KAWASAKI – For the Kawasaki Brave Thunders and Alvark Tokyo, bonus play was the high-pressure result of Saturday’s thrilling B. League Championship semifinal contest at Todoroki Arena.
Forty minutes, aka the regularly scheduled Game 2, was not enough time to determine which team would advance to next Saturday’s title game at Yoyogi National Gymnasium against the Tochigi Brex-SeaHorses Mikawa series winner (that series will be decided on Sunday). The Alvark’s 78-77 win forced the tiebreaker.
And so it came down to 10 additional minutes, a quirky relic of the now-disbanded bj-league to complete the proceedings at Todoroki Arena before 4,608 spectators. It was labeled Game 3, but really served as a continuation of the intense second game, which featured 11 ties and 10 lead changes and no lead greater than six points.
Kawasaki’s offense produced more baskets in the mini-game en route to a 26-18 triumph that extended their season by one more weekend.
Tokyo’s stellar campaign came to an abrupt end.
Nick Fazekas and frontcourt mate Ryan Spangler combined for 22 of the hosts’ 26 points in the tiebreaker, with Fazekas putting a dozen on the board and atoning for a pair of missed free throws toward the end of Game 2.
Daiki Tanaka had seven points for Tokyo (47-18), Joji Takeuchi scored six and Diante Garrett had five.
“I kind of gave it away myself with those (missed) free throws in the second game,” said Fazekas, a former NBA and University of Nevada big man.
He had this to say about Game 3: “I came out and played hard and made some shots . . . and we won.”
Entering the tiebreaker, it was time, Fazekas declared, “to turn the switch . . . go back and redeem yourself.”
After winning the final NBL crown last season, the Brave Thunders have an opportunity to collect a second consecutive league title in the inaugural B. League campaign.
Tanaka sank a 3 and a running scoop shot to give the Alvark a 5-0 lead to start the mini-game.
But the hosts displayed resilience and poise. Fazekas followed with back-to-back layups on Brave Thunders possessions, the second of which included a foul shot that he missed.
Kawasaki bench boss Takuya Kita later said his team responded to the pressure, with defense stepping up in crunch time in a hard-fought game.
Garrett scored on a layup to give the visitors a 9-6 lead. Spangler then made an inside hoop at the other end with just over a minute left in the first 5-minute period of the mini-game. Takeuchi’s close-range jumper increased the Tokyo advantage to 11-8 shortly before the end of the opening five minutes.
Indeed, this razor-thin point margin was indicative of the do-or-die nature of the tiebreaker.
Ryusei Shinoyama drove the lane, got fouled and sank two free throws to pull the Brave Thunders (53-12) to within 11-10 with 4:51 left in the second period.
Kawasaki then forced a 24-second violation with 3:24 to go.
With 3:11 left, Fazekas went to the line and made two shots as Kawasaki took a 14-13 lead.
A Fazekas hook shot from the right baseline extended the top seed’s lead to 18-13, and Tokyo called a timeout with 1:57 left.
Spangler’s layup capped a 10-0 spurt that put the hosts in front 20-13.
Thus, Kawasaki got hot at the most opportune time.
Garrett halted the big run with a 3-pointer with 1:07 left.
Spangler added more late heroics with a tip-in and a layup.
“It was an excellent game,” Kita said, adding that “Tokyo played at a high level.”
He added that home-court advantage was a big deal for his club.
Garrett lamented the way his team’s season ended, but described it as “a fun day of basketball.”
“It happened, it’s in the rules,” he continued, summing up the tiebreaker.
Once the tiebreaker ended, Garrett expressed the view that the Alvark “guys left it (all) on the floor and played their hearts out.”
Appropriately enough, Fazekas, the team’s go-to scorer, had the final points, making two free throws with 5.9 seconds left.
Alvark coach Takuma Ito praised his players for their effort this season, saying they gave their all, including on Saturday.
“We tried our best,” he said moments after the disappointment of defeat ushered in the team’s long offseason.
Jeff Ayres was asked about the tiebreaker format and responded by calling it “strange.”
“I haven’t played anything like that before,” Ayres said.
“It’s just kind of unfortunate that for any of the teams the third game is . . . you’ve played nine, 10 months, 60-something games over that time, to put the whole season on 10 minutes. It seems a little unfair. I hope it’s something that the league will look at, and maybe add a full game like a day later, two days later, or whatever. That 10-minute third game is a little different.”
In Game 2, Tokyo took its first lead of the fourth quarter (56-55) on a Garrett layup with about 8:10 left.
A Yuma Fujii 3-pointer raised the already rowdy crowd’s cheers and chants, giving his team a 61-58 advantage with just under 7 minutes remaining.
A Fazekas slam dunk made it 63-60, and following a missed 3-point attempt by Garrett, Shinoyama pushed the lead to five on a jumper. The Alvark answered with Garrett and Trent Plaisted teaming up for an alley-oop, the latter jamming the ball through the cylinder before an official timeout with 4:50 left. That made it 65-62.
Moments later with Tokyo trailing by five, Garrett brought his team back within two (67-65) on a 3 from the right wing.
And Tanaka buried a 3 to trim the hosts’ lead to 69-68 with about 3 minutes left.
