Basketball

Jets win Emperor's Cup in overtime thriller

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Diminutive star Yuki Togashi ended the nail-biting, seesaw game with a clutch shot.

With just seconds remaining, the point guard put his Chiba Jets ahead with a 3-pointer in their 71-69 overtime win over the Tochigi Brex in Sunday’s All-Japan Championship final at Saitama Super Arena.

The Jets completed an Emperor’s Cup three-peat with the dramatic win, while the Brex failed to earn their first title in the annual tournament.

“I wasn’t feeling well with my shooting touch today, so I was a little hesitant,” Togashi reflected. “But I had nobody guarding me and just decided to take it. It felt great to see that go through the hoop.”

It was his only successful 3-pointer in five attempts on the day. The former Texas Legends (then of the NBA D League) player finished with five points and a game-high 10 assists for Chiba. His teammate Gavin Edwards had 27 points and 11 rebounds while another American, Josh Duncan, made some key baskets for 16 points.

Tochigi had a slight advantage early and entered halftime up 32-26. But the resilient Jets regrouped and managed to make it a close game.

With 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Tochigi’s Jeff Gibbs sank a game-tying free throw and sent the contest into overtime.

The two teams went back and forth during the extremely physical five-minute extra period. With 16 seconds left, the Brex took a 69-68 lead on a Ryan Rossiter free throw. But Togashi, who was somehow left wide open by the Brex defenders, nailed the 3 to steal the win.

“We played a tough game for the second game in a row, so I’m exhausted,” said Chiba head coach Atsushi Ono. “I was telling our guys to play patiently so we could eventually find our rhythm.”

The Jets won each of their last three games by three or fewer points. They edged the Alvark Tokyo 80-79 in Saturday’s semifinal when Michael Parker made a basket with less than one second remaining in the fourth quarter.

For the Brex, Rossiter had 23 points and 19 boards. Tochigi shot just 35.1 percent from inside the 3-point arc while the Jets made 51.2 percent of their 2-point shot attempts.

Tochigi, which fell to the Aisin SeaHorses in the final of the 2016 tourney, was saddled with another silver medal.

The Jets, arguably the B. League’s most popular team, advanced to last year’s league championship game but fell to the Alvark. This year, Chiba hopes to capitalize on the momentum of the Emperor’s Cup to finally win a B. League title.

“We won this last year and ended up being the runner-ups,” said Togashi, who was named tournament MVP. “So we would definitely like to win it this time around.”

Togashi, Edwards, Rossiter, his Brex teammate Ryosuke Endo, and the Alvark’s Yudai Baba were selected for the tournament’s Best Five squad.

Earlier in the day, the Jx-Eneos Sunflowers added another trophy to a shelf already packed with many others.

Japan’s dominant women’s basketball club extended its Empress’ Cup championship streak to six with a 86-65 win over the Toyota Antelopes in the women’s final.

It was the 23rd title for the Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture-based team.

The 10-time reigning Women’s Japan Basketball League champions seized the momentum in the second quarter and kept expanding their lead to secure victory.

Inside player Ramu Tokashiki scored a game-high 31 points and versatile forward Yuki Miyazawa followed with 17 points for the Sunflowers.

“It’s my role and I’m happy that I made those 3-pointers for the team,” Miyazawa said of her contribution to the scoreline for Jx-Eneos throughout the tourney.

The 25-year-old was named the tournament MVP for a second straight year.

Tokashiki played for the Seattle Storm between 2015-17, but opted to not play for the WNBA team in 2018 in order to focus on her preparations for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

While reflecting positively on her time in the U.S. pro circuit, Tokashiki insisted she needs to develop further ahead of the Summer Games.

“I’ve got to make my outside shooting percentage better,” The five-time WJBL MVP said. “If I stay at my current level, I won’t be able to help (the national) team out.”

For Toyota, forwards Evelyn Mawuli and Moeko Nagaoka scored 19 and 12 points, respectively.

Tokashiki, Miyazawa, Mawuli, Nagaoka, and the Fujitsu Red Wave’s Rui Machida were selected to the all-tournament team.