Basketball / B. League

Alphas reach B2 after swatting Bee Trains

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

The B. League third-division runner-up Koshigaya Alphas earned a promotion to the second flight with a crushing 86-64 win over the Hachioji Bee Trains in the B2/B3 promotion playoff game before a crowd of 2,057 at Yokohama Arena on Sunday.

Power forward Kyle Richardson led the team with 26 points and 20 rebounds, while fellow American Josh Peppers followed with 23 points and nine boards for the Alphas, who before this season were known as the Otsuka Shokai Koshigaya Alphas.

Koshigaya head coach Kazuto Aono said his team had gone through ups and downs over the course of the 2018-19 season and had not envisioned competing on the type of stage Sunday’s game provided.

“Playing on this great stage and coming up with the win, we had never expected to conclude the season this way,” Aono said. “Our team could have collapsed during the season. But we feel like we have become the team we are now because of that experience.”

The Alphas, who had a 27-9 record in the regular season, built a 30-16 lead by the end of the first quarter by capitalizing on their attacking defense, and maintained their momentum for the remainder of the contest.

Point guard Narumi Ryo chipped in for Koshigaya, hitting three 3-pointers for nine points.

For the Bee Trains, who had just gained promoted to B2 from B3 a year ago, center Alexander Jones led with 29 points and 19 rebounds.

For the 34-year-old Peppers, who joined the Alphas this season, it was the third straight year he helped a team earn promotion to a higher division after guiding Rising Zephyr Fukuoka from B3 to B1 over the last two campaigns.

The B. League journeyman said that having competed against the Alphas as an opponent, he knew the team had a foundation that would allow them to do what they wound up accomplishing on Sunday.

“(The team) was already something, that I knew I could be a part of and try to help become something popular,” said Peppers, who has played for several Japanese clubs including the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (predecessor of the San-en NeoPhoenix) and Iwate Big Bulls. “I’ve had the experience, obviously in B2 and B3, winning these types of games. The type of experience is something this team needed and it was all they needed. They already had the foundation, so I just felt I could add that much more knowledge to this team so we could become (a team) known in the Tokyo area.”