Entering the 2019-20 season, the Alvark Tokyo recalibrated their roster in order to set off on an ambitious quest for a third consecutive B. League title.
The Alvark took a positive step in pursuit of their goals on Sunday in Bangkok, winning the FIBA Asia Champions Cup title for the first time.
Newcomer Milan Macvan paced Tokyo with 20 points and provided eight rebounds and six assists, while tournament MVP Alex Kirk, a University of New Mexico product, poured in 18 points with 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Genki Kojima scored 13 points and handed out five assists, Seiya Ando and another newcomer, Yutaro Suda, had 11 points apiece, with Ando dishing out seven assists without a turnover. Takeki Shonaka finished with 10 points.
Ekene Ibekwe, a University of Maryland alum, led Al Riyadi with 31 points.
The Alvark, who went 4-1 in the eight-nation tournament, led 22-12 after the first quarter, with the 211-cm Kirk sparking the club with 13 points, including three slam dunks, in the opening stanza. They then increased their advantage to 47-26 by halftime.
Impressive 3-point shooting helped Tokyo’s offense click from start to finish. The Alvark converted 12 of 21 3-point shots. Macvan and Kojima both made 3 of 4 long-range attempts. Suda sank 3 of 3 and Shonaka buried 2 of 2.
What’s more, the Alvark recorded 31 assists while turning the ball over just six times.
Kirk and Tanaka, the 2018 tourney MVP, were named to the All-Star Five.
Kirk averaged 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds and shot 52.9 percent the floor in the tournament. Macvan, who hails from Serbia, contributed 16.0 points and 8.6 boards. Kojima averaged 11.6 points and Tanaka, who competed for Japan at the recent FIBA World Cup in China, posted averages of 9.2 points and 4.2 assists.
A year ago, Tokyo lost 68-64 to Iran’s Petrochimi in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup final.
Now, Alvark coach Luka Pavicevic’s squad enters the new season in an upbeat mood after fulfilling its objective in Thailand.
“First of all, I want to say congratulations to the players,” Pavicevic told reporters on Sunday. “I think we have achieved a really great feat as an Asian club champion. We faced this tournament with a strong sense of winning. We grew up as a team every match and were able to play a semifinal, a final and very strong basketball. “I feel that this Asian championship is very big for the fans and the clubs who support them. Last year, we lost in the final and felt frustrated.
“To challenge again, we had to win in Japan first. I am very happy to be back here and finally become a champion.”
The Alvark play host to the Niigata Albirex BB on Saturday in the teams’ season opener at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi. Tipoff is set for 3:05 p.m. The teams meet again at the same time a day later.
In addition to Japan, Lebanon and host Thailand, Bahrain, China, Iran, South Korea and Taiwan were also represented in this year’s tournament.
After the game, Shonaka reflected on the team’s mindset as it approached this marquee competition.
“I think Alvark Tokyo is a club that wants to make it all its own when it comes to a game that requires a title,” Shonaka told reporters, “and I think it is a club that always seeks to win. As (our) slogan is ‘exceed,’ I want to cherish each one so that I can feel the growth rather than my own limits in preparation for the next battle.”
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5