Basketball / B. League

Alvark stick to game plan to beat Brave Thunders

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Successful coaches aren’t always obsessed with changing their game plan.

After preparations were made for a weekend series against the Kawasaki Brave Thunders, Alvark Tokyo bench boss Luka Pavicevic didn’t feel a need to flip the script for Sunday’s series finale. Even after a 79-66 loss on Saturday night at Todoroki Arena.

For Tokyo, altering game tactics was not what Pavicevic felt was necessary for the rematch.

Instead, he acknowledged after the Alvark’s well-rounded 87-70 victory, what he saw while watching game film from Saturday involved a distinct difference between the clubs’ performance. The Brave Thunders had greater inspiration and motivation in the series opener, when they ran their winning streak to five games. During a team meeting, Pavicevic challenged his players to elevate their performance in those areas.

“We had absolutely no adjustments to our game plan,” Pavicevic told reporters after the defending B. League champions improved to 10-5.

Comparing the two games, the coach added that the Alvark played a good game on Saturday, “but a good game was not enough (against) an inspired Kawasaki.”

Therefore, he continued, “we needed to do the same things with more inspiration and determination.”

That message resonated with his players.

Tokyo led 25-15 after the first quarter, 48-30 at halftime and 65-45 entering the fourth quarter.

A spirited defensive performance by the visitors limited Kawasaki to 37.1 percent shooting from the field.

Alvark guard Seiya Ando scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the third quarter. He finished 3-for-5 from 3-point range and dished out four assists. Four teammates also scored in double figures: Alex Kirk (14 points, 11 rebounds), Jawad Williams (13 points, including nine in the fourth quarter on a troika of 3s, eight boards, six assists), Daiki Tanaka (12 points) and Zack Baranski (10).

The Alvark made smart, effective decisions with the basketball, chalking up 24 assists against seven turnovers. This effort included good floor spacing, players moving without the ball, strong screens and an overall excellent output on pick-and-roll situations, a major component of the team’s offense.

Ando said his team made good plays in fast-break opportunities, while admitting he’s enjoying the challenge of “stepping up” at point guard.

With the ball moving inside and out on a frequent basis, the Alvark capitalized on opportunities to create space for good looks from long range, burying 12 of 25 3s. On the other hand, the Brave Thunders made 4 of 12.

Kawasaki coach Takuya Kita said that his team’s shot selection could’ve been better, also crediting Tokyo for a hard-nosed defensive game.

“Tokyo is an excellent defensive team and their on-ball pressure (was strong),” he said of Sunday’s clash.

Nick Fazekas had 27 points and Vernon Macklin 10 of his 18 in the fourth quarter for Kawasaki (9-6), which never led in the second half. Shane Edwards finished with nine points and Naoto Tsuji had five. Yuma Fujii was the team’s top passer with four assists.

By halftime, Tokyo had six players with six or more points, with Genki Kojima leading the way with eight.

The Alvark shot 59.3 percent in the first half and held the hosts to 33.3 (10 of 30).

Pinpoint passes defined Tokyo’s first-half play, with 13 assists and turnover in the books. Williams, patient but also aggressive at times as he passed the ball, had five assists before halftime.

The Brave Thunders trailed by as many as 24 points in the third quarter, but chipped away at the lead. Using an 8-0 run, they pulled to within 70-58 on an Edwards putback in the fourth but never got over the hump.

Williams answered with a 3 second later, bringing the lead back to 15.

After the game, he savored the team’s return to the victory column.

“We have a system that we play and try to stick to,” Williams said, “and yesterday we kind of got us out of ourselves and we didn’t do the right things at the right time, and against a team like Kawasaki, who’s a very good team, we can’t afford to have those lapses. It’ll cost us. But it does show how this league can be very tough. Very tough from top to bottom and anybody can beat anybody on any given night.”

As for his three big 3-pointers in the fourth, Williams offered these comments: “It was one of those things where I missed a couple that I usually make and I have been missing some shots earlier in the season, and I just rely on what I’ve been doing. I’ve been working on it my whole life, so now it’s just get back to dong what I do best — shooting without thinking.”

