The Tochigi Brex wrapped up the East Division title and snapped a two-game losing streak on Wednesday, holding off the Alvark Tokyo with a 79-76 victory.
Ryan Rossiter paced the Brex (45-13) with 23 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Takatoshi Furukawa poured in 18 points, including 4-for-4 from 3-point range at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
Tokyo’s Jeff Ayres missed a 3-pointer with 1 second left in the final quarter.
In the run-up to the final outcome, Hironori Watanabe sank two free throws with 24 seconds left to give the Brex a 77-73 lead.
Eight seconds later, Diante Garrett buried a 3-pointer, pulling the Alvark within 77-76.
After a Tochigi timeout, Watanabe, who finished with eight points and five assists, made two clutch free throws to account for the game’s final points.
“Obviously those free throws were huge, 4-for-4 in pressure situations,” Tochigi coach Tom Wisman said.
The Brex have won three straight games against their former NBL foe and four of their past five meetings.
After the game, Wisman reflected on the long journey from the preseason to this week that included the team’s target of winning the division.
“It’s good, and it’s such a long season that an old guy like me forgets how it feels, that you’re almost numbed at this time of year,” the 68-year-old Wisman told reporters.
“It’s a marathon and we’re just happy that we got it won today. That gives us the weekend to regroup and take the pressure off, to get people healthy. . . . We’re very proud of the team that they stepped up.”
Yutaro Suda finished with 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting for the Brex, who played their fourth straight game without forward Jeff Gibbs (knee injury). Veteran forward Tommy Brenton added six points and nine rebounds and Naoya Kumagae also scored six points.
“Suda, he stepped up big time,” Wisman said, noting his scoring performance.
In addition to Gibbs, Yuta Tabuse also sat out the game.
Tochigi led 21-14 after the opening quarter and 45-37 at halftime. The Brex took a 62-50 lead into the final stanza.
Wisman called it a “hard-earned win” against a quality opponent.
Noting the solid contributions off the bench from several backups, the coach had this to say: “It’s a good sign for us going into the playoffs we are getting confidence in our bench.”
Garrett led the Alvark (42-16) with 28 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Joji Takeuchi scored 14 points and grabbed eight boards. Ayres and Zack Baranski had 10 points apiece.
Tokyo was held to 5-for-22 shooting from 3-point range.
Rossiter paid tribute to the team’s large throng of supporters who made the trip from Tochigi Prefecture to witness the division title-clinching win.
“It was great,” he said. “Obviously we had a ton of fans here who really supported us, and we would have loved to have had Jeff and Yuta on the court but we are looking at the bigger picture, and to have them guys step up like that, Suda, Kuma (Kumagae) and Nabe (Watanabe), just kind of showed that it was a real team effort. It was a great win for us.
“And we are happy and now we can kind of relax a little bit and get healthy, knowing that this weekend that we are OK.”
The Brex now set their sights on trying to secure the No. 2 seed for the playoffs, vying with the West Division champion SeaHorses Mikawa (46-12) for it during the final weekend of the regular season.
Said Rossiter: “We are still trying to win games. It doesn’t matter who’s on the court. You saw against (the) Chiba (Jets) (last weekend) and today that even though we didn’t have Jeff and Yuta, we are still trying to win the game and confident to win the game.”
The Brex wrap up their regular season against the host Sendai 89ers on Saturday and Sunday.
“We want to make sure everyone’s healthy,” Rossiter said. “That’s the most important thing, but we are trying to win both those games. There’s no letup.”
Jets 79, Northern Happinets 76
In Chiba, Yuki Togashi sparked the Jets with 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting and former NBA center Hilton Armstrong had 18 points and nine rebounds against Akita.
Tyler Stone added 17 points for the Jets (42-16) and Michael Parker provided 10 points and seven boards.
Chiba capitalized on trips to the free-throw line, making 22 of 24 shots.
Leo Lyons led the Northern Happinets (18-40) with 25 points and 13 rebounds. Seiya Ando and Shigehiro Taguchi scored 18 and 11 points, respectively. Takuya Nakayama finished with 10 points.
