Alvark steady ship with series sweep of Sunrockers

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Alvark Tokyo got back on track with a pair of hard-earned victories over the weekend, ending their three-game losing streak on Saturday and completing a series sweep on Sunday.

In the series finale at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi, Alvark guard Seiya Ando scored 7 points, one shy of his season high, to lead the hosts to a 75-67 win over the Sunrockers Shibuya.

Despite a game-high 30 points from former NBA center Robert Sacre, the Sunrockers (22-20) couldn’t end their losing streak, which now stands at six games.

The Alvark held the Sunrockers to 2-for-15 shooting from 3-point range and 41.5 percent overall.

Coincidentally, the Sunrockers also held the Alvark (31-11, tied for the top record in the East Division with the Chiba Jets Funabashi) to 41.5 percent from the floor, but the hosts made 7 of 19 3s, including Ando’s 3-for-5 output.

Starting big man Alex Kirk notched a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) for Tokyo and Shohei Kikuchi contributed 10 points, including six in the pivotal fourth quarter, and stellar defense at the other end of the floor. Takeki Shonaka added nine points off the bench, while Joji Takeuchi, Jawad Williams and Daiki Tanaka scored seven apiece.

Tanaka, who dished out a game-high five assists, left the game in the fourth quarter after driving to the basket with a lower-body injury. He visited a doctor on Sunday evening for an injury evaluation, which was unavailable at press time.

After the game, Tokyo coach Luka Pavicevic reflected on the challenging back-to-back games.

“I want to commend my players and congratulate them on two straight wins against a very strong team of Shibuya,” Pavicevic told reporters.

Noting injuries to players on both teams and player absences in recent weeks due to Japan national team duties, he added that both teams have been struggling of late.

“So both teams were coming off multiple straight losses (entering the series) and knowing that this is a chance for Shibuya to get back in the playoff position . . .”

The Alvark quickly raced out a 7-0 lead to open the game, with Tanaka delivering a sharp pass to Kirk for a dunk. Takeuchi drained a 3 from the left wing to make it 5-0 and, after a Shibuya turnover, Ando scored on a layup.

Shibuya called a timeout at the 8:53 mark.

Sacre put the first points on the board for the visitors after the timeout, making a turnaround jumper from the baseline.

Tokyo took a 16-9 lead into the second quarter. The Sunrockers got eight points from Sacre in the opening quarter, providing a glimpse of how the game would unfold.

The Alvark never trailed.

By halftime, Ando had set the tone for his club with 14 points, leading all players going into the second half. The former Akita Northern Happinets guard made 6 of 9 shots in the opening half.

Tokyo led 38-28 at the break.

“My players were mentally and physically ready to come out and play those two games,” said Pavicevic, who’s in his first season with the Alvark. “Maybe they were not the perfect games in execution, but I think in both games our team was from the minute one to the minute 40 on the top of the game and deserve these two wins.”

The Sunrockers had a strong performance in the third quarter, outscoring the hosts 17-14 to pull within 52-45, but couldn’t get over the hump.

Shibuya coach Geoffrey Katsuhisa had a look of frustration on his face as he began speaking to the press after the game. He said his players had a strong third quarter and played solid defense in the game.

Defense, Katsuhisa has mentioned throughout the season, is the team’s identity. He acknowledged, however, the Sunrockers didn’t score enough points in the series finale.

“I really was just trying to carry my team,” said Sacre, a Gonzaga University product. “We’ve been struggling as of late, and whatever my team needs me to do right now . . . I thought I needed to score, so that’s what I focused on.”

Before the game, a moment of silence was held to honor the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Albirex BB 95, B-Corsairs 91

In Yokohama, Davante Gardner scored 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead Niigata past the hosts.

Kei Igarashi had 19 points and five assists and Lamont Hamilton finished with 11 points and seven rebounds for the Albirex (19-23), who have won five in a row. They converted 11 of 23 3-point shots.

Takuya Kawamura had 26 points and five assists for the B-Corsairs (11-31) and Jeff Parmer poured in 21 points. Masashi Hosoya added 13 points and seven assists, while Hasheem Thabeet provided eight points and five blocks.

Jets 97, Susanoo Magic 71

In Yonago, Shimane Prefecture, balanced scoring guided Chiba past the hosts.

Michael Parker and Gavin Edwards both scored 18 points for the Jets (31-11), Yuki Togashi had 17, Leo Lyons added 16 and Kosuke Ishii 11.

Al Thornton finished with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists for Shimane (7-35), which lost for the 16th consecutive time. Josh Scott had 15 points and nine rebounds and Gyno Pomare poured in 14 points. Edward Yamamoto had eight points.

NeoPhoenix 64, Golden Kings 62

In Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, Ryukyu missed a 3-pointer before the final buzzer for the second day in a row, with Ira Brown’s attempt missing its target in the series finale with 1 second left.

San-en (21-21) extended its winning streak to six games.

Robert Dozier paced the hosts with 20 points and Atusya Ota had 11 points and four steals.

Brown and Hassan Martin scored 17 points apiece for the Golden Kings (32-10) and Takatoshi Furukawa had 10 and Ryuichi Kishimoto contributed eight.

Brex 75, Diamond Dolphins 66

In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, Hironori Watanabe scored a season-high 17 points, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and Ryan Rossiter notched a double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds) as the hosts completed a weekend sweep of Nagoya.

Kosuke Takeuchi had eight points and Yuta Tabuse scored seven points and dished out four assists for the Brex (23-19).

Justin Burrell scored 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting for the Diamond Dolphins (20-22) and Craig Brackins chipped in with 13 points.

Nagoya missed 18 of 22 shots from beyond the arc.

Lakestars 93, Hannaryz 86

In Ise, Mie Prefecture, Narito Namizato’s 24-point performance and D’or Fischer’s overall impact helped carry Shiga to a bounce-back victory over the hosts.

Fischer contributed 19 points, 10 boards and three blocks and teammate Koyo Takahashi had 16 points.

Julian Mavunga had 23 points and six assists for the Hannaryz (25-17), Joshua Smith provided 18 points and 15 rebounds and Yusuke Okada scored 15 points.

The Lakestars (13-29) led 25-14 after the opening quarter.

Neither team helped their cause at the foul line. Shiga made 14 of 27; Kyoto sank 16 of 30.

SeaHorses 81, Levanga 80

In Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, title-chasing Mikawa won its ninth consecutive game by the thinnest of margins in the series opener.

Kosuke Kanamaru paced the SeaHorses (33-8) with 20 points, knocking down 6 of 10 3s. Makoto Hiejima added 13 points, seven boards and five assists and Isaac Butts contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds. J.R. Sakuragi scored 12 points and handed out five assists. Courtney Sims had nine points and 11 boards.

Marc Trasolini led Hokkaido (21-20) with 23 points, Dijon Thompson scored 15 and Takehiko Orimo had 12. Playmaker Asahi Tajima delivered a six-point, 14-assist performance.

Second-division update

Here are the results of Sunday’s B2 games:

Brave Warriors 64, Samuraiz 61

Earthfriends 72, Five Arrows 68

Bambitious 84, Crane Thunders 70

Rizing Zephyr 76, Big Bulls 64

Wyverns 94, Wat’s 75

Volters 82, Dragonflies 78

Fighting Eagles 79, Robots 76

89ers 68, Firebonds 59