Grouses 85, Lakestars 72

In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Toyama’s offense saved its best for last, scoring 31 fourth-quarter points as the Grouses completed a weekend sweep.

Joshua Smith led Toyama (9-6) with 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, while Leo Lyons had 24 points, eight boards and four steals. Naoki Uto contributed 16 points and nine assists.

Gani Lawal finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds and Yusuke Karino had 12 points and six assists for Shiga (3-12).

Evessa 78, B-Corsairs 68

In Osaka, Xavier Gibson’s 20-point, 10-rebound performance and Hiroyuki Kinoshita’s 14 points helped carry the hosts past struggling Yokohama.

The Evessa (6-9) outscored the visitors 26-12 in the second quarter.

Javon McCrea had 25 points and 14 rebounds for the B-Corsairs (3-12), who have lost six straight.

Sunrockers 81, SeaHorses 79

In Tokyo, Robert Sacre was a dominant force in the low post as Shibuya edged Mikawa and extended its winning streak to three.

Sacre, a former NBA center, scored 30 points on 14-for-18 shooting. Frontcourt mate Ryan Kelly added 18 points and hauled in 21 rebounds, while Leo Vendrame poured in 13 points and dished out five assists.

Grant Jerrett had 20 points and eight boards and J.R. Sakuragi scored 18 points with nine assists. James Southerland added 17 points for the SeaHorses (7-8).

Albirex BB 78, Levanga 63

In Niigata, the hosts’ frontline paved the way for a second win in as many days against Hokkaido.

Davante Gardner delivered a 29-point, 17-rebound effort and Lamont Hamilton contributed 27 points, including three dunks, and 12 boards for Niigata (11-4), which has won five consecutive games. In the series opener, Gardner and Hamilton combined for 56 points and 29 rebounds.

Marc Trasolini paced the Levanga (4-11) with 24 points along with nine rebounds and five assists. David Doblas had 12 points and nine rebounds and Yoshitake Matsushima scored nine points.

Diamond Dolphins 79, Northern Happinets 54

In Nagoya, Markeith Cummings’ 29-point outing sparked the hosts in a bounce-back triumph over Akita.

Cummings’ game-high point total included four jams, delighting the home crowd.

Shuto Ando chipped in with 13 points and Taito Nakahigashi and Takaya Sasayama both scored nine for West Division-leading Nagoya (12-3).

The Happinets (4-11) trailed 41-22 at halftime.

Justin Keenan led Akita with 21 points and Kadeem Coleby snared a game-best 13 rebounds.

NeoPhoenix 78, Hannaryz 65

In Kyoto, Robert Dozier guided San-en to victory with a 22-point, seven-rebound, five-assist afternoon.

William McDonald chipped in with 14 points for the NeoPhoenix (6-9), who signed veteran forward Josh Childress, the No. 6 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, earlier this week.

Brex 86, Rizing Zephyr 66

In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, the Brex raced out to a 51-28 halftime lead en route to their four victory in a row.

Yusuke Endo ignited Tochigi (13-2) with 24 points, making 9 of 13 shots. Hironori Watanabe had 14 points and do-it-all forward Ryan Rossiter chipped in with 12 points, 16 rebounds and five assists.

For Fukuoka (2-13), Dexter Pittman was the high scorer with 26 points. He made 12 of 15 shots and shared the team lead in rebounds (seven) with Benjamin Lawson, who had a 14-point game. Masashi Joho and Shota Tsuyama added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Jets 84, Golden Kings 66

In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, five Jets players scored in double figures as the hosts salvaged a weekend split with Ryukyu.

Josh Duncan put 23 points on the board for Chiba (11-4) and Aki Chambers and Yuki Togashi scored 13 apiece, with Michael Parker notching a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds).

Josh Scott scored 23 points and Jeff Ayres had 16 for the Golden Kings (11-4).