Basketball / B. League

Toyama's Yuto Otsuka earns All-Star Game MVP honors as B. White outguns B. Black

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

In a high-scoring first half, Yuto Otsuka had a quiet performance, scoring just two points.

The B. White starter heated up in the second half and his team did, too.

B. White lit up the scoreboard for 80 second-half points — 40 apiece in the third and fourth quarters — in a 142-130 victory over B. Black on Saturday night in the third annual B. League All-Star Game in Toyama.

Otsuka, who plays for the Toyama Grouses, had 22 of his 24 points in the second half. He was named All-Star Game MVP, beating B. White teammate Nick Fazekas (Kawasaki Brave Thunders) and B. Black players Leo Vendrame (Sunrockers Shibuya) and Yudai Baba (Alvark Tokyo) in fan voting done via social media.

Otsuka, a 31-year-old swingman, was B. White’s designated gunner in the second half. Teammates made extra passes to get him the ball. He fired up a game-high 13 3-point attempts, including 11 of them after the intermission. He sank six 3s.

Speaking during an on-court interview after he was named game MVP, Otsuka admitted that “being in the starting five was (a thrill).” Otsuka then thanked the fans for their support, receiving a strong applause from the announced crowd of 4,051 fans.

Otsuka received 60 percent of the fans’ votes, followed by Baba with 31 percent, Fazekas with six percent and Vendrame with three.

Fazekas, a former NBA big man, had a game-best 29 points. He had 18 points in the second half in the run-and-gun contest. The teams combined for 89 3-point shots, with both making 18 from beyond the arc.

What’s more, the 2018-19 All-Star Game featured 26 dunks. B. Black had a 16-10 edge in dunks.

Baba topped the chart with six dunks and B. Black teammates Robert Sacre (Shibuya) and Jeff Gibbs (Tochigi Brex) each recorded five dunks. For B. White, Gavin Edwards (Chiba Jets Funabashi) had five dunks, Davante Gardner (Niigata Albirex BB) added three and Fazekas and Tenketsu Harimoto (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins) had one each.

B. Black led 65-62 at halftime.

In addition to Fazekas and Otsuka’s high-scoring performances, B. White had four more double-digit scorers: Edwards (19 points, nine rebounds), Gardner (18 points, eight boards, nine assists), Yuki Togashi (12 points; the Jets star also dished out five assists and made three steals) and Ryota Sakurai (11 points; the Levanga Hokkaido veteran was 5-for-6 from the floor).

The teams were whistled for a combined five fouls, with Vendrame the only player picking up two fouls. They attempted a combined 201 shots in the 40-minute contest.

B. Black playmaker Narito Namizato (Ryukyu Golden Kings) doled out 13 assists to lead in that category. Namizato attempted a surprisingly low three shots from the field, nailing 1 of 2 3s for his only points.

Sacre, also a former NBA pivot, paced B. Black with 26 points. Vendrame and Baba, two of the league’s young, rising stars, had 24 and 23 points, respectively, and established star Gibbs scored 21 and nearly completed a triple-double (13 rebounds, nine assists). Takuya Kawamura of the Yokohama B-Corsairs finished with 15 points.

In the fast-paced game, B. White outscored its foe 53-22 in fast-break points.

B. Black jumped out to an early 15-5 lead, then extended its advantage to 22-9 on a Namizato 3-pointer with 5:07 left in the first quarter.

B. White stormed back, pulling within 33-31 with 35 seconds left in the opening stanza on a Harimoto jumper.

And then it was a race to the finish, with B. White making more shots down the stretch.

Both teams showcased razzle-dazzle passes and finishes, including a nifty exchange between Gibbs and Vendrame, who snared a pass in the paint and made a spinning reverse layup in the fourth quarter.

Fazekas and his teammates and the opposing squad smiled early and often in the game. It wasn’t taken too seriously, and there was playful exuberance on display.

In the fourth, Fazekas ambled along the perimeter and splashed in a step-back 3-pointer to put his team ahead 122-115 with 5:44 left. He grinned, fans clapped and the game went on. At that point, Fazekas was the leading scorer with 23 points and that fact remained.

With 59 seconds remaining, Otsuka made a steal. Then he scored a layup to make it 135-122, and B. White equaled its largest lead of the game.

Notes

Edwards won the Slam Dunk Contest, Kosuke Kanamaru (SeaHorses Mikawa) triumphed in the 3-Point Contest and Togashi was victorious in the Skills Challenge.

Flashback

In last year’s All-Star Game in Kumamoto, B. Black defeated B. White 123-111. Hometown hero Shintaro Kobayashi of the Kumamoto Volters was named game MVP.

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