Rising star Daiki Tanaka inspires Alvark to win over Brex

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Daiki Tanaka isn’t a secret offensive weapon for the Alvark Tokyo.

He is a potent force for his team at both ends of the floor, and one of the key reasons the Alvark are one of the top title contenders this season.

The rising star’s offensive talents were on full display over the weekend. He matched his season high with 10 assists on Saturday. On Sunday, in Tokyo’s rematch with the defending champion Tochigi Brex, Tanaka, a shooting guard, scored a game-high 20 points as the Alvark defeated the Brex 75-67 before a festive crowd of 3,028 at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi.

Yes, Tanaka made some key shots from the floor (4 of 10) to go along with four rebounds, three assists and three big defensive plays — two steals and a block.

He was also a symbol of poise and efficiency when the game clock stopped, too, converting 10 of 10 foul shots.

And the 26-year-old continues to enhance his reputation as one of the younger generation’s best players in Japan. He’s now averaging 14.5 points, 5.2 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 19 games.

After the team wrapped up its fourth consecutive victory, Alvark coach Luka Pavicevic reflected on the impact that Tanaka made over the weekend.

“Daiki is our main hitter,” Pavicevic told reporters, “and it depends on what the defense do. If the defense help him, he makes assists. If the defense don’t help much on him, he’s trying to score.

“He’s doing what the main hitter in a team does: creating offensive opportunities for his team. He has to be aggressive, but at the end of the day, he’s going to score or build for others. It depends on how the defense is reacting on our offense.”

Alex Kirk added 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the East Division-leading Alvark (19-4). Starting point guard Seiya Ando scored 12 points and Yudai Baba came off the bench and energized Tokyo with nine points, four assists and four steals. Joji Takeuchi added seven points and Brendan Lane and Jawad Williams both scored five.

Tokyo went to the line for 32 free-throw attempts, with the Alvark making 27 of them. Tochigi was 4 of 8 on foul shots.

Ryan Rossiter paced the Brex (10-13) with 17 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. Cedric Bozeman had 13 points and Seiji Ikargua scored 12. Yusuke Endo and Yuta Tabuse finished with seven and six points, respectively.

Said Rossiter: “We just beat ourselves. We just didn’t execute down the stretch.”

Speaking about the Alvark, Rossiter called them a “well-coached, disciplined team.”

“We’re not happy (about losing both games),” he added. “We thought we could’ve won both.”

The Alvark triumphed 86-69 on Saturday.

Tanaka summed up Sunday’s victory as a “good feeling.” He noted the team’s good defensive performance was fueled by intensity.

Ando credited his team with making key hustle plays and “all game (making) strong plays.”

The Alark led 16-15 after one quarter and trailed 31-29 at halftime. Their biggest lead of the game was a 10-point cushion. Tochigi kept coming back but couldn’t get over the hump in the second half.

The Alvark used a 10-0 spurt to take a 51-44 lead on a Zack Baranski free throw with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Tochigi pulled within 53-52, 58-56 and 60-58, but trailed throughout the final 10 minutes.

The Brex kept things interesting, though, down the stretch.

Rossiter buried a 3 from the left baseline to cut the lead to 69-61 with 1:34 remaining.

Twenty seconds later, Rossiter attempted another 3 from the right corner. Nothing but net. The timely basket, with an assist from Endo, made it 69-64.

The Alvark called a timeout.

Tanaka missed his next shot. Then he made a steal, and Baba soared through the air for a dunk attempt. He missed it. Kirk grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled with 40.3 ticks on the clock. Kirk hit two free throws, extending the lead to 71-64.

Brex veteran Shuhei Kitagawa’s 3 from the left wing was off the mark, and Tanaka was sent to the charity stripe after getting fouled while securing the defensive rebound.

Tanaka pushed the lead to 73-64 before Endo buried a baseline 3.

With 16.8 seconds left, Kirk stepped to the line once more and converted two shots, accounting for the game’s final points.

The Brex ran out of time to stage a miracle comeback, with Endo turning it over (the team’s 14th and final miscue), and Tanaka, fittingly, making a steal on the final big play of the game.

“I thought we played hard,” said Bozeman, a UCLA alum. “We gave ourselves a chance to win, but we came up a little short. A few mistakes at the end cost us, so we’ve got to regroup and bounce back on Wednesday (against the visiting Sunrockers Shibuya).”

Tochigi coach Ryuzo Anzai, who began the season as then-bench boss Kenji Hasegawa’s assistant, said his team is a work in progress, but commended his players for their effort. “They truly tried their best,” Anzai commented, adding, “we were in the game until the end today.”

To elevate the team, he added, playing strong defense “for all 40 minutes” is the top challenge he’s issued to his players.

Conversely, with the victory in the books, Pavicevic offered a glimpse into the satisfaction that the victory provided for his team.

“What a tough game today,” he said. “I think everybody could enjoy the battle of two strong teams.”

Moments later, he added: “In this game, as in yesterday’s game, the key to win was on our defensive end. Early in the first quarter and the last minute of the game, maybe we got some points easily.

“In the first quarter, we gave up four rebounds to Rossiter, and we turned the ball over, and then they had, I think, eight or 10 transition points. And in the last minute, once the speed of the last minute down by 10, Tochigi scored three 3s. Other than that, I would like to state that my team played strong, intense and solid defense most of the time, which was the main reason for us to build the victory on both days.”

The Alvark travel to play the rival Kawasai Brave Thunders on Wednesday, when all 18 B1 teams are in action. The two-game series format returns next weekend.

Lakestars 96, Levanga 93 (OT)

In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, D’or Fischer’s 22-point, 15-rebound, three-block performance and Narito Namizato’s 17 points and 11 assists helped lead Shiga to a bounce-back triumph in overtime over Hokkaido.

