SAITAMA – The SeaHorses Mikawa took advantage of their depth and ferocious inside power to return to the Emperor’s Cup final for the first time in two years.
Daniel Orton racked up 22 points and 11 rebounds and veteran J.R. Sakuragi had 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to contribute to the SeaHorses’ 87-68 victory over the Brave Thunders in the All-Japan Championship semifinals at Saitama Super Arena on Saturday.
Mikawa, the highest-scoring team in the ongoing B. League regular season (85.8 points per game), would not let the second-best offensive team, the Brave Thunders (81.6), score as comfortably as they usually do around Nick Fazekas. The SeaHorses delivered a strong defensive effort.
The nine-time All-Japan Championship winner came through offensively, too, moving the ball well. Eleven of the 12 players on Mikawa’s roster put points on the board. The SeaHorses also outrebounded the Brave Thunders 45-33.
“We came out playing tough defense from the beginning while we took advantage of the mismatch with J.R. (against Kawasaki’s Japanese player) and were able to execute our offense well,” Mikawa sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru said. “We were diving for rebounds with all our players, and did all those small things to contribute to the win.”
For the Brave Thunders, who finished as runners-up in last year’s All-Japan Championship, clutch shooter Naoto Tsuji hit seven 3-point shots and scored 26 points and Fazekas finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Fazekas said that the Brave Thunders missed too many shots early on and it was “a little too late” when they finally turned it on in the second half.
In the other men’s semifinal game, five players amassed double-digit scoring outputs to lead the reigning tourney-winning Chiba Jets Funabashi back to the final with a 100-63 victory over the Kyoto Hannaryz.
Aki Chambers had a game-high 18 points coming off the bench, while Michael Parker, Fumio Nishimura, Gavin Edwards and Ryumo Ono also had more than 10 points apiece for the Jets.
Chiba hit 11 of 27 3-point attempts to damage Kyoto.
The SeaHorses and Jets will meet in the title game at 2 p.m. at the same venue on Sunday.
In the women’s final four, the four-time defending champion JX-Eneos Sunflowers prevailed both offensively and defensively throughout the game as they annihilated the Toyota Antelopes 78-52.
Center Yuka Osaki led all scorers with 24 points and forward Yuki Miyazawa followed with 20 points for the Sunflowers.
Toyota is the only team that has handed a loss to JX-Eneos, which has captured nine straight Women’s Japan Basketball League titles, in this WJBL campaign. But on this day, Japan’s best team completely dominated against the Antelopes, who crushed the Sunflowers 90-69 in the final of the 2013 Empress’s Cup.
Ramu Tokashiki, who played for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm in the last two seasons, collected nine points and a game-high 17 rebounds for the Sunflowers.
In the other women’s semifinal game, the Denso Iris cruised past the Fujitsu Red Wave 76-62.
The 21-time All-Japan champion Sunflowers will take on the Iris for the title at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
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