Basketball / B. League

Alvark usher in new season with narrow victory over Sunrockers

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The defending B. League champion Alvark Tokyo opened their new season with a down-to-the-wire victory over the Sunrockers Shibuya on Saturday afternoon in Tachikawa.

Star center Alex Kirk led the way with 27 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, in Tokyo’s 73-71 triumph.

Alvark mainstay Daiki Tanaka and Yudai Baba had 13 points apiece and Seiya Ando and Zack Baranski both scored seven. Joji Takeuchi hauled in a team-high eight rebounds and swatted two shots. Tanaka dished out five assists.

Baba, a second-year pro, energized the Alvark off the bench, contributing seven rebounds, four assists and two steals in just under 23 minutes.

Tokyo struggled from the perimeter, making only 2 of 13 3-point shots. The Alvark, however, made 27 of 52 from inside the arc, including Kirk’s 11-for-16 and Baba’s 5-for-6.

Tokyo coach Luka Pavicevic’s club placed second in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Thailand on Tuesday, then shifted its focus to the regular season.

“I felt the players really fought tough and (earned) the victory,” Pavicevic told reporters. “I think that it was very meaningful that we came back from the Asian Champion’s Cup, which was a hard schedule of five games in six days, and we were able to win today’s match in a short preparation period.”

Ryan Kelly scored 28 points in his Shibuya debut. Robert Sacre supplied 18 points and 11 rebounds and Leo Vendrame scored 10 points.

Vendrame trimmed the Alvark lead to 72-71 on a 3-pointer with 3 seconds remaining.

A second later, Tanaka, MVP of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, sank the first of two foul shots to account for the game’s final score.

Tanaka later described it as a “very big victory.”

In a game with 11 ties and nine lead changes, Tokyo took the lead for good with 24 seconds left on Kirk’s inside bucket. He added a free throw to complete the three-point play, giving Tokyo a 70-68 lead.

Before the game, B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa presented the Alvark players their 2017-18 championship rings.

“(The) ring ceremony before the first game was an amazing experience! Thank you,” Kirk tweeted.

Diamond Dolphins 80, SeaHorses 75

In Nagoya, power forward Markeith Cummings scored 27 points, including 11 of 12 at the foul line, and Justin Burrell had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Diamond Dolphins past Mikawa.

Shuto Ando added 12 points for Nagoya, which led 41-33 at halftime.

J.R. Sakuragi had a fine all-around game for the SeaHorses, finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Kosuke Kanamaru scored 20 points and Isaac Butts added 17 points and 14 rebounds. Keijuro Matsui poured in 10 points, knocking down a trio of 3s.

Golden Kings 84, Northern Happinets 67

In Akita, veteran point guard Narito Namizato ignited the Ryukyu offense with 10 points and 13 assists in a season-opening victory over the hosts.

Josh Scott contributed 20 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the floor and Jeff Ayres poured in 17 points for the Golden Kings. Ryuichi Kishimoto had 11 points, six boards and four assists, with Takatoshi Furukawa and Naoki Tashiro scoring nine and eight points, respectively.

Ryukyu took a 35-23 lead into the third quarter and had a 55-43 advantage entering the final stanza.

Shota Onodera paced Akita with 18 points and power forward Justin Keenan had 15. Takuya Nakayama contributed 10 points, eight assists and five steals.

Brex 79, Rizing Zephyr 67

In Fukuoka, star forward Ryan Rossiter’s 26-point, 13-rebound performance helped carry Tochigi past the hosts, spoiling the Rizing Zephyr’s first-division debut.

Fukuoka played in B2 last season and in B3 in the 2016-17 campaign.

Yusuke Endo contributed 13 points for the Brex, who outscored the hosts 50-24 in the second and third quarters. Jeff Gibbs and Ryo Yamazaki added eight points apiece. Yuta Tabuse chipped in with seven points and four assists. Backup guard Seiji Ikaruga made key contributions, most notably five points and eight assists.

Yasuhiro Yamashita scored 13 points for Fukuoka and Dexter Pittman had 12. Eric Jacobsen finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

NeoPhoenix 77, Hannaryz 64

In Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, San-en used a 9-0 spurt to close out the first quarter and outplayed Kyoto to collect its first victory of the new season.

