UTSUNOMIYA, TOCHIGI PREF. – It’s not every day that a brother who lives on the other side of the Pacific Ocean gets the chance see a younger sibling play a starring role in a professional sports event far from home.
But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday at Brex Arena Utsunomiya.
Frontcourt dynamo Ryan Rossiter paced the Tochigi Brex with a game-high 25 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as his team salvaged a weekend split with the Ryukyu Golden Kings, winning 77-67 before a packed house of 4,532 fans.
Elder brother Steve Rossiter, who played college ball at Davidson College during future NBA superstar Stephen Curry’s era, was in the stands for the series finale. He visited the press room during the post-game news conference and joked with Ryan as the Tochigi standout spoke about “having to get a win for Steve” before he leaves for California on Tuesday.
Rossiter and the Brex fell short of that goal in the series opener on Saturday, losing 93-90 in double overtime. The MVP candidate, who starred at Siena (New York) College, scored a B. League first-division record 52 points in the defeat, but stated that he would have preferred a victory instead of a league record. He made 10 of 18 foul shots in the game, missing some key free throws in the fourth quarter.
Basketball runs in the family. Their father Steve, a former New York City firefighter, competed for Loyola University Maryland in the 1980s.
Both squads lead their respective divisions and are among the favorites to contend for the B. League title in May. The East’s Brex now own a league-best 18-3 record; the West’s Golden Kings slipped to 15-6.
“It was a tough game. Ryukyu’s a very good team,” Rossiter told reporters.
“We couldn’t afford to lose two this weekend,” he added, looking ahead to Wednesday’s clash with the visiting Alvark Tokyo.
“Coach (Ryuzo Anzai) told us before the game to be loose and play our game, and that’s what we did.”
Commenting on getting a win for his brother a day after the 20T defeat, Rossiter had this to say: “I was pretty disappointed yesterday after missing the free throws, obviously, that eventually cost us the game, so I just wanted to show up and come out aggressive and confident. I’m just happy we got the win today.”
As for his 52-point performance, Rossiter admitted that “I’m not going to lie; it’s a nice honor. There’s a lot of good players in this league. . . . But it doesn’t really mean much when it comes in a loss.”
Rossiter said with a laugh that his brother offered him a massage after Saturday’s epic game, “but I turned him down.”
Instead, the Brex mainstay was focused on a parting gift for Steve Rossiter.
“I needed to get at least one win before he was out of here,” declared Rossiter, who sank 10 of 11 free-throw attempts, only missing his final one of the afternoon. A model of consistency, he’s recorded 12 consecutive double-doubles.
Seiji Ikaruga poured in 13 points, matching Jeff Gibbs’ scoring output and Kosuke Takeuchi had 10 points, nine boards (four offensive) and two blocks. His gritty inside play included a pair of blocks in a tone-setting defensive performance. Takeuchi topped the 4,000-rebound career milestone in the game, too. With a humble nod of his head, Takeuchi told reporters he was happy to achieve the feat. Gibbs also hauled in nine boards.
If consistency can be measured for a full 40 minutes, the Brex were the more aggressive team at both ends of the floor. The biggest indicator: Tochigi’s 51 rebounds. Ryukyu collected 36.
Neither team shot the ball well. The Brex shot 39 percent, while the Kings were held to 31.4, including 15 of 46 from inside the 3-point arc.
Former NBA forward Jeff Ayres led Ryukyu with 21 points and Josh Scott had 20 with 16 rebounds. Ryuichi Kishimoto added eight points.
The Brex made some defensive adjustments to counter starting guard Narito Namizato’s speed and flashy offensive skills. He scored 26 points on Saturday, but was held to seven a day later. He led all players with seven assists, but the Brex were effective in limiting the effectiveness of Ryukyu’s pick-and-roll plays and disrupted the club’s shooting rhythm for key stretches.
Anzai commended his players for a spirited effort and for exhibiting pride while avenging Saturday’s defeat.
“In the second, third and fourth quarters, defense and rebounding were very effective,” the coach added.
His coaching counterpart, Ryukyu’s Norio Sassa, lamented his team’s mediocre rebounding numbers.
Calling it a “tough game,” Sassa also said the Kings were hampered by “poor shot selections” at times.
In the opening quarter, Tochigi got off to a slow start. Ryukyu took a 15-6 lead on a Namizato 3-pointer. The Brex then answered with a 9-2 spurt to pull within 17-14 on an Ikaruga layup.
The visitors, however, were ahead 23-15 after the opening period.
Ayres sank a 3-pointer to make it 26-15 to usher in the second stanza.
Staring at a 31-20 deficit on the scoreboard, the resilient Brex staged a comeback, slashing the deficit to 33-29 on a Kosuke Hashimoto jumper late in the first half.
The opening half ended with a crowd-pleasing final play, a right-corner, buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Yusuke Endo. That made it 37-37 and gave the hosts momentum entering the break.
Bridging the end of the third and start of the fourth, the Brex had their best offensive stretch, a 10-0 run that put them ahead 63-49 on a pair of Gibbs free throws.
