Basketball / B. League

NeoPhoenix beat B-Corsairs to earn series split

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Statistical similarities marked the first half of Sunday’s Yokohama B-Corsairs-San-en NeoPhoenix series finale.

The second half was a somewhat different story.

The NeoPhoenix pulled away in the third quarter, and then the B-Corsairs made a valiant comeback in the fourth quarter, but ran out of time to overtake the visitors.

San-en recorded a 76-70 victory, earning a two-game series split at Yokohama International Swimming Pool.

Former Portland State big man Scott Morrison paced the NeoPhoenix with 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting and 10 rebounds. Swingman Cartier Martin followed with 14 points and seven rebounds and sharpshooter Shuto Tawatari pumped in 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting with three assists and two steals against his younger brother Ryo’s team. Offensive quarterback Tatsuya Suzuki finished with 10 points and nine assists and Atsuya Ota and Hayato Kawashima each scored nine points.

San-en (6-7) outclassed the hosts in the third quarter, putting 28 points on the board and holding them to 14.

That put the B-Corsairs in a 67-49 hole entering the final stanza.

NeoPhoenix coach Hiroki Fujita credited his team for controlling the tempo in the rematch.

“We played our game. We played our pace. We played our style,” Fujita said.

But to their credit, the hosts ratcheted up the intensity level and played at a higher level of consistency over the final 10 minutes. Shooting guard Jotaro Mitsuda scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, and former NBA center Hasheem Thabeet, who picked up his third foul in the first quarter and didn’t return until the last period, had all eight of his points in the quarter.

Thabeet finished with nine rebounds (six in the fourth quarter, including five defensive boards) and four blocks (two in the final period).

After 45 seconds elapsed in the fourth quarter, Yokohama (3-10) trailed 69-49, when Kawashima canned a jumper from the left wing. And Martin then displayed his NBA athleticism, nailing a floater from the right baseline to make it 71-51.

With 4:08 left in the game, Martin, who has played for six NBA teams, converted the first of two free-throw attempts, giving San-en a commanding 74-57 lead.

B-Corsairs coach Satoru Furuta’s club chipped away at the lead, with Mitsuda converting a layup, courtesy of a nice pass from Thabeet, a few seconds later. A few possessions later, Mitsuda added a jumper to trim the lead to 75-62.

Thabeet hooked up with guard Masashi Hosoya, who finished with seven points and six assists, for a highlight reel play with 1:27 remaining. The 221-cm native of Tanzania caught a high lob from Hosoya and slammed the ball through the net to the delight of the announced crowd of 2,703, which was mostly filled with B-Corsairs supporters. It was a well-orchestrated alley-oop.

And then Thabeet sank the subsequent free throw to slice the deficit to 75-65.

Jeff Parmer, who led Yokohama with 17 points and 11 rebounds and handed out six assists, stepped to the line with 54.8 seconds left. He made the first shot, then missed the second, and Thabeet scooped up the loose-ball rebound, then scored on a putback, making it 75-68. Suddenly, an improbably Yokohama comeback seemed possible.

Thabeet was fouled on the play by Morrison, but missed the shot with 52.8 ticks left on the clock.

With San-en playing to milk the clock and limit the red-hot B-Corsairs chances down the stretch, NeoPhoenix players used nearly all of the 24-second clock on its next possession before newcomer Lawrence “Trend” Blackledge, a veteran forward on several Japan pro teams, missed a long jumper.

Takuya Kawamura misfired on a 3-pointer as the ball ricocheted off the front of the rim with 20 seconds to play.

Morrison scored San-en’s final point at the line, sinking the first attempt of two with 16.2 seconds left. Thabeet grabbed the defensive rebound, then turned the ball over, with his pass winding up in Shuto Tawatari’s hands.

Kawamura stole the ball from the NeoPhoenix’s Shinnosuke Oishi with 3 seconds remaining, and Hosoya scored a layup at the buzzer.

Mitsuda said his team’s determined effort in practice is paying off, noting Saturday’s 69-65 win as an example of the team making improvements. But he said the B-Corsairs “must practice more and more” to keep getting better.

San-en led 20-15 after the first quarter and 39-35 at halftime.

Trailing 15-2 at the outset of the game, Yokohama clawed its way back into the game. Masayuki Kabaya’s layup with 5 seconds to play in the first quarter accounted for the final points of the opening stanza. The hosts closed out the quarter on a 9-2 run.

