FUNABASHI, CHIBA PREF. – In a dazzling treat for basketball fans, the Chiba Jets Funabashi made a few more key plays down the stretch to seal an entertaining victory over the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins on Sunday.
The Jets’ 88-85 Christmas Eve matinee triumph had a little bit of everything.
There was the in-the-post excellence of power forward Gavin Edwards (28 points on 12-for-15 shooting). His footwork shot-making skills, including hook shots and three powerful dunks, provided a bold reminder of the way a quality post player can impact a game. The UConn alum is fourth in the B. League top flight in scoring (17.2 points per game).
There was spitfire guard Yuki Togashi delivering another game of highlight reel plays, including a step-back, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half. With chants of “Toga” throughout the game spurring him on, the Jets star didn’t disappoint the home fans. Togashi lit up the scoreboard for 24 points and dished out eight assists.
The 206-cm Edwards and Togashi were the big one-two punch for Chiba (19-7) at Funabashi Arena before a packed house of 5,190 spectators. On this day, their teammates chipped in, but didn’t disrupt the rhythm that found the big fellow or the lightning-quick guard making the bulk of the shots.
Leo Lyons came off the bench and scored nine points for the Jets, who trailed 43-39 at halftime. Michael Parker and Aki Chambers had eight and seven points, respectively, and Kosuke Ishii added five points. Ryumo Ono, who had 23 points in the series opener (a 78-72 Jets victory), had a quiet offensive game, finishing with two points on 1-for-4 shooting. Ono dished out four assists. Ishii, meanwhile, was the team leader in steals (three).
With Edwards leading the way, Chiba outscored Nagoya 46-30 in the paint.
The Diamond Dolphins fell short in the end, but received spirited performances from several players. Justin Burrell finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Jerome Tillman poured in 13 points, scoring all of them in the second quarter, when he heated up in a hurry, including a pair of 3-pointers. Craig Brackins added 12 points, Tenketsu Harimoto and Takaya Sasayama had 10 apiece and Shuto Ando scored nine. Sasayama dished out six assists.
Asked about the matchup of two former Big East Conference standouts, who competed against one another in college, Edwards admitted there’s pride on the line when facing Burrell, a former St. John’s University standout.
“It’s always a battle with the old Big East guy,” Edwards said. “There’s definitely some history there, for sure. We both have great mutual respect for each other. It’s always great to play against somebody who you’ve kind of grown in the game with and played against all these years, It’s definitely a good battle, but it’s like a good rivalry.”
Edwards credited his teammates for helping him have a banner performance in the series finale. But he also noted that the offense clicked because of the team’s overall effectiveness.
“It’s just kind of executing to get somebody open just because it’s very difficult to focus on one person and try to get them the ball and try to force feed it, because then it makes it easy on the defense,” Edwards said.” So it’s just executing our offense to make it to where if I’m not open and Yuki’s open or Kosuke or somebody else . . . it kind of makes the defense choose, and then if I happen to be the one a high percentage of the time, then they just give me the ball in the right spots.”
In the third quarter, the Diamond Dolphins maintained their lead. A Sasayama 3-pointer quickly increased the lead to 50-42 at the 7:59 mark. They extended their advantage to 67-58 entering the fourth quarter. By that point, Burrell had 13 points and 13 boards.
In the final stanza, Lyons nailed a go-ahead jumper with 3:19 left to put the Jets in front 78-76. Moments before, they trailed 70-58 after Brackins sank a 3-pointer. An 8-0 spurt pulled Chiba within 70-66, and then they pulled ahead for good down the stretch.
Edwards said he thought his team was a bit lackadaisical at the outset of the first and third quarters. “. . . And then we kind of fought our way back, and obviously got on top at the end in the fourth,” he added. “But I think we just need to find a way to start off as strong as we play into the latter half of each half.”
With two wins in the books over the weekend — indeed, a big Christmas gift for the team’s rowdy fans — Edwards described them as “huge because it’s our first home sweep (of the season) and I know the fans have really been looking forward to that because we have some of the best fans in the league. . . . I think it’s great to be able to win two games in a row at home for them.”
Jets coach Atsushi Ono didn’t appear pleased when he was asked about his team’s third-quarter defense. In that 10-minute span, Nagoya made 6 of 7 3-point shots. But he said that his team regained its focus and played stronger in the final quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, we (also) improved our offensive execution,” the coach remarked, adding that Togashi, who scored nine fourth-quarter points, made some key shots in the last period.
Nagoya bench boss Shingo Kajiyama described it as a “tough game” and credited his foe for being the more consistent team in the decisive fourth quarter.
“Chiba played wonderful (basketball) in the fourth quarter, but we played hard until the end,” Kajiyama said.
Burrell finished the weekend with two dynamic offensive games, including a 28-point performance in his team’s 78-72 loss on Saturday.
Burrell sank a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, cutting the hosts’ lead to 88-85 and time ran out on the Diamond Dolphins’ comeback hopes.
Asked about Jets fans cheering him on, the ex-Chiba standout responded by saying, “Unfortunately, I didn’t. When you get into pretty much a great game like that from both teams, it’s hard to hear the fans. I truly appreciate it, but I apologize I didn’t hear it.”