Brave Thunders 91, Grouses 70
In Toyama, Nick Fazekas’ 23-point, 17-rebound effort and Naoto Tsuji’s electrifying 20-point game helped carry Kawasaki past the hosts.
Tsuji made 6 of 10 3-point shots in the rout. Teammate Takumi Hasegawa scored 10 points and the Brave Thunders (48-10) had seven players finish with two or more assists. Yuma Fujii contributed 14 points and six assists.
The hot-shooting visitors made 11 of 25 3s and shot 27 of 45 from inside the arc.
Sam Willard had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Drew Viney scored 16 points for Toyama (17-41). Yu Okada added 13 points. Naoki Uto handed out four assists.
Sunrockers 93, Albirex BB 85
In Tokyo, Shibuya outscored the visitors 30-16 in the third quarter to secure the win.
Robert Sacre delivered a 25-point performance for the Sunrockers (31-27) and R.T. Guinn had 17 points, including five 3-pointers, and eight boards. Aki Chambers added 14 points and 10 rebounds and Ira Brown had 13 points and five assists, while Takashi Ito and Leo Vendrame contributed nine and eight points, respectively.
Clint Chapman had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Albirex (25-33) and Davante Gardner scored 19 points. Kei Igarashi had a 10-point outing and Shunki Hatakeyama and Tenyoku You each scored nine points for Niigata.
Levanga 92, 89ers 70
In Sapporo, the hosts used balanced scoring and a nine-assist performance by Yoshitake Matsushima to hammer Sendai.
Seven Hokkaido players scored in double figures, including Daniel Miller and Jahmar Thorpe (13 points apiece) and Daisuke Noguchi and Takanobu Nishikawa (both with 12). Ryota Sakurai handed out five assists for the Levanga (23-35).
Takehiko Shimura scored 15 points for the 89ers (13-45). Wendell White and Greg Mangano both had 13 points and Masaharu Kataoka added 11. Mangano grabbed 15 rebounds.
Diamond Dolphins 69, Golden Kings 62
In Nagoya, Justin Burrell scored 18 points and Takaya Sasayama had 14 with four assists in a win over Ryukyu.
Seiya Funyu chipped in with 11 points, Jerome Tillman had seven with 13 rebounds and Taito Nakahigashi scored eight points for the Diamond Dolphins (25-33).
Naoki Tashiro sparked the Golden Kings with 16 points and Ryuichi Kishimoto had 15. Lamont Hamilton added 11 points and Anthony McHenry corralled 10 rebounds for Ryukyu (27-31).
Lakestars 88, Evessa 81
In Osaka, Julian Mavunga had 25 points and Craig Brackins notched a double-double (22 points, 14 rebounds) as Shiga prevailed against the hosts.
Tomonobu Hasegawa contributed 16 points, canning a trio of 3-pointers, while Narito Namizato supplied 12 points and five assists for the Lakestars (19-39).
Xavier Gibson finished with 17 points and 10 boards and Josh Harrellson scored 16 points and pulled down 17 rebounds for the Evessa (28-30). Shinnosuke Negoro added 12 points. Takuya Hashimoto and Hiroyuki Kinoshita both dished out four assists.
Osaka made 9 of 16 free throws.
NeoPhoenix 77, B-Corsairs 61
In Yokohama, Olu Ashaolu had 15 points and Atsuya Ota and Josh Childress both had 14 to lead San-en past the B-Corsairs.
Robert Dozier contributed 10 points and nine boards for the NeoPhoenix (32-26). Childress pulled down 10 rebounds.
Takuya Kawamura had 16 points and five assists for Yokohama (16-42) and Jeff Parmer scored 12 points.
SeaHorses 90, Hannaryz 85
In Kyoto, Makoto Hiejima’s 21-point performance and Gavin Edwards’ double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds) provided a spark for Mikawa against the hosts.
Kosuke Kanamaru scored 12 points and Ryoma Hashimoto had 11 for the SeaHorses (46-12).
Mo Charlo led the Hannaryz with 29 points, draining 5 of 10 3s. Kevin Kotzur had 20 points and 10 boards and Hayato Kawashima scored nine points, Genki Kojima dished out five assists for Kyoto (25-33).
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.