FUNABASHI, CHIBA PREF. - On a star-studded roster, Chiba Jets Funabashi shooting guard Shigehiro Taguchi can be overlooked at times.
That wasn’t possible on Sunday, though. Taguchi captured the attention of fans and put his stamp on the final outcome with a game-changing performance.
The veteran perimeter sniper delivered a bold reminder of his skills in the series finale against the Kyoto Hannaryz. He scored a season-best 16 points, nailed 4 of 5 3-point range and two clutch free throws in crunch time as the Jets rallied for a pulse-rising 87-84 victory before a packed house of 5,551.
Taguchi heated up in the second half, when he scored 14 points and provided a big boost for Chiba (24-5), which extended its winning streak to six.
Though Taguchi hasn’t posted gaudy statistics this season (5.0 point-per-game average) as he did in the past for the Akita Northern Happinets, his confidence and shooting skills were on full display throughout the game.
“Today, it was a good feeling, shooting and strength in the game,” Taguchi said later.
Starting center Gavin Edwards anchored the Jets’ low-post attack and finished with 22 points, including 9 of 10 from inside the arc, and nine rebounds. Michael Parker notched a double-double (18 points, 10 boards) and Yuki Togashi had a 14-point, nine-assist outing. Captain Ryumo Ono came off the bench and scored five points and dished out five assists.
With 51 seconds remaining, Ono made a go-ahead 3-pointer to give the Jets an 85-84 advantage.
Kyoto missed two scoring chances on its next trip down the floor, then Chiba ran its offense. Togashi dribbled to milk the clock before unleashing a highlight-reel jumper from just inside the 3-point arc. He canned the shot with a picturesque rainbow-like arc. That made it 87-84 with 4 seconds to play.
The Hannaryz’s Shaquille Morris missed a potential tying 3 before the final buzzer sounded.
David Simon paced Kyoto (15-14) with 22 points, including 16 in the first half. Morris added 18 points and 14 boards and Tatsuya Ito and Kevin Hareyama both finished with 16 points. Ito also had 11 assists.
Kyoto, which lost the series opener 98-46 on Saturday, led 45-42 at halftime.
Edwards welcomed the change of pace from the previous day.
“The games where you are winning by a lot, it’s definitely nice to be able to take a little bit of a break because the season’s a bit hectic this year … kind of a condensed season,” Edwards admitted.
“But as far as the close ones, I think those are like truly who you are as a team because every single possession is critical, and a lot of people will make mistakes in those last couple minutes where it gets real tight. So I think for us to be able to pull games out like that is very important for us, and it kind of shows who we are as a team.”
Kyoto played its best sustained stretch of basketball late in the second quarter and early in the third, using a 14-0 run that spanned both quarters. Yusuke Okada’s fadeaway 3-pointer capped the big spurt that put the visitors ahead 48-42. Okada fouled out in the fourth.
The Hannaryz took an eight-point lead (60-52) on a Hareyama jumper from the right corner, his sweet spot.
But Taguchi, who lists Ray Allen and Stephen Curry as favorite NBA 3-point shooting stars of yesteryear and now, checked back into the game with 5:12 remaining in the period. He pump-faked on a 3-point shot before taking it. Good. That cut it to 60-55.
In the fourth, Kyoto squandered an 81-74 lead with 5:59 left. After that, the Jets mounted a rally, initiated by — you guessed it — a Taguchi 3 from the left wing, making it a four-point game.
Stepping to the free-throw line with 1:30 to play, Taguchi looked poised and relaxed. His first shot sailed through the net to tie it at 81-81. His second chance was a perfect replica of the first: Swish.
Chiba coach Atsushi Ono said, “It was good to end the year with six straight wins.”
Hannaryz bench boss Honoo Hamaguchi was a man of few words in the post-game news conference. He summed it up as “not a good game” for his club. Looking back on the second half, he stated that “it didn’t go well.”
Ryumo Ono, on the other hand, considered the “defensive effort of (the Jets) toward the end of the game” to be a key to victory.