The Golden Kings, who appeared more fatigued in the rematch than the hosts, trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half.
Golden Kings forward Ira Brown, an accomplished rebounder, missed the series due to a left knee cartilage injury. The team announced that he is expected to be sidelined for six weeks while receiving treatment.
Alvark 86, Albirex BB 83
In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, Alex Kirk sank a go-ahead 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining and Seiya Ando drained two foul shots with 16 ticks on the clock as Tokyo closed out the game with clutch shots, earning a bounce-back victory over the hosts.
Kirk paced Tokyo (13-8) with 19 points, followed by Milko Bjelica’s season-best 18 and Yudai Baba’s 17.
Davante Gardner led Niigata (14-7) with 28 points. Kei Igarashi scored 19 points, while Lamont Hamilton and Yuichi Ikeda both had 12.
Levanga 94, Grouses 91
In Sapporo, a balanced scoring attack carried the hosts to their first victory under new head coach Tomohide Utsumi.
Hokkaido (5-16) snapped an eight-game losing streak.
Marc Trasolini was the high scorer for the Levanga, finishing with 24 points along with eight boards. David Doblas contributed 19 points and 13 rebounds and Takehiko Orimo poured in 14 points, burying 4 of 4 from 3-point range. Ryota Sakurai had 13 points, Asahi Tajima provided 10 and seven assists and Yoshitake Matsushima dished out nine assists.
Utsumi, a former Japan women’s national team bench boss, was in his second game in charge.
Joshua Smith had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Toyama (11-10) and Leo Lyons poured in 21 points. Naoki Uto added 15 points and five assists.
The Grouses were defended aggressively. They wound up with 33 free-throw attempts (30 makes).
NeoPhoenix 85, Lakestars 84 (OT)
In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Shingo Okada canned two 3-pointers in the extra period to help lift San-en past the struggling Lakestars to complete a weekend sweep.
Veteran big man William McDonald contributed a team-best 30 points and hauled in nine rebounds for the NeoPhoenix (9-12). Okada and Robert Dozier scored 16 and 12 points, respectively. Tatsuya Suzuki chipped in with seven points and doled out 13 assists.
Gani Lawal led Shiga (4-17) with 37 points and 14 boards. Yusuke Karino had 17 points and D’or Fischer added 11 with 13 rebounds.
Sunrockers 64, Evessa 58
In Tokyo, Shibuya held Osaka to eight third-quarter points and held on for its second triumph in as many days.
Robert Sacre paced the Sunrockers (10-11) with 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Ryan Kelly had 17 points and Morihisa Yamauchi added seven.
Josh Harrellson scored 27 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for the Evessa (8-13). Naoya Kumagae finished with 17 points, while Shunki Hatakeyama dished out nine assists. Six Osaka players scored zero points.
Hannaryz 79, Northern Happinets 78
In Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture, Kevin Hareyama’s putback with 1 second remaining lifted the Hannaryz past Akita.
Kyoto, which dropped the series opener, got a big boost from Tatsuya Ito (26 points, six assists) and Julian Mavunga (25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists).
Hareyama grabbed an offensive rebound after Mavunga’s missed free throw, leading to the game’s decisive play.
The Hannaryz (12-9) capitalized on their scoring chances when the clock was stopped; they made 25 of 31 foul shots.
Conversely, the Northern Happinets only attempted 12 free throws, making seven in defeat.
Justin Keenan had 32 points and 13 boards and Kadeem Coleby scored 17 points for Akita (8-13). Takuya Nakayama added 11 points and 10 assists.
Jets 94, Diamond Dolphins 76
In Nagoya, Chiba star Michael Parker notched a double-double and five teammates also scored in double digits in a comprehensive victory over the hosts, who also lost Saturday’s showdown.
Parker, who made 10 of 13 shots from the floor, scored a team-high 21 points and snared 10 rebounds. Sharpshooter Shigehiro Taguchi knocked down 5 of 6 3-point attempts for his 15 points, while Josh Duncan supplied 11 points, nine boards and seven assists for the Jets (17-4).
Markeith Cummings led the Diamond Dolphins (13-8) with 21 points and Takaya Sasayama scored 17.
Brave Thunders 87, B-Corsairs 75
In Kawasaki, the hosts jumped out to a 65-49 advantage after three quarters and cruised past Yokohama for the second straight day.
Nick Fazekas set the pace with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Yuma Fujii (18 points, 12 assists) and Ryusei Shinoyama (18 points, 8-for-11 shooting) were also instrumental in the win. Vernon Macklin chipped in with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Brave Thunders (13-8).
For the B-Corsairs (4-17), Takuya Kawamura scored 20 points and Masashi Hosoya had 15.
Here are Sunday’s B2 scores:
Brave Warriors 84, Samuraiz 61
Fighting Eagles 80, Firebonds 73
Wyverns 86, Orange Vikings 83
Volters 95, Five Arrows 93
Susanoo Magic 74, 89ers 72
Storks 90, Dragonflies 61
Crane Thunders 82, Wat’s 53
Bambitious 89, Robots 85
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5