Basketball / B. League

Jets dominate to clinch quarterfinal series over Grouses

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

As expected, the Chiba Jets Funabashi outplayed the Toyama Grouses on Sunday.

The Jets dazzled and dominated in their B. League Championship quarterfinal series-clinching victory, winning 96-85 at Funabashi Arena.

Chiba (54-8), which extended its winning streak to 10, never trailed in the second, third and fourth quarters.

The East Division champion Jets will play host to the division runner-up Tochigi Brex (51-11, winners of seven straight) next Saturday and Sunday in the playoff semifinals.

Coach Atsushi Ono’s Jets, who had the best regular-season record — 52-8 — in the 18-team first division, took the lead for good on a Shigehiro Taguchi 3-pointer with 2:59 remaining in the first quarter.

That made it 16-13, Chiba. Point guard Yuki Togashi assisted on the play, and dished out nine more in the series finale. A day earlier, the Jets began their postseason quest for a title by whipping Toyama 102-73 in Game 1. Togashi made his mark with 17 points and 13 assists.

The Jets, last season’s title runner-ups, led 23-15 entering the second quarter, 45-36 at halftime and 73-60 after three quarters.

Chiba’s deep, versatile lineup delivered the expected production throughout the game. Togashi paced the starters with 24 points, leading all scorers with five 3-pointers. Starting small forward Aki Chambers had 10 of his 15 points in the first half, and backup forward Josh Duncan chipped in with 17 points, 12 rebounds, one block and one steal in 20-plus action-packed minutes. Taguchi came off the bench and scored 12 points, knocking down 3 of 5 3-pointers. Starting center Gavin Edwards had a solid all-around game with 10 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks.

Duncan, who was named the game MVP, addressed the crowd during the hero interview afterward.

“It was good to get a win,” Duncan said. “We obviously needed it to advance, and we played well today. They (the Grouses) made us work, for sure.

“It wasn’t easy.”

Former Jets forward Leo Lyons ignited the Grouses (32-30) with 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting. Yuto Otsuka poured in 13 points and Joshua Smith, who had foul trouble early (three first-half fouls), added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Naoki Uto finished with eight points and eight assists and Tomokazu Abe supplied eight points and a trio of steals.

Chiba took its biggest lead of the game (80-60) on a Kosuke Ishii 3-pointer with 8:15 remaining.

Ishii was one of seven Jets players to make at least one 3-pointer. In addition to Togashi and Taguchi, the others were Michael Parker, Chambers and Fumio Nishimura, all of whom had one apiece like Ishii.

Ono summed up his team’s play in his typical, soft-spoken manner by saying the Jets “played relax(ed).” He called it a “good performance” in the series finale. Elaborating on the team’s composure, which was on display throughout both weekend games, Ono noted that his club played 60 games to prepare for the playoffs.

Taguchi, a high-energy performer, credited his team for its patience in repeatedly finding the open man on offense. “Team energy (defined) the play of the starters and the bench,” he declared.

“To win at home (again) is a good feeling,” a smiling Togashi told reporters.

Asked about the keys to Sunday’s win, Togashi quickly blurted out that frontcourt anchor Edwards deserved major credit for the way the game turned out. “Every game,” Togashi said, “Gavin Edwards has a big defensive performance.”

Toyama bench boss Don Beck, in his first season at the helm, acknowledged that the Jets “are probably the most talented team” in the league. He cited Parker, Duncan and Edwards, among others, as influential game-changing players.

Turning the attention to his club, which featured nine new players on the roster and five new team staff members this season, Beck said: “I think it’s really good that we got this far. … I thought we had a good season. With a bit of luck and some things going our way, we could have won a few more games.”

Alvark 71, Albirex 68 (Tokyo wins series 2-0)

In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, Tokyo clamped down defensively on the hosts in Sunday’s rematch, forcing 15 turnovers and pressuring star center Davante Gardner throughout the game.

The reigning champion Alvark overcame a 27-17 deficit after the first quarter with persistence and solid all-around play. In the third quarter, Tokyo (46-16) outscored Niigata 22-12 to take a 59-55 advantage into the final period.

The Albirex opened the game with a 12-0 scoring run.

Yudai Baba led the visitors with 17 points and contributed six rebounds, six assists and two steals and Milko Bjelica scored 14 points. Standout big man Alex Kirk finished with 13 points, eight boards and a game-high six steals, while Seiya Ando put 11 points on the board.

Gardner had 19 points and nine rebounds along with seven turnovers. Albirex teammate Lamont Hamilton scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, Keita Imamura added 12 points and Kei Igarashi had eight points and seven assists for Niigata (45-17), which had its 10-game win streak halted in Game 1.

Tokyo travels to face the winner of the Ryukyu-Nagoya series in next weekend’s other top-flight semifinal series.

Golden Kings 77, Diamond Dolphins 53 (Series tied 1-1)

In Okinawa City, Ryukyu extended its season by at least one more game, dominating on the boards against Nagoya.

The Golden Kings (41-21) snared 44 rebounds and held the visitors to 24.

Sharpshooter Takatoshi Furukawa ignited Ryukyu’s offensive attack with 26 points, draining 5 of 6 3-point attempts. Jeff Ayres chipped in with 15 points, including 8-for-8 at the foul line. Kevin Jones scored 11 points and hauled in nine rebounds. Kings playmaker Narito Namizato supplied 10 points and six assists.

The hosts led 30-25 at halftime, but the tone of the game then changed quickly. Ryukyu put 32 points on the board in the third quarter while limiting Nagoya to 12.

Justin Burrell paced the Diamond Dolphins (34-28) with 15 points, with Hilton Armstrong, Shuto Ando and Taito Nakahigashi all scoring 10 apiece.

B2 playoff semifinals

Results of Sunday’s Game 2s:

Brave Warriors 72, Susanoo Magic 57 (Shinshu wins series 2-0)

Volters 75, Crane Thunders 50 (Series tied 1-1)

Note: Kumamoto plays host to Gunma in Monday’s Game 3 at 3 p.m.