Basketball / B. League | B. LEAGUE NOTEBOOK

Brave Thunders, Sunrockers setting early pace in standings

by Ed Odeven

Nearly a month into the new B. League season, it’s already quite clear that parity among teams is a defining characteristic of the 2019-20 campaign.

Consider the following: Only two teams have one loss through Wednesday (the Sunrockers Shibuya, who are 5-1, and the 7-1 Kawasaki Brave Thunders), while 12 of 18 first-division clubs have already amassed two, three, four or five defeats.

Meanwhile, the San-en NeoPhoenix, who have plagued by injuries, are still vying for their first victory. They fell to 0-8 on Wednesday night.

Surprising to many league observers, the Chiba Jets are among the teams closer to the bottom than the top. They are 3-5 after a 96-77 road victory over the Akita Northern Happinets on Wednesday. (Last season, the Jets went 52-8 and were the championship runners-up for the second year in a row. They won 46 of 60 games two seasons ago.)

Long win streaks and lengthy slides will create some separation in the standings.

And clear-cut title contenders will emerge, too.

As it now stands, the two-time reigning champion Alvark Tokyo are 4-2 and the Osaka Evessa, Ryukyu Golden Kings and Yokohama B-Corsairs are all 4-3. The Akita Northern Happinets (3-4 and SeaHorses Mikawa and Toyama Grouses (both 3-5) are among the clubs seeking to rise in the standings and play more consistently.

Making a statement

The visiting Utsunomiya Brex handed the Sunrockers Shibuya their first defeat of the season, 91-81, in a marquee midweek showdown. Powering the Brex’s performance at both ends of the floor was star forward Ryan Rossiter, who scored 29 points, got to the free-throw line for 14 shots (he made 10), hauled in a game-best 18 rebounds and dished out eight assists.

The Brex played their fourth straight game without veteran forward Jeff Gibbs, who sustained a left biceps injury on Oct. 13 against the Shiga Lakestars.

“It was good to get a win on the road,” Rossiter said in an on-court TV interview after the game. “Shibuya’s an undefeated team, so it’s a big win in conference.”

He added: “We’re not going to make excuses for who we don’t have or do have. We just fight. We’re going to play with who we have on the court, and we’re going to play as hard as we can.”

The Brex (6-2) extended their winning streak to six.

Gritty performance

The B-Corsairs outlasted the visiting Niigata Albirex BB 91-85 in double overtime on Wednesday night. Jason Washburn paced Yokohama with 26 points and 14 rebounds, with Reginald Becton and Aki Chambers both scoring 14 points. Chambers and Shusuke Ikuhara each had seven assists.

Washburn sent the game into OT with an in-the-paint jumper with 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

In overtime, B-Corsairs guard Ryo Tawatari nailed an outside jumper with 1:12 to play to tie it up at 78-78. Neither team scored again in the bonus period. So they played a second one.

In the second OT, Ikuhara sank 5 of 6 free throws and lead his club in points in the 5-minute period.

Niigata fell to 1-7.

Go-to option

Kyoto Hannaryz veteran center David Simon continues to be the team’s No. 1 scoring option. In Wednesday’s 78-75 loss to the visiting Shimane Susanoo Magic, Simon had a game-high 39 points, including 15 of 19 from 2-point range. Julian Mavunga doled out 13 assists.

Quick hands

Kawasaki forward Mathias Calfani spearheaded the Central Division leader’s pesky defense with a seven-steal effort against San-en at Todoroki Arena on Wednesday night. Calfani, a B. League newcomer this season, had back-to-back games with four steals on Oct. 14 and 16.

“I was able to do well from the first quarter today,” the Uruguayan told reporters after the game. “I think that the first-quarter defense is what we want. . . . Our goal is to apply pressure, deny the ball and aim at the steal if there is a gap.”

Calfani made five steals in the opening quarter, helping the Brave Thunders take a 23-15 lead into the second stanza.

By the numbers

Nagoya Diamond Dolphins point guard Takaya Sasayama scored a season-high 21 points in a 79-73 road triumph on Wednesday over the Osaka Evessa, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range. . . . The Golden Kings outscored the Shiga Lakestars 30-14 in the paint in their 78-76 victory on the same night. University of Notre Dame alum Jack Cooley, who had six of his 12 points in the fourth, nailed a buzzer-beating shot with 1 second left.

Feedback

Contact the reporter: edward.odeven@japantimes.co.jp

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