It was a stellar start for the SeaHorses Mikawa to begin their quest for a title this postseason.
Sharpshooter Kosuke Kanamaru scored a game-high 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Center Isaac Butts also made a big impact with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
The result? The SeaHorses cruised past the defending champion Tochigi Brex 77-63 in their B. League Championship quarterfinal series opener in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture.
Mikawa (49-12) outscored Tochigi 49-33 in the second half.
The Brex had held a 30-28 advantage at the break.
Floor leader J.R. Sakuragi added 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the SeaHorses, who got eight points and eight assists from Makoto Hiejima. Sunao Murakami and Ryoma Hashimoto both scored six points.
Sakuragi shot 2-for-11 from the floor, but made 9 of 11 free throws. No other player from either team attempted more than two.
Mikawa handed out 23 assists against 11 turnovers.
For Tochigi (34-27), Ryan Rossiter was the lone double-digit scorer, finishing with 14 points. He added seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block. Yuta Tabuse, Kosuke Takeuchi and Shuhei Kitagawa all put eight points on the board. Jeff Gibbs corralled eight rebounds and was held to four points on 1-for-6 shooting.
Neither team’s offense generated a bulk of their points from beyond the arc. The SeaHorses canned 6 of 14 3s; the Brex nailed 3 of 15.
Last season, the Brex eliminated the SeaHorses in the playoff semifinals, winning a mini-game tiebreaker after Game 2 to advance to the championship game.
Note: For all of the games reported below, the summaries are for Game 1s. If the Game 1 losing team wins the rematch on Sunday, a mini-game tiebreaker will be held shortly thereafter to determine which team will advance to the next round.
Diamond Dolphins 71, Golden Kings 69
In Okinawa City, Justin Burrell led Nagoya with 15 points and Craig Brackins poured in 12 in a narrow series-opening triumph over Ryukyu.
Tenketsu Harimoto contributed nine points and Taito Nakahigashi had eight for the Diamond Dolphins (32-29). Takaya Sasayama added seven points and eight rebounds.
Seiya Funyu and Brackins both dished out four assists and Nakahigashi and Sasayama doled out three apiece in a game featuring zero lead changes.
Nagoya led 37-33 entering the third quarter.
Takatoshi Furukawa paced the Golden Kings (42-19) with 18 points and Ryuichi Kishimoto had 15. Ira Brown added 12 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. Hassan Martin chipped in with nine points.
Ryukyu made 16 of 26 foul shots; Nagoya sank 7 of 14.
Alvark 82, Hannaryz 75
In Tachikawa, Tokyo overcame an 11-point halftime deficit by dominating the third quarter to secure a victory over Kyoto.
The Alvark trailed 45-34 at halftime, then took a 59-54 advantage into the final stanza.
Daiki Tanaka had 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting and Alex Kirk had 19 points and nine boards for Tokyo (45-16), which outscored the visitors 46-24 in the paint. Zack Baranski finished with 10 points and Seiya Ando, Shohei Kikuchi and Joji Takeuchi had eight-point outings. Ando doled out five assists and Kikuchi added four assists and three steals, while Takeuchi pulled down 10 boards and swatted four shots.
For Kyoto (34-27), Julian Mavunga had 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Yusuke Okada, who sank 5 of 12 3s, scored 17 points, Tatsuya Ito contributed 14 with six assists and Marcus Dove added 11 points and five assists.
Jets 87, Brave Thunders 65
In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Gavin Edwards had a 20-point performance and five teammates also scored in double figures as the hosts overpowered Kawasaki to take a 1-0 series lead.
Michael Parker finished with 12 points and Yuki Togashi, Aki Chambers, Kosuke Ishii and Ryumo Ono all had 11.
Togashi and Ono shared the team lead in assists (five), while Parker and Edwards each grabbed six rebounds. Parker also had a game-high three blocks.
Leo Lyons chipped in with nine points, five boards and four assists off the bench for Chiba (47-14), which took a 49-27 lead into halftime.
Nick Fazekas paced the Brave Thunders (41-20) with 23 points, including 10-for-10 at the foul line, and 12 rebounds. Naoto Tsuji had 10 points and five assists and Josh Davis notched a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds). Former NBA journeyman Lou Amundson scored eight points.
The Jets canned 15 of 26 3s (57.7 percent); the visitors made 5 of 21.
Northern Happinets 85, Volters 81
In Akita, Shigehiro Taguchi scored 30 points and handed out five assists and the Northern Happinets held off Kumamoto in their series opener.
Game 2 is set for Sunday.
Chris Cayole added 12 points off the bench for Akita, which trailed 43-29 at halftime. Teammate Shota Onodera scored 10 points and Kadeem Coleby had seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Takuya Nakayama contributed six points, a game-high nine assists and three steals, which led all players.
Despite shooting 39.5 percent from the floor, Akita (55-6) moved a step closer to reaching the B2 championship game, which will be held on May 27 at Yokohama Arena.
The Happinets defense forced 22 turnovers and the hosts scored 30 points off turnovers.
Akita outrebounded the visitors 41-31.
Terrance Woodbury paced the Volters (41-20) with 21 points. Shintaro Kobayashi, MVP of January’s B. League All-Star Game, poured in 14 points, including three 3-pointers. Takumi Furuno had 11 points, six assists and six turnovers. Josh Duinker scored eight points and Ryota Nakanishi had seven.
Akita coach Josep “Pep” Claros acknowledge the series opener wasn’t an easy contest. And he predicted a real battle in the rematch.
“Today was a difficult game, (and) I think that it will definitely be a painful match tomorrow beyond today,” Claros said in a statement posted on the team website. The Spaniard cited basic plays as a key to victory in the series.
“I think that every single play will become extremely important tomorrow,” Claros said.
Rizing Zephyr 103 Fighting Eagles 95
In Fukuoka, Eric Jacobsen’s 34-point, 11-rebound performance and Daisuke Kobayashi’s 22 points helped guide the hosts past Nagoya.
Josh Peppers added 17 points and nine rebounds and Faye Pape Mour had nine points and 10 boards, while Yasuhiro Yamashita dished out nine assists and blocked a pair a shots.
The Rizing Zephyr (47-14) outscored the visitors 33-24 in the fourth quarter.
Fukuoka attempted 35 free throws (26 makes).
Nagoya’s Josh Hawkinson scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Kohei Fukuzawa and Rodney Carney both scored 14 points and Yasuyuki Miyazaki added 12, with Takayuki Kodama providing nine points and seven assists for the Fighting Eagles (38-23). Kei Sugimoto handed out nine assists.