Strength in numbers defined the Alvark Tokyo’s performance on Tuesday night.
Seven of nine Alvark players who stepped onto the court scored eight or more points against the Ryukyu Golden Kings in Game 3 of their B. League Championship semifinal series.
In addition, the defending champions did a splendid job taking care of the ball (15 assists, four turnovers) en route to a 72-60 victory in Okinawa City.
Tokyo advances to face the Chiba Jets Funabashi, the league’s best regular-season team, in Saturday’s championship final at Yokohama Arena. Tipoff is 3:10 p.m.
Point guard Seiya Ando, who averaged 9.7 points per game during the regular season, scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the second half to ignite Tokyo. He finished 6 of 8 from the floor and was one of three Alvark players to go 2-for-3 on 3-point shots; Genki Kojima and Zack Baranski, both of whom had eight points, also did. Daiki Tanaka poured in 10 points and Milko Bjelica had a nine-point effort as the two veterans provided a spark off the bench for coach Luka Pavicevic’s club. Yudai Baba and Alex Kirk finished with eight points apiece.
Tokyo led 38-24 at halftime.
Baba, a second-year pro and rising star, energized his club in the first half with four points, three rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block before the break.
The Alvark, who trailed 18-17 after the opening quarter, took control in the second stanza, holding the hosts to six points on 3-for-15 shooting, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
Tokyo capped a 10-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game (57-39) on an Ando 3-pointer with 9:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Ayres paced the Golden Kings with 12 points, Ira Brown scored 11 and Ryoma Hashimoto had 10.
Ryukyu struggled against Tokyo’s tenacious defense, turning the ball over 13 times. The Kings finished with 14 assists.
In an emotional display after the game, Pavicevic hugged Ryukyu bench boss Norio Sassa on the court.
“It was another tough battle in a great atmosphere,” Kirk said in a post-game interview. “Okinawa has some of the best fans in all of the league. I think the key for us was from the start we played intense and kept that going all the way through.
“Our guards had some great opportunities and took advantage of them. (I’m) very proud of how we played today. Obviously super excited to be heading to the championship again. We have fought through a lot of circumstances this year. But at the end of the day we are playing in the championship just like we dreamt in August.”
He added: “Can’t wait to play with this group and represent the Alvark one more time in the championship.”
In the paint
Four victories separated the teams in the regular season. The Alvark went 44-16 before eliminating the Niigata Albirex BB in two games in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. The Golden Kings, who claimed the West Division title with a 40-20 record, reached the semifinals after beating the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins in a three-game series in the quarterfinals. … Ryukyu outrebounded Tokyo 36-26, but the Alvark held an 11-7 advantage in second-chance points. Tokyo also had three fast-break points to Ryukyu’s zero. … The Alvark shot 46.4 percent, while the Golden Kings shot 37.3.