The final outcome came down a number of factors, Burrell said.
“There were a lot of 50-50 balls that we didn’t corral at the end of the game that might’ve changed the outcome,” Burrell stated. “A couple of defensive assignments missed and just some confidence to step up and knock down a couple shots that we turned down.”
Smiling on Christmas Eve after greeting a long line of fans in the front row (high-fiving each of them) after being named game MVP, Togashi said the key for him on Sunday was “being aggressive at the start.” He had 10 first-quarter points.
The Jets recovered from their slow start. They were behind 21-14 after one quarter.
Good offensive spacing and screens helped spark the offense, according to Togashi,who insisted hustle plays were also critical in the team’s comeback win.
Sunrockers 62, Alvark 60
In Tokyo, Robert Sacre missed a free throw with 3 seconds left in a tie game. Then he grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on a putback to account for the game’s final points, giving Shibuya a dramatic victory to earn a weekend split with Tokyo.
Sacre notched a double-double (21 points, 10 boards), including 11 fourth-quarter points, and Josh Harrellson contributed 17 points and 12 rebounds. Morihisa Yamauchi supplied nine points and 11 assists for the Sunrockers (18-8) and Leo Vendrame contributed eight points.
For the East-leading Alvark (20-6), Yudai Baba provided 14 points, three steals and three blocks. Seiya Ando scored 11 points, hauled in seven boards and handed out four assists. Alex Kirk added 10 points.
NeoPhoenix 77, Storks 59
In Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, sharpshooter Shuto Tawatari canned 6 of 9 3s in a 21-point performance as San-en defeated the hosts for the second day in a row.
Wendell White had 16 points and Hayato Kawashima contributed 10 points and five assists for the NeoPhoenix (13-13).
Naoki Tani led the Storks (5-21) with 14 points and Draelon Burns scored 10.
Brex 68, Golden Kings 60
In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, balanced scoring helped carry the hosts past Ryukyu for a bounce-back victory.
Yusuke Endo paced the Brex (11-15) with 15 points and Shuhei Kitagawa scored 14. Cedric Bozeman contributed eight points and Ryan Rossiter had seven with 10 rebounds and four assists. Yuta Tabuse also dished out four assists, while veteran forward Kosuke Takeuchi snared 10 rebounds.
Hassan Martin had 15 points and eight boards for the Golden Kings (19-7) and Takatoshi Furukawa scored 11 points. Ira Brown had nine points. Hilton Armstrong was the team leader in rebounds (nine) and assists (four).
Hannaryz 91, SeaHorses 84
In Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture, Julian Mavunga’s 23-point performance and Yusuke Okada’s 17 points sparked the hosts as they salvaged a series split with Mikawa.
Okada drained 5 of 11 3-point shots. Teammate Tatsuya Ito doled out 10 assists. Joshua Smith finished with 12 points and eight boards.
Kyoto (15-11) sank 13 of 28 3s and held the visitors to 6 of 19.
Makoto Hiejima had 31 points for the SeaHorses (21-5) and J.R. Sakuragi provided 23 points and nine assists. Kosuke Kanamaru added 11 points and Isaac Butts scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Levanga 80, B-Corsairs 77
In Yokohama, 47-year-old Japan basketball legend Takehiko Orimo nailed the game-winning shot, a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left, as Hokkaido completed a two-game sweep.
Ryota Sakurai supplied the assist on Orimo’s clutch basket.
Marc Trasolini led the Levanga (14-12) with 23 points and Daniel Miller had 13 points and seven boards. Daisuke Noguchi added 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Orimo contributed 10 points.
Hokkaido converted 25 of 26 free-throw attempts.
Hasheem Thabeet scored 15 points and hauled in seven rebounds for the B-Corsairs (6-20) and Jeff Parmer finished with 14 points and five assists. Jotaro Mitsuda and Takuya Kawamura had 10 and nine points, respectively. Ryo Tawatari scored eight points with eight assists and Kazutaka Takashima matched Tawatari’s point total.
Grouses 96, Albirex BB 80
In Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, Toyama jumped out to a 13-point halftime advantage and held on to wrap up a holiday weekend sweep.
Naoki Uto ignited the Grouses offense with 19 points and 13 assists, and Yuto Otsuka, Yuki Ueta and Drew Viney made four 3-pointers apiece.
Otsuka finished with 18 points, Ueta poured in 15 to match his season-high output and Viney had 14 for Toyama (12-14). Ex-NBA center Dexter Pittman chipped in with 15 points and nine rebounds.
Davante Gardner led Niigata (10-16) with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Jun Uzawa scored 14 points and Kei Igarashi had 13 with eight assists. Masashi Joho added 11 points and six assists.
Here are the results of Sunday’s second-division games:
Firebonds 74, Northern Happinets 72
Fighting Eagles 62, Earthfriends 52
Bambitious 78, Dragonflies 76
Wyverns 81, Big Bulls 53
Robots 70, Brave Warriors 66
Five Arrows 66, Crane Thunders 65
Samuraiz 85, Wat’s 84
89ers 69, Volters 53
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