Basketball

Dominant Sunflowers finish season unbeaten

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The Jx-Eneos Sunflowers are perhaps the most dominant sports team in Japan today.

They tamed the Toyota Antelopes 75-51 in Game 3 of the Women’s Japan Basketball League Finals at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Sunday to complete a series sweep.

They completed the season sweep, too.

The Sunflowers finished the 2016-17 campaign undefeated, including the postseason and annual single-elimination tournament All-Japan Championship in January. They went 27-0 in the regular season.

With another trophy, the Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture-based club captured the league title for a ninth straight season and 20th overall. They won both the league and All-Japan titles for the fourth consecutive year.

In Sunday’s contest, captain Asami Yoshida and guard Saori Miyazaki led the game with 14 points. Yoshida, who was the point guard for Japan at last summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, had a game-high seven assists as well.

“This year, it’s been our theme to play our own brand of ball no matter who we play against,” Yoshida, who was selected as playoff MVP, told at a post-series news conference. “And we practiced everyday so we can play the same quality of basketball no matter who we are playing on the court.”

Ramu Tokashiki, the Sunflowers’ biggest star who also plays for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, scored only six points but grabbed 10 rebounds in Game 3.

The 25-year-old center/forward, who led the league in field goal percentage (61.5) and blocked shots (2.3) this year, was named regular-season MVP for the fourth time (third straight year).

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