Garrett canned a fadeaway 3-pointer from the right side to pull his team to within 77-75 with 23 ticks left on the fourth-quarter clock.
Fazekas missed a pair of foul shots with 22.3 seconds left.
And what was going through Fazekas’ mind at the foul line?
“I was just trying to focus as best as I could,” Fazekas said later.
“I thought the first one felt good. The second one didn’t feel as good.”
He made 8 of 11 free throws in Game 2, insisting he missed the final two “at the wrong time.”
It gave the Alvark a golden opportunity. With Garrett leading the offense, the veteran surveyed the landscape and dished the ball out on the perimeter to Ayres, who sank a dagger, a 3 from the left wing that gave his club a 78-77 lead with 12.5 seconds remaining.
An airball by Naoto Tsuji ended Game 2.
With a 15-minute break before the mini-game tiebreaker, excited Alvark fans shouted “Let’s Go Tokyo!,” clapping and stomping their feet.
Garrett had 22 points, seven assists and three steals and Ayres scored 20 and collected eight rebounds. Tanaka had 12 points, while Joji Takeuchi contributed nine points and 10 boards.
Ito paid tribute to Garrett during the post-series news conference.
“Diante Garrett really gave us a big boost this season,” the coach told reporters.
Shinoyama scored 18 points, Fazekas also had 18 with 13 rebounds.
Tsuji poured in 14 and Spangler had 10 points and corralled eight boards.
It was a frenzied pace to close out the third quarter.
For the Brave Thunders, a Takahiro Kurihara jumper put them back in front 52-50 in the closing minute of the quarter, with an Ayres spot-up J tying the score once again at 52-52 for the final points of the quarter.
In the second half, Ayres said, “I think we were more aggressive, especially in the post.”
Entering the fourth, Tokyo was 13-for-23 on foul shots and had shot 38.6 percent from the field. Kawasaki had made 12 of 15 free throws and 44.2 percent of its shots from the field. At that point, the hosts had 10 turnovers and three assists; Tokyo had seven and seven.
Fazekas had eight of Kawasaki’s 18 first-quarter points. He stayed busy inside, hauling in six rebounds.
Early in the second quarter, Kengo Nomoto gave the Brave Thunders a 22-17 lead on a right-side jumper that bounced high off the cylinder before falling through.
The Alvark ended the half leading 28-27, but squandering chances to cushion the lead due to 5-for-13 free-throw shooting in the half.
Fazekas was the lone player from either team to reach double digits in points (11) before intermission.
The hosts shot 37 percent from the field in the first half; the Alvark shot 35.7.
Brex 83, SeaHorses 68
In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, the second-seeded hosts jumped out to a 41-29 halftime lead and cruised to a victory over Mikawa.
Balanced scoring and pinpoint passing ignited the Brex offense. They had 27 assists in Game 1 and 11 turnovers.
Ryan Rossiter led Tochigi with 20 points, pulled down eight boards and handed out seven assists, while Jeff Gibbs had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Kosuke Takeuchi scored 12 points, Yusuke Endo had 11. Hironori Watanabe finished with nine points and five assists, Takatoshi Furukawa scored eight points and Yuta Tabuse provided four assists and two steals.
For the SeaHorses, Gavin Edwards scored 26 points, Makoto Hiejima had 11 and J.R. Sakuragi eight.
The Brex led 83-63 with 1:12 to play in the series opener.
Game 2 is on Sunday, and if necessary, a 10-minute Game 3 (tiebreaker).
Storks 78, Susanoo Magic 53
In Tokyo, Nishinomiya coach Kensaku Tennichi’s team rode a dominant third quarter to lock up momentum and captured the title by routing Shiminane.
The Storks led 39-28 at halftime, then outscored the Susanoo Magic 24-6 in the pivotal third quarter.
Naoki Tani had 19 points and Draelon Burns and Noriaki Douhara both scored 17 for Nishinomiya, with Larry Owens contributing eight points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The Storks outrebounded their foe 46-43 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
Nishinomiya held Shimane to 12-for-37 shooting from inside the arc.
Josh Davis had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Magic. Wayne
Marshall scored 11 and corralled nine rebounds, with Keisuke Takabatake and Edward Yamamoto both scoring eight points.
Both teams will compete in the top flight last season, having already earned promotion.
Shimane went 53-11 in the regular season and playoffs; Nishinomiya went 46-17.
For Tennichi, the win sealed his fourth title as a pro coach. He guided the Osaka Evessa to a three-peat in the bj-league’s first three
seasons, starting in 2005-06.
Dragonflies 78, Crane Thunders 65
In Tokyo, Hiroshima held off Gunma to secure another shot at earning promotion to the top flight.
The Dragonflies will play against Toyama Grouses on May 28, with the winner booking a spot in B1 next season. The Grouses defeated the B-Corsairs 79-71 on Friday to book its place in next week’s game.
Daniel Dillon paced Hiroshima with 18 points, adding six rebounds and four assists for good measure. Hiromu Kitagawa had 14 points and Ataru Sakata nine.
Crane Thunders forward Thomas Kennedy scored 35 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Masashi Obuchi had 12 points and four assists and Daisuke Umetsu contributed seven points for Gunma.
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