Levanga 78, Alvark 76
In Sapporo, Spanish big man David Doblas scored a buzzer-beating basket to lift Hokkaido to a dramatic victory over Tokyo.
The Alvark’s Alex Kirk had tied it at 76-76 on a pair of free throws with nine seconds left.
Doblas made a stellar all-around impact with 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the Levanga (8-21), who dropped the series opener.
Byron Mullens had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Hokkaido mainstay Takehiko Orimo scored 13 points, with Yoshitake Matsushima registering 13 assists, including the pass that set up Doblas’ winning shot.
Kirk scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards, Yudai Baba finished with 14 points and Jawad Williams had 13 for Tokyo (19-10).
Northern Happinets 73, NeoPhoenix 59
In Akita, the hosts dominated the fourth quarter, pulled away down the stretch and salvaged a series split with San-en.
The Happinets (11-18) outscored the visitors 29-15 in the final period. Justin Keenan scored 20 points and Kadeem Coleby had 18 and 13 rebounds for Akita. Ryuto Yasuoka contributed 14 points.
For the NeoPhoenix (10-19), Josh Childress had a team-high 19 points and William McDonald scored 15.
Rizing Zephyr 79, Sunrockers 72
In Tokyo, Fukuoka nailed a scorching 12 of 18 shots from beyond the arc in a bounce-back triumph over Shibuya.
Eric Jacobsen finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Rizing Zephyr (8-21), while veteran guard Masashi Joho delivered a vintage 21-point outing, knocking down five 3-pointers and dishing out five assists. Tenyoku You poured in 13 points.
The Sunrockers’ Yusei Sugiura, who’s averaging 4.8 points per game, lit up the scoreboard with 23 points. He drained 7 of 9 3-point attempts. Teammate Robert Sacre had 19 points and Leo Vendrame scored 11 for Shibuya (13-16). Ryan Kelly, who was held to four points, pulled down 12 rebounds.
Albirex BB 90, Grouses 83
In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, star center Davante Gardner carried the Albirex on his big, broad shoulders as they defeated Toyama for the second day in a row.
Gardner had a game-best 34 points on 16-for-22 shooting and nine rebounds. Kei Igarashi scored 18 points and dished out seven assists, while Lamont Hamilton contributed 14 points and seven boards for Niigata (19-10).
Yuto Otsuka led the Grouses (16-13) with 21 points, Naoki Uto scored 18 and handed out five assists and Leo Lyons added 17 points, seven rebounds and five helpers.
Brex 89, Diamond Dolphins 85
In Nagoya, MVP candidate Ryan Rossiter’s 30-point, 13-rebound performance helped Tochigi hold off the hosts and complete a sweep.
Jeff Gibbs chipped in with 18 points and nine boards and Yusuke Endo and Seiji Ikaruga both scored 10 points for the Brex (24-5).
Shuto Ando and Takaya Sasayama had 22 points apiece for Nagoya (16-13), with Craig Brackins providing 18 points and eight rebounds.
Evessa 64, Lakestars 60
In Osaka, Rei Goda scored 18 points and Josh Harrellson notched a double-double as the Evessa wrapped up a weekend sweep of Shiga.
Harrellson, a former University of Kentucky and NBA big man, finished with 14 points and 10 boards. Xavier Gibson added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Osaka (13-16).
Gani Lawal paced the Lakestars (6-23) with 23 points and 13 rebounds.
Golden Kings 83, B-Corsairs 42
In Okinawa City, Yokohama trailed 19-2 after the opening quarter en route to a runaway defeat against the West Division-leading Golden Kings in the teams’ series opener.
Ryukyu (21-7) led 49-12 entering the third quarter.
Ryuichi Kishimoto was the Kings’ high scorer with 21 points and Jeff Ayres had 16 points and 19 rebounds.
Yokohama (6-22) was 21 for 81 from the field. Naoaki Hashimoto scored 15 points for the B-Corsairs.