A dynamic one-two punch carried San-en in the early going. Morrison (11 points, 4-for-4 from the floor, 3 of 4 at the line) and Martin (2-for-2 on 3s, 3 of 3 on free throws) had all 20 of the NeoPhoenix’s first-quarter points. Suzuki set the tone for the team’s offense with six assists in the period.

The B-Corsairs suited up two foreign players; the NeoPhoenix played three. San-en plans to make a roster addition sometime within the next few weeks to replace injured big man Jason Washburn, who only appeared in four games.

After the game, Furuta admitted that Thabeet’s foul trouble had an impact on the game.

But Furuta said that the B-Corsairs responded to adversity after falling behind by as many as 20 points in the second half.

One key to the comeback, he said, was limiting their number of turnovers (seven) while amassing 27 assists.

Furuta acknowledged he was pleased his team staged a solid rally at the end, but wasn’t shy about pointing out that “we need (to play) better team defense.” That admission came in response to a reporter’s questions about the pivotal third quarter.

Golden Kings 98, Levanga 71

In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, the hot-shooting hosts put points on the board in a hurry in a bounce-back triumph over Hokkaido.

The Golden Kings outscored the visitors 32-14 in the second quarter and led 56-31 at halftime.

Ryukyu (8-5) canned 15 of 25 3s and shot even better from inside the arc (65.7 percent, or 23 of 35).

University of Rhode Island alum Hassan Martin scored 23 points, including three dunks, and raked in 10 rebounds for the hosts. Ryuichi Kishimoto poured in 18 points, making all three of his 3-point attempts. Naoki Tashiro had 13 points and Yutaro Suda scored 11, finishing 3-for-3 from long range. Ira Brown dished out six assists, while Kohei Ninomiya chipped in with seven points and five assists.

For the Levanga (8-5), Marc Trasolini notched a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Daisuke Noguchi contributed 16 points. Daniel Miller and Asahi Tajima added eight points apiece and Ryota Sakurai supplied six assists.

Hokkaido routed Ryukyu 77-51 in Saturday’s series opener.

Grouses 81, Albirex BB 66

In Toyama, the hosts jumped out to a 17-6 lead by the end of the first quarter and routed Niigata to salvage a series split.

Yuto Otsuka, Sam Willard and Dexter Pittman all had 14-point outings for the Grouses (5-8). Yuki Ueta scored 11 points and Drew Viney provided 10 points and six assists.

Otsuka buried 4 of 9 3-point shots. Willard and Pittman both hauled in nine rebounds.

The Albirex increased their scoring output from six points in the opening stanza to 13, 20 and 27 over the final three periods, but it wasn’t enough.

Davante Gardner paced Niigata (6-7) with 22 points and seven rebounds. Austin Dufault had 11 points and Shunki Hatakeyama contributed eight points and five assists. Yuichi Ikeda also scored eight points.

Lakestars 77, Hannaryz 68

In Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture, free-throw shooting played a pivotal role in the hosts’ second victory in as many days.

The Lakestars (6-7) sank 14 of 18 foul shots; the Hannaryz made 20 of 32.

Narito Namizato and Yusuke Karino scored 16 points apiece for Shiga. Omar Samhan added 13 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.

Namizato, the league’s No. 3 passer (6.3 assists per game), dished out seven assists.

Shiga outscored Kyoto 46-29 after halftime.

Julian Mavunga led the Hannaryz (7-6) with 18 points and collected seven rebounds. Joshua Smith had 12 points and nine boards and Yusuke Okada and Shingo Utsumi both scored nine points.

Brex 77, Jets 72

In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, the Brex finished strong, dominating the fourth quarter to secure a weekend split with Chiba.

Tochigi trailed 55-50 after three quarters, then outscored the visitors 27-17 the rest of the way.

Cedric Bozeman led the Brex (4-9) with 16 points along with six assists, two steals and two blocks. Shuhei Kitagawa added 15 points, including 3 of 6 on 3s. Andrew Naymick finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and frontcourt mate Kosuke Takeuchi had 10 points and 17 rebounds, with Yuta Tabuse matching Takeuchi’s scoring total.

Jets guard Yuki Togashi scored 22 points. He shot 4 of 12 from beyond the arc and turned the ball over five times. Gavin Edwards finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds and Michael Parker also posted a double-double (13 points, 10 boards).

The Jets won the series opener 76-69.

B2 update

Here are the results of Sunday’s games:

89ers 108, Dragonflies 89

Bambitious 68, Wat’s 65

Firebonds 76, Northern Happinets 64

Crane Thunders 90, Earthfriends 82

Samuraiz 79, Big Bulls 48

Robots 64, Brave Warriors 56