The Hannaryz trailed 22-9 after one period.

William McDonald had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Robert Dozier also notched a double-double (17 points, 11 boards) for the NeoPhoenix. Newcomer Tomonobu Hasegawa finished with 12 points.

San-en canned 9 of 22 3s (40.9 percent).

Kyoto’s David Simon, Tatsuya Ito and Julian Mavunga each had 16 points.

The Hannaryz committed 15 turnovers.

Albirex BB 78, Lakestars 73

In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, reigning B. League scoring champ Davante Gardner had a game-high 30 points to lead Niigata past the hosts.

Gardner grabbed 13 rebounds and handed out five assists.

Kei Igarashi, who sank four 3s, chipped in with 14 points and Yuichi Ikeda scored 11 for the Albirex.

Niigata used a 13-0 run to take its largest lead of the game (61-42) in the third quarter.

Veteran big man Gani Lawal, a Georgia Tech alum, finished with 27 points and 12 boards in his regular-season debut for the Lakestars. D’or Fischer added 16 points and 15 rebounds and Yusuke Karino drained four 3s for his 12 points. Taishi Ito, who played college ball at the University of Portland, dished out a game-best eight assists.

Grouses 94, B-Corsairs 82

In Toyama, Grouses center Joshua Smith was an unstoppable offensive force against Yokohama as a pair of well-known veteran bench bosses made their debuts with new teams.

Toyama mentor Don Beck watched Smith make 17 of 19 shots in a 39-point outburst. The ex-Georgetown player, who began his college career at UCLA, also snared 11 rebounds.

Leo Lyons had 20 points, 18 rebounds and five assists for the Grouses, while fellow newcomer Tomokazu Abe chipped in with 11 points and Naoki Uto had 10.

Takuya Kawamura paced the B-Corsairs with 23 points and five assists. Charles Garcia and Amanze Egekeze had 17 and 13 points, respectively, and Masashi Hosoya added 11 for coach Tom Wisman’s club.

Led by Smith, Toyama outscored the visitors 56-34 in the paint.

Evessa 74, Levanga 68

In Sapporo, Xavier Gibson scored 18 points and Osaka’s balanced scoring attack secured a victory in new head coach Kensuke Hosaka’s first regular-season game at the helm.

Faye Pape Mour and Josh Harrellson provided 13 points apiece for the Evessa, who held the hosts to 2-for-14 shooting from beyond the arc.

Harrellson was the Osaka leader in rebounds (nine). Teammate Rei Goda scored 11 points and Hiroyuki Kinoshita added eight points and seven assists.

The Evessa led 36-25 at halftime.

For the Levanga, Marc Trasolini and newcomer David Doblas, a 206-cm Spanish post player, both scored 23 points. Doblas pulled down 15 rebounds and Trasolini corralled 13. Yoshitake Matsushima had 11 points and eight assists. Japan basketball legend Takehiko Orimo, now 48, came off the bench and scored four points in Brazilian coach Jose Neto’s first game in charge.

Brave Thunders 68, Jets 66

In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Naoto Tsuji buried a game-winning 3-pointer with 14 seconds remaining as Kawasaki completed its two-game sweep of the hosts.

Jets guard Yuki Togashi missed a potential game-winning shot on the final possession.

The Brave Thunders, who triumphed in the opener on Thursday, used a 13-0 run to take a 40-39 lead in the third quarter.

Chiba led 34-22 at halftime.

Shane Edwards paced Kawasaki with 19 points and Vernon Macklin had 12 with 11 rebounds. Takumi Hasegawa added 12 points with four assists. Tsuji had 11 points and shared the team lead in assists (five) with Ryusei Shinoyama.

Josh Duncan had 22 points and 11 boards for the Jets and Togashi and Michael Parker both scored 11 points. Parker also contributed nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Second-division update

Results of Saturday’s games:

Five Arrows 73, Firebonds 60

Bee Trains 81, Fighting Eagles 76

Volters 82, Orange Vikings 71

Susanoo Magic 95, Wyverns 53

Robots 90, Samuraiz 60

89ers 74, Storks 73

Crane Thunders 81, Earthfriends 66

Brave Warriors 108, Wat’s 73

Dragonflies 79, Bambitious 73