The Alvark Tokyo have the luxury of a deep bench and a versatile, experienced cast of players.
And even when they are not playing their best game, that depth and talent often shines through. On Sunday, the Alvark soared to victory thanks to Alex Kirk’s superb offensive joyride performance, which they needed to slam the door on the Shiga Lakestars at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi.
The 211-cm former University of New Mexico big man carried the Alvark on his broad shoulders with a career-high 40 points on 14-for-17 shooting from the field and 12 of 13 at the foul line in an 88-81 decision over Shiga.
Kirk scored 13 fourth-quarter points to seal the victory.
Tokyo won its sixth straight game and improved its record to a league-best 26-6.
Shiga slipped to 11-21, dropping its seventh straight game.
Daiki Tanaka added 12 points and six assists for the Alvark, and also turned the ball over seven times. Jawad Williams finished with 10 points, including eight in the final stanza. Brendan Lane and Joji Takeuchi both scored nine points for the hosts, while point guard Genki Kojima doled out five assists.
Lakestars backup forward Venky Jois utilized his speed to attack the basket and score numerous layups. He had a team-high 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds. D’or Fischer added 16 points and Yusuke Karino scored 11. Narito Namizato and Tomonobu Hasegawa both had eight points.
After losing the series opener 81-59 on Saturday, Shiga came out and played aggressively in the rematch. Though the visitors trailed 24-16 after the opening quarter on Sunday, the Lakestars rebounded in the second quarter by outscoring the hosts 22-17 to close the gap to 41-38 at halftime.
Entering the third quarter, Kirk had 15 points. The Alvark had established their domination in the paint, holding a 22-10 advantage on points in that sector of the court. But Fischer, Karino and Jois had combined for 26 first-half points to ignite the Shiga offense before the break.
As the game marched on, the whistle worked in Tokyo’s favor and against Shiga.
The Alvark went to the line for 31 foul shots, including 17 in the second half. Coach Luka Pavicevic’s club capitalized on the scoring opportunities with the clock stopped, nailing 24 of 31. Shiga made 13 of 18.
Addressing the fans a few minutes after the game, Kirk said the Alvark “stuck with the game plan and played hard. We did some really good things (today).”
Indeed, and Kirk was a force inside and around the basket during his 27 minutes of playing time. He displayed a soft touch off the backboard, terrific footwork and overall court vision while also timing his movement on pick-and-roll plays impressively to get good looks repeatedly.
The Lakestars never trailed by double digits and often appeared two or three big plays away from grabbing momentum.
Tokyo mounted its biggest run — a 7-0 spurt — late in the fourth quarter to take an 82-76 lead. Fittingly, the run was capped by a Kirk layup and free throw with 3:54 left in the game.
Reflecting on the game, Shiga coach Shawn Dennis had this to say: “Thirty-one free throws is just ridiculous to give up, and that’s where the game was lost — we lost on the free-throw line.”
Dennis added: “In a lot of these games we are putting ourselves in good positions to have a chance to win . . . but you don’t win by playing defense with your hands. You’ve got to slide across and get your body in the way, and have the courage to take charges or force people to shoot over the top of you. And we just fouled too much. And until we learn to do that, we are going to keep losing games that we have an opportunity to win.
“The real positive is again we put ourselves against the best team in the league right now record-wise with an opportunity to win. . .”
Pavicevic, in his first season at the helm, expressed satisfaction that his team prevailed despite some inconsistent defense.
“What happened was Sunday afternoon, the second game, Shiga came aggressively after the loss yesterday and tried to give their best fight, and for most of the time (we) just gave them an open game . . . but at this moment Tokyo is a better team, so let’s commend Coach (Dennis) and the team of Shiga for fighting through the whole game,” Pavicevic said.
He went on: “Once the game was open like this, it was not easy to get a grip on the victory, so I think that my players did a good job of staying focused to the end and prevailing into a win.”
Grouses 79, NeoPhoenix 77
In Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, a game tied 40-40 at halftime went down to the wire, and Toyama held off the hosts for their second win of the weekend.
Naoki Uto sparked the Grouses (17-15) with 21 points and five assists. Drew Viney and Sam Willard both scored 15 points and Yuto Otsuka had 11.
Toyama shot 55.5 percent from 2-point range.
Atsuya Ota and Wendell White each had 14 points for San-en (14-18).
Hannaryz 81, Sunrockers 71
In Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, Tatsuya Ito’s 22-point performance energized the hosts as they completed a series sweep of Shibuya.
