Basketball / B. League

B-Corsairs’ 3-point shooting good enough to hold off Rizing Zephyr

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Yokohama B-Corsairs built a large lead early in Sunday’s game and remained in the driver’s seat from start to finish.

Meanwhile, a much-improved performance by the Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka in the fourth quarter was not enough to overcome a slow start in an 85-73 defeat at Yokohama International Swimming Pool.

In the series finale between two squads seeking to establish themselves as more consistent, better all-around teams, Yokohama’s Masashi Hosoya had a team-high 23 points. He made five 3-pointers in the opening half to help the B-Corsairs (4-13) expand their advantage to 48-29 by intermission.

Yokohama big man Javon McCrea had a big performance as well, finishing with 20 points, 14 rebounds, six steals, four assists and a block. Takuya Kawamura added 10 points and five assists, with Ryo Tawatari scoring nine points and Prince Ibeh, who got the start at center after sitting out the series opener (a 78-71 Fukuoka victory on Saturday), provided seven points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

“Well, it was nice to get a win and we had to remind ourselves at the end that we should enjoy the win. It didn’t feel like we were enjoying it because of the way it finished,” first-year Yokohama coach Tom Wisman said, referring to how the visitors outscored his team 27-15 in the fourth quarter.

“But we had the energy from the start of the game,” Wisman noted, “and defensively we were much better for at least three quarters. We had the game in a winning position and didn’t handle that pressure situation. When they stepped up their pressure, we didn’t handle that. We went 4-for-18 (from the field) in the fourth quarter and had seven turnovers. That’s not the way we want to finish a good performance. So we still have a lot of room for improvement.”

Dexter Pittman, a former NBA center, led Fukuoka (3-14) with 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Masashi Joho scored 12 points and Benjamin Lawson had 11 with 13 rebounds, while Shota Tsuyama added eight points and captain Yasuhiro Yamashita handed out six assists.

Looking back on the game, Pittman said, “At the beginning we just went away from our game. … I just felt like we were out of it a little bit.” He cited lack of energy at both ends of the floor in the early going.

“You’ve got to give all the credit to Yokohama,” Pittman said. “They came out stronger and they came out ready and they came with a plan today.”

With the 208-cm Ibeh in the starting lineup replacing Amanze Egekeze, the B-Corsairs had another big body to combat Pittman’s potent low-post offensive game. The Fukuoka center had 36 points on 16-for-22 shooting in the series opener. A day later, he was 11 of 19.

Ibeh, a University of Texas product, won the opening tip, and after Kawamura missed a driving jumper, McCrea snared the rebound and scored on a putback. That 2-0 Yokohama lead quickly became 4-0 on an Ibeh tip-in, then 8-2 on another McCrea putback, and 11-2 on a Hosoya 3-pointer from the right wing with about 7:15 left in the first quarter.

It was 16-4 after Ibeh converted a layup. Then Fukuoka veteran guard Masashi Joho sank a fadeaway 3-pointer from the left wing to trim the lead to 16-7.

The deficit was under 10 points for a very short time.

Seconds later, Hosoya buried another 3, this one from the left elbow.

Tawatari canned two free throws to make it 25-9 with 1:21 to play in the opening quarter, and the visitors faced a 29-13 deficit after the opening quarter.

Hot shooting put the hosts in front — where they remained — in a hurry. The B-Corsairs made 11 of 18 shots (61.1 percent) in the first quarter and Fukuoka knocked down 4 of 14.

After scoring only 14 points in the first quarter on Saturday (when it led by one), Yokohama more than doubled that total in the opening 10 minutes a day later.

Energized and fired up after Saturday’s loss, McCrea’s authoritative jam pushed the lead to 39-21 near the midway point of the second quarter.

By halftime, Hosoya had 15 points, with McCrea and Tawatari scoring nine and seven, respectively. Kawamura distributed five assists before the break.

In each of the first three quarters, the Rizing Zephyr had under 20 points, and Wisman said he looks at the game as four separate contests-within-the-bigger match to win. By outscoring the visitors in those three mini-games, the B-Corsairs had held momentum.

Fukuoka also trailed 70-46 after three quarters.

The Rizing Zephyr needed more sustained scoring in order to mount a prolonged rally, but ran out of time as the fourth quarter expired. They used a 12-0 spurt to close the gap to 76-60, and got as close as 77-65 on a Joho 3-pointer. Then Hosoya, who was 6-for-6 at the line, drained four free throws in a 20-second stretch, and the lead was back up to 81-65.

Pittman dunked again to cut it to 81-67, and the visitors fell shy of their goal in the closing seconds.

Sparked by Hosoya, the B-Corsairs connected on 8 of 19 3-point shots. The Rizing Zephyr made just 2 of 11.

“Hosoya got them off to a really good start,” said Fukuoka coach Bob Nash, who felt that 3-point shooting was the deciding factor in the game. “He hit some big shots and we knew that he was capable of doing what he did today, and we just didn’t do a very good job early on of keeping him from getting into a rhythm. Once he gets into a rhythm, he’s a very good shooter, and today he was able to get into that rhythm.

“Today’s game was a matter of (how) they made more 3-pointers than we did,” Nash conceded.

He added: “We had more field goals and more free throws, but it got down to where they had eight 3-pointers and we had two.”

Acknowledging his disappointment, Nash said his club didn’t maintain the same focus that it had in the series opener.

“I felt like we had a little hangover from yesterday’s game thinking that we were just going to show up and it was going to be the same results, and I tried to warn my team that you have to be prepared for every game. We don’t take any opponent lightly. We don’t take any opponent for granted. We have to prepare and be prepared and I thought we got off to a sluggish start in the first half, and we had to fight hard just to make it a game at the end.”

