Basketball / B. League

Tochigi pounds Kawasaki in playoff opener

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Tochigi Brex were locked in at both ends of the court on Friday night.

The Brex offense fired on all cylinders in Game 1 of their B. League Championship quarterfinal series against the Kawasaki Brave Thunders. Coach Ryuzo Anzai’s club buried 10 of 21 3-pointers to ignite its scoring.

The Brex defense limited Kawasaki to 37.7 percent shooting from the field and forced 12 turnovers.

It all added up to an 87-57 victory at Brex Arena Utsunomiya.

Tochigi, which went 4-0 against Kawasaki during the regular season, led 19-12 after the opening quarter.

With 4:44 to play in the second stanza, Hironori Watanabe canned a 3-pointer to put Tochigi ahead 32-20.

The hosts took a 37-27 lead into intermission.

In the third quarter, their advantage expanded to 50-31 on a Watanabe basket in the lane.

The Brex (49-11 in the regular season) slammed the door on the Brave Thunders with a 12-0 run that extended their lead to 82-49 with 4:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Tochigi’s aggressive defense was a significant throughout the game, Anzai told reporters after the game. He said Tochigi got off to a good start defensively and maintained it for the rest of the game.

Summing up the Brex’s overall performance, Anzai said his team had stellar play for 40 minutes.

“Defensive pressure was (a big key),” he added.

Seiji Ikaruga paced Tochigi with 16 points, Yusuke Endo poured in 15, Ryan Rossiter and Watanabe each had 13 and Makoto Hiejima scored 11. Emotional leader Jeff Gibbs finished with 10 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

Rossiter was second on the club in rebounds (eight) and blocked two shots.

“I think we were able to do what we had to do to win,” Ikaruga said.

Nick Fazekas scored 19 points and hauled in 13 rebounds for Kawasaki (40-20 in the regular season). Yuma Fujii added 13 points and Vernon Macklin had 10 points and nine boards. Ryusei Shinoyama was held to five points on 2-for-8 shooting, while Naoto Tsuji was scoreless, missing all four of his 3-point attempts.

The Brave Thunders never led.

Game 2 is on Saturday at the same venue.

B1 survival playoff

B-Corsairs 77, Levanga 72

In Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Yokohama ended a 13-game losing streak by closing out the game with a strong fourth quarter against Hokkaido.

The B-Corsairs (14-46 entering the game) outscored the Levanga 19-9 in the fourth.

The teams meet again on Saturday. The series winner stays in B1; the loser gets demoted to the second division. If Hokkaido wins Game 2, a deciding mini-game will be held after Game 2 on Saturday.

On Saturday, the Levanga (10-50 before this series) will seek to prolong their season by ending a 23-game losing streak.

Takuya Kawamura led Yokohama with 19 points and six assists along with a pair of steals and two blocks. Brandon Costner had 18 points, Ryo Tawatari scored 15 and Arthur Stepheson provided a double-double (13 points, 15 boards). Backup forward Edward Morris finished with 10 rebounds and four blocks.

Hokkaido’s Byron Mullens had 35 points and 13 boards and David Doblas scored 23 points.