SAITAMA – The Sunrockers Shibuya are back on top of Japanese basketball for the first time in five years.
The Tokyo side claimed the Emperor’s Cup title on Sunday with a nail-biting 78-73 win over the Kawasaki Brave Thunders in the All-Japan Championship final at Saitama Super Arena.
It was the second-ever title for Shibuya, which has gone 19-9 during the ongoing 2019-20 B. League season.
Spaniard forward/center Sebastian Saiz guided the Sunrockers to the emotional victory with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while former Japan national team guard Leo Vendrame followed with 13 points and four assists.
The game was played nearly evenly throughout the afternoon, but Kosuke Ishii and Kenta Hirose sank clutch free throws with less than 10 seconds remaining in the final quarter to help Shibuya earn the win in front of 8,533 fans.
“Because this was the final game (of the tournament), we were determined to play with the entire team,” said Vendrame, who was chosen as the tournament MVP, after the final. “We kept playing defense for the entire 40 minutes with all the members and it paid off for us.”
Kawasaki trailed by nine points during the third quarter but bounced back in the fourth, even taking the lead at one point.
The Brave Thunders, who have the B. League’s best record at 24-4, had a chance to tie the game with 17 seconds left and Naoto Tsuji shooting free throws. But the guard missed one of his two attempts from the charity stripe, which cost his team the game.
Kawasaki converted only 15 of 23 free-throw attempts.
The Sunrockers were 18 of 38 from inside the arc, with Saiz standing out with an 11-for-13 performance.
“Saiz and Vendrame certainly led our scoring, but other players set screens and contributed defensively as well,” Sunrockers head coach Tsutomu Isa said. “So I think it was a victory that was accomplished by the whole club, including our bench and staff members.”
For the Brave Thunders, who were looking for their first Emperor’s Cup title in six years, Nick Fazekas had 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists while staying on the floor all 40 minutes. Tsuji and Jordan Heath chipped in with 23 and 18 points, respectively, with Tsuji knocking down four 3s as well.
Vendrame, Saiz and their teammate Ryan Kelly joined Tsuji and Fazekas on the all-tournament team.
Before this year’s event, the Chiba Jets Funabashi had captured the last three titles.
On the women’s side, Jx-Eneos did what it’s always expected to do: win a championship.
The Sunflowers extended their Empress’ Cup title streak to seven with an 83-53 win over Denso Iris in the final.
National team scorer Yuki Miyazawa hit four 3-pointers and scored 21 points while former Seattle Storm player Ramu Tokashiki chipped in with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Sunflowers, who have now racked up 24 titles at the tourney.
Thirteen of Jx-Eneos’ 16 players got on the floor and all of them scored.
Tokashiki was excited about another championship run. But with the Tokyo Olympics coming in the summer, she wasn’t as enthusiastic about her performance.
“Personally, I tried to play defense so hard, I didn’t play as consistently offensively,” said the 28-year-old, who was named the tournament MVP. “So there’s still room for me to improve.”
Tokashiki, Miyazawa, Maki Takada and Himawari Akaho, both of Denso, and Mitsubishi Electric Koalas guard Aya Watanabe were selected on the all- Empress’ Cup team.
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