Hosoya said he received good passes from his teammates, which set him up for 3-point shooting opportunities.

McCrea commended Ibeh’s energy and was pleased with the defensive effort they provided as a duo. At times, McCrea fronted Pittman, while Ibeh provided the last line of defense as the rim protector.

“It definitely (helped),” McCrea said.

“Lately we’ve been struggling with interior defense,” he admitted. “That’s been a big struggle, so having him in there blocking shots, being active, it really helped our defense. We played really good defense today.”

Golden Kings 71, Alvark 56

In Okinawa City, title-chasing Ryukyu outscored the defending champions 18-9 in the fourth quarter and earned a split of their marquee two-game set.

Josh Scott led the Golden Kings (12-5) with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Naoki Tashiro scored 13 points and Takatoshi Furukawa 10.

Ryukyu shot 43.8 percent from the floor and limited Tokyo to 35.7

Seiya Ando scored 11 points and Daiki Tanaka and Milko Bjelica both had 10 for the Alvark (11-6).

Sunrockers 85, Hannaryz 78

In Tokyo, Duke University alumni Ryan Kelly delivered a splendid all-around performance to help lead Shibuya salvage a weekend split with Kyoto.

Kelly had 33 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and a pair of blocks for the Sunrockers (6-11).

The Sunrockers sank 12 of 26 3s in the victory, and held the out-of-towners to nine fourth-quarter points.

Leo Vendrame supplied 17 points and seven assists, Kenta Hirose had 13 points, including 7 of 7 at the foul line, and Robert Sacre contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.

Shaquille Morris was the high scorer for the Hannaryz (10-7). David Simon had 13 points and seven rebounds and Tatsuya Ito scored 13 points with eight assists.

Northern Happinets 75, Albirex BB 67

In Noshiro, Akita Prefecture, the hosts raced out to a 29-12 lead by the end of the first period and avenged a Saturday loss to Niigata.

Justin Keenan scored 27 points and corralled 12 rebounds for Akita (5-12) and Kadeem Coleby contributed 16 points and nine rebounds. Takuya Nakayama had six points and 10 assists.

For the Albirex (12-5), Davante Gardner finished with 24 points and 12 boards. Lamont Hamilton and Kei Igarashi added 13 and 11 points, respectively. Igarashi led the team with seven assists.

Brave Thunders 82, Levanga 74

In Obihiro, Hokkaido, frontcourt partners Nick Fazekas and Shane Edwards set the tone for Kawasaki on offense in the team’s second win as many days over the struggling Levanga.

Fazekas, the 2016-17 B. League top-flight MVP, contributed 20 points and 17 rebounds, while Edwards had 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Takumi Hasegawa added 12 points for the Brave Thunders (11-6).

Hokkaido’s Shuto Mizoguchi scored a season-high 18 points and Marc Trasolini, David Doblas and Kohei Sekino each had 14-point outings. Doblas pulled down 15 rebounds as well, but the Levanga (4-13) dropped their fifth straight contest.

Brex 74, Grouses 65

In Toyama, Tochigi played a strong defensive game and benefited from the shot-rejection skills of several players in the process.

The Brex swatted nine shots in the series finale, getting three blocks from Jeff Gibbs and two apiece from Ryan Rossiter, Kosuke Takeuchi and Ryo Yamazaki.

Gibbs paced Tochigi (15-2) with 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and filled the stat sheet with four assists, three steals and two blocks. Rossiter chipped in with 12 points and 12 boards. Seiji Ikaruga finished with 10 points and six assists and Yusuke Endo had nine points as Tochigi extended its winning streak to six.

The score was knotted at 54-54 after three quarters.

Leo Lyons was Toyama’s high scorer with 34 points. Takeshi Mito added 10 for the Grouses (9-8).

Jets 81, Evessa 59

In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, the hosts’ quick-strike offense delivered big results against Osaka to complete a weekend sweep.

Chiba outscored the visitors 13-5 on fast-break opportunities. What’s more, the Jets sank 11 of 20 3s while limiting the Evessa to 3-for-14 from long range.

Yuki Togashi finished with 15 points and six assists and Michael Parker contributed 14 points, 15 boards, three steals and three blocks for the Jets (13-4), who led 46-25 at halftime. Aki Chambers, who converted 3 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc, poured in 13 points, Gavin Edwards had 11 and Kosuke Ishii 10.

Hiroyuki Kinoshita scored 15 points and doled out five assists for Osaka (6-11). Josh Harrellson had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

NeoPhoenix 75, Lakestars 65

In Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, San-en took a 39-27 lead into the second half and held on for a bounce-back win over Shiga.

Robert Dozier (20 points, 13 rebounds) and William McDonald (12 points, 12 boards) both had double-doubles for the NeoPhoenix (7-10). Tatsuya Suzuki, Tomonobu Hasegawa and Hayato Kawashima all scored nine points, with Kawashima also dishing out seven assists.

Gani Lawal led the Lakestars (4-13) with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while D’or Fischer added 16 and nine. Veteran playmaker Taishi Ito registered nine assists with zero turnovers.

B2 update

Here are Sunday’s second-division scores:

Wyverns 85, Earthfriends 69

89ers 75, Dragonflies 60

Five Arrows 87, Wat’s 68

Brave Warriors 84, Firebonds 72

Storks 88, Susanoo Magic 85

Volters 89, Fighting Eagles 76

Crane Thunders 86, Bambitious 61