Yusuke Karino, who canned 5 of 8 3s, added 19 points for Shiga (10-13) and Tomonobu Hasegawa sank 4 of 8 long-range shots in a 14-point outing. Faye Samba made 8 of 10 shots from the floor in a 16-point game and pulled down six rebounds.

The Lakestars converted 62.2 percent of their 2-point attempts.

Marc Trasolini paced the Levanga (12-11) with 31 points and added nine rebounds and six assists. Daniel Miller had 13 points and 17 boards and Kohei Sekino finished with 14 points, while Asahi Tajima contributed 10 points and nine assists.

B-Corsairs 66, Grouses 64

In Toyama, Jeff Parmer made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Yokohama earned its second weekend victory over the hosts.

Naoki Uto had given the Grouses a 64-63 lead on a jumper with 31 seconds remaining, prompting the B-Corsairs to call a timeout and draw up a play.

Takuya Kawamura paced the B-Corsairs (6-17) with 16 points and dished five assists. Ryo Tawatari and William McDonald had 10 and nine points, respectively, with McDonald corralling seven rebounds. Parmer finished with eight points. Masashi Hosoya and Jotaro Mitsuda each had seven points.

Mitsuda provided four assists. Hosoya helped the defense with three steals.

Yokohama trailed 36-22 at halftime.

Toyama made 3 of 9 free throws in the series finale.

Uto had 17 points and eight assists and teammate Sam Willard scored 15 points, while former NBA center Dexter Pittman added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Sunrockers 92, Evessa 58

In Osaka, Shibuya raced out to a 34-15 lead after one quarter and took a 55-30 advantage into the second half en route to its second victory in as many days over the hosts.

Leo Vendrame scored a season-high 26 points, including 7 of 7 from inside the 3-point arc, for the Sunrockers (16-7). Reserve forward Jahmar Thorpe poured in 16 points and collected seven rebounds, Robert Sacre posted a double-double (11 points, 10 boards), Josh Harrellson scored 11 points and Morihisa Yamauchi supplied seven points and seven assists.

Soichiro Fujitaka and Shinnosuke Negoro had 15 points apiece for Osaka (6-17).

Diamond Dolphins 85, Susanoo Magic 70

In Nagoya, Takaya Sasayama scored 17 points to spearhead a balanced offensive attack as the hosts defeated Shimane for the second day in a row.

Sasayama doled out six assists, sharing the team lead with Yoshiaki Fujinaga.

Nagoya (10-13) led 50-33 at halftime.

For the Diamond Dolphins, Taito Nakahigashi had 14 points and seven boards and Shuto Ando sank 4 of 5 3s in a 13-point outing. Tenketsu Harimoto and Craig Brackins scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Shota Watanabe had 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting and Josh Scott contributed 15 points, 10 boards and six assists for the struggling Susanoo Magic (5-18). Garrett Stutz had 11 points and Takuya Soma added 10 points and six assists.

Brave Thunders 78, Jets 70

In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, reigning league MVP Nick Fazekas delivered a gutsy 31-point, 17-rebound, four-assist, three-steal, one-block performance as Kawasaki salvaged a series split with the hosts.

The Brave Thunders (13-10) outrebounded Chiba 46-27, getting 11 boards from Josh Davis, including nine off the offensive glass.

Naoto Tsuji scored 11 points and handed out eight assists for the visitors, while Takahiro Kurihara scored nine points.

The Jets’ Gavin Edwards had 21 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. Ryumo Ono scored 15 points and Yuki Togashi chipped in with 13 points and eight assists.

Golden Kings 89, Storks 75

In Okinawa City, Ryukyu scored points in a hurry in a hurry in the opening quarter and cruised past Nishinomiya for its 11th straight win.

Sharpshooter Ryuichi Kishimoto drained 6 of 8 3s in an electrifying 23-point effort for the hosts, and Hassan Martin, who converted 9 of 11 shots, sparked the Golden Kings with 20 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and a block.

The Golden Kings led 31-13 after one quarter.

Ira Brown finished with 13 points, seven boards and five assists for Ryukyu (18-5) and Takumi Ishizaki had 11 points and three assists in13-plus minutes.

The Kings shot 65.6 percent from 2-point range.

Noriaki Dohara and Draelon Burns scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, for the Storks (5-18) and Connor Lammert had 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Burns also handed out six assists.

SeaHorses 94, Albirex BB 78

In Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, Mikawa dominated the third quarter to seal the victory over Niigata, completing a weekend sweep.

Outscoring the visitors 28-14 in the third, the SeaHorses took a 72-57 lead into the final stanza.

Former Vancouver Grizzlies player J.R. Sakuragi led the hosts with 20 points, snared 11 rebonds and made 8 of 11 shots from the floor. Makoto Hiejima sparked Mikawa (20-3) with 18 points and six assists, canning 3 of 3 3-point attempts. Isaac Butts added 11 points and 11 boards and frontcourt mate Daniel Orton, a first-round pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, provided 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, matching his season-high totals in assists.

Shunki Hatakeyama scored 24 points for the Albirex (9-14) and Davante Gardner put 14 points on the board with seven rebounds and four assists. Jared Berggren had 12 points and eight boards and Kei Igarashi added 11 points and dished out four assists.

Second-division update

Here are the results of Sunday’s B2 games:

Rizing Zephyr 95, Earthfriends 40

Volters 87, Fighting Eagles 77

Firebonds 95, Orange Vikings 75

Bambitious 73, Big Bulls 58

Wyverns 85, Samuraiz 75

Northern Happinets 76, Dragonflies 69

Brave Warriors 81, 89ers 58

Crane Thunders 102, Wat’s 88

Robots 66, Five Arrows 58