feeling,” saying his team “stepped up.”
Toews commended Ito and Hirose for making some key plays, as well as Brown and Guinn, “. .. but maybe at the end we didn’t have them step up along Sacre.”
Looking back at the weekend’s back-to-back wins, Gibbs said, “It’s always good to get wins no matter who you are playing against but especially if you are playing against a team like Shibuya, you know, how physical and athletic they are. It’s a good morale boost for us.
“For us, any win right now is a plus for us, because we are trying to get back to (sensational play); at the beginning of the season, we started 13-2. . . . We are trying to get back to that winning mentality we had earlier in the season.”
Jets 82, Evessa 61
In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Michael Parker made a strong impact at both ends of the court and a balanced offense carried the hosts to their second win of the weekend over Osaka.
Parker finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
Teammate Tyler Stone poured in 23 points and corralled 14 rebounds and Kosuke Ishii drained four 3s in an 18-point outing. Yuki Togashi had 13 points and Ryumo Ono scored 12 for the Jets (22-12).
Xavier Gibson paced the Evessa (18-16) with 19 points. Richard Roby added 13 points, while Takuya Hashimoto netted 11.
Osaka was 4 of 17 on 3s.
The Jets outrebounded Osaka 48-29.
Golden Kings 77, Albirex BB 74
In Okinawa City, 23-year-old forward Naoki Tashiro delivered a 23-point performance, including 8-for-9 shooting from inside the arc, to spark Ryukyu to a bounce-back win over Niigata.
Tashiro is averaging 3.8 points per game.
Golden Kings center Lamont Hamilton, a St. John’s University alum, chipped in with 12 points and Anthony McHenry, Shuhei Kitagawa and Reyshawn Terry all scored 11 points for the hosts.
Ryunosuke Watanabe contributed eight points and 11 boards for Ryukyu (15-19).
McHenry dished out a team-high four assists.
The Golden Kings made 27 of 54 2-point shots.
Davante Gardner scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Albirex (18-16) and Clint Chapman matched Gardner’s scoring output.
Yuichi Ikeda was 5-for-5 from 3-point range to account for his 15 points and Kimitake Sato and Tenyoku You each had 10 points for Niigata, while Kei Igarashi chipped in with 7 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Brave Thunders 72, Diamond Dolphins 68
In Nagoya, star center Nick Fazekas dominated the action with 27 points and 17 rebounds as Kawasaki completed a weekend sweep of the hosts.
Fazekas, a former NBA center, was 11-for-11 at the foul line.
Yuma Fujii added 19 points, including 9 of 9 on free throws for the Brave Thunders (29-5). Ryusei Shinoyama poured in 10 points for Kawasaki, which outrebounded Nagoya 47-33.
Jerome Tillman paced the Diamond Dolphins (20-14) with 22 points and eight rebounds. Tenketsu Harimoto had a 14-point game and Takumi Ishizaki supplied nine points and four assists.
Nagoya, which doled out 14 assists, turned the ball over 15 times.
Kawasaki trailed 29-28 at halftime.
Grouses 89, Levanga 76
In Toyama, seven Grouses players scored eight or more points as coach Bob Nash’s club rebounded from Saturday’s defeat to Hokkaido.
Dexter Pittman had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Toyama (8-26) and Drew Viney scored 14 points to lead the offensive attack. Sam Willard and Yu Okada poured in 13 points apiece, Naoki Uto had 12, Takeshi Mito nine and Masashi Joho eight.
Daniel Miller led the Levanga (10-24) with 15 points and 14 rebounds, Takehiko Orimo scored 14 points and Daisuke Noguchi 13. Asahi Tajima finished with eight points and seven assists.
NeoPhoenix 64, Northern Happinets 64
In Akita, frontcourt standouts Robert Dozier and Josh Childress energized San-en to its second road win in as many days.
Dozier scored a team-best 17 points. Childress filled the stat sheet with 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Floor leader Tatsuya Suzuki added 11 points and four assists for the NeoPhoenix (20-14) and big man Atsuya Ota scored eight points.
The hosts missed 15 of 18 3-point chances.
Ohio State alum Evan Ravenel led Akita (8-26) with 12 points and Shigehiro Taguchi scored nine points.
B-Corsairs 86, Lakestars 73
In Yokohama, 208-cm center Jason Washburn provided a brilliant offensive effort for the hosts as they cruised past Shiga to complete a series sweep.
Washburn converted 10 of 11 shots from the field in a 23-point, nine-rebound outing.
B-Corsairs forward Jeff Parmer contributed 20 points, eight rebounds and three steals, while Faye Pape Mour scored 12 points and Ken Takeda eight. Masashi Hosoya handed out six assists for Yokohama (13-21).
Yusuke Karino scored 21 points for the Lakestars (6-28), Tomonobu Hasegawa pumped in 16, as did Faye Samba, who also pulled down 14 rebounds.
SeaHorses 85, Alvark 77
In Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, the hosts controlled the fourth quarter and avenged their series-opening loss to Tokyo.
The SeaHorses (24-8) outscored the Alvark 26-13 in the decisive final stanza.
Sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru sank 5 of 8 3s in a 27-point performance and Makoto Hiejima poured in 21 points. Isaac Butts chipped in with 14 points and 13 boards, Gavin Edwards had eight points and seven rebounds and J.R. Sakuragi provided five points, six rebounds and six assists.
Mikawa canned 10 of 19 3s.
For Tokyo (26-6), Daiki Tanaka had 19 points and five assists and Diante Garrett scored 16 points. Joji Takeuchi added 14 points and seven rebounds. Troy Gillenwater finished with 11 points.
Second-division update: Here are the results of Sunday’s games: Shimane Susanoo Magic 88, Fukushima Firebonds 65; Hiroshima Dragonflies 88, Fighting Eagles Nagoya 75; Aomori Wat’s 73, Nishinomiya Storks 72; Iwate Big Bulls 80, Shinshu Brave Warriors 54; Kumamoto Volters 72, Ibaraki Robots 67; Gunma Crane Thunders 84, Kagawa Five Arrows 64; Earthfriends Tokyo Z 71, Kagoshima Rebnise 61; Yamagata Wyverns 74, Bambitious Nara 66; and Ehime Orange Vikings 78, Tokyo Excellence 76.
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