Yusuke Okada made 4 of 8 3s in a 14-point outing and Kevin Hareyama canned 3 of 4 3s en route to 11 points for Kyoto (18-14). Marcus Dove grabbed 11 boards and handed out four assists for the Hannaryz.
Robert Sacre paced the Sunrockers (19-13) with 20 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Morihisa Yamauchi had 11 points and seven assists and Takashi Ito scored nine points.
Brex 95, Levanga 80
In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, the reigning champions extended their winning streak to seven games, routing Hokkaido in the series finale.
Ryan Rossiter sparked Tochigi (17-15) with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, while Cedric Bozeman had 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Yusuke Endo, Jeff Gibbs and Seiji Ikaruga all had 11 points.
The Brex outrebounded the visitors 41-28.
The Levanga trailed 75-52 after three quarters.
Marc Trasolini paced Hokkaido (17-15) with 25 points and Asahi Tajima scored 14 points.
Evessa 84, Susanoo Magic 71
In Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, Takuya Hashimoto’s 22-point, seven-rebound, five-assist, three-steal performance helped carry Osaka past the hosts for the second consecutive day.
Hashimoto was 9-for-9 at the foul line to cap his strong game.
Keith Benson finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Evessa (10-22).
Josh Scott led Shimane (7-25) with 32 points and snared 10 rebounds. Newcomer Jameel McKay added eight points and 11 boards. Takuya Soma and Shohei Goto each had nine points and Shota Watanabe dished out six assists.
Albirex BB 72, SeaHorses 70
In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, All-Star big man Davante Gardner sank a buzzer-beating jumper to lift the hosts to a bounce-back win over Central Division rival Mikawa.
Gardner scored a game-high 25 points. Kei Igarashi buried six 3-pointers in an electrifying 21-point game and Shunki Hatakeyama had 10 points for the Albirex (12-20). Lamont Hamilton contributed seven points and six boards.
Isaac Butts had 20 points and seven rebounds for the SeaHorses (24-8) and Makoto Hiejima poured in 18 points. Kosuke Kanamaru finished with 14 points and J.R. Sakuragi had 13 points, 16 rebounds and five assists.
Mikawa hurt its cause at the foul line, making 12 of 20 shots.
Diamond Dolphins 78, B-Corsairs 77
In Yokohama, Nagoya overcame a 19-point halftime deficit, rallying to defeat the B-Corsairs for the second consecutive day.
The Diamond Dolphins (14-18) outscored the hosts 30-14 in the decisive fourth quarter.
Nagoya star Justin Burrell had 17 points, eight boards, four assists and three blocks and Shuto Ando added 12 points. Tenketsu Harimoto scored 11 points and Jerome Tillman and Takaya Sasayama both had 10 points, Sasayama also dishing out four assists.
The visitors made 10 of 13 fourth-quarter shots from the floor; Yokohama made 6 of 20.
Takuya Kawamura led the B-Corsairs (8-24) with 21 points and Hasheem Thabeet notched a double-double (17 points, 12 rebounds) and swatted two shots.
Golden Kings 79, Storks 68
In Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, Ryukyu raced out to a big halftime lead and held off the hosts in their series opener.
Golden Kings forward Hassan Martin contributed 20 points, six blocks, five rebounds and three steals. while Takatoshi Furukawa had 22 points, draining 4 of 7 3s. Teammate Ryuichi Kishimoto supplied 18 points and five assists.
Ryukyu (24-7) sealed the win at the free-throw line, converting 19 of 21 attempts.
Veteran shooting guard Yu Okada, on loan from Toyama, had 17 points and four assists in his Storks debut. Noriaki Dohara scored 15 points for Nishinomiya (7-24).
Here are the results of Sunday’s B2 games:
Five Arrows 86, Dragonflies 68
Firebonds 82, Rizing Zephyr 70
Fighting Eagles 99, Wat’s 92
Northern Happinets 76, 89ers 58
Robots 73, Wyverns 66
Samuraiz 92, Earthfriends 78
Brave Warriors 65, Orange Vikings 57
Volters 91, Bambitious 76
Big Bulls 77, Crane Thunders 74 (OT)
Note: Iwate snapped a league-record 24-game losing streak by beating Gunma in OT. Lawrence Blackledge paced the Big Bulls (3-29) with 14 points and corralled eight rebounds. Markhuri Sanders-Frison had 12 points and 16 boards and Gyno Pomare added 12 points and nine boards, while Noriyuki Sugasawa also contributed 12 points.
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