The Kawasaki Brave Thunders came through late — capitalizing on a strong offensive effort from Naoto Tsuji — to pull away for a 72-62 win over the Chiba Jets Funabashi in the quarterfinals of the prestigious Emperor’s Cup tournament on Wednesday night.
Kawasaki booked a spot in the semifinals alongside the Alvark Tokyo, Utsunomiya Brex and SeaHorses Mikawa. The Brave Thunders will take on Mikawa while Utsunomiya and Tokyo will square off.
The semifinals will be held March 12 and the winners will clash in the final the next day. Saitama Super Arena will host the final two rounds.
Tsuji hit two 3-pointers with just under two minutes remaining in the final quarter and later sealed the deal with a layup.
The Braves Thunders also stepped up defensively, holding the Jets, who are averaging a B. League-best 90.6 points this season, to just seven points in the fourth quarter.
“We managed to limit Chiba, which has the most potent offense in the league, to just seven points in the fourth quarter — that’s proof that our defense was effective,” Brave Thunders head coach Kenji Sato said after the game. “We’ve strived to build a team that can play defense when things matter the most and improving the quality of our defense is key to winning more games going forward.”
Tsuji, who nailed five shots from behind the arc and had a game-high 21 points, gave credit to the entire team after winning the battle against the Jets.
“It was a difficult game for us, but we were patient when we needed to be and came up with the win as a result of playing together as a team,” Tsuji said. “Things haven’t necessarily worked out for us this season. But I think we can play more like the Kawasaki Brave Thunders after today and it gave us a lot of confidence.”
Kawasaki, which is 17-10 in the B. League this year, was the runner-up at last year’s Emperor’s Cup.
In the other quarterfinal games, Japan national team guard Daiki Tanaka hit a jumper at the final buzzer to give the Alvark a 74-73 win over the reigning champion Sunrockers Shibuya at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi.
At Brex Arena Utsunomiya, the Brex cruised to an 87-72 win over the Osaka Evessa. The SeaHorses beat the Ryukyu Golden Kings 85-60 at Okinawa Municipal Gymnasium.
New kid on the block: Before facing the Jets, the Brave Thunders announced the acquisition of Higashiyama High School senior Reoto Yonesu, who will join the East Conference club on a specially-designated player contract.
The 176-cm point guard is the third player to join a B1 club while still enrolled in high school. He was registered for Wednesday’s game, but didn’t play.
Yonesu, who turned 18 on Thursday, has a chance to become the youngest player to take the floor in a B. League game. He’ll remain with the team over the next couple of months before enrolling in Nihon University in April.
“I would like to eventually be a starting guard for Kawasaki and be a guard who represents Japan as well,” the Nagasaki Prefecture native, who guided Higashiyama to second place in last month’s Winter Cup national high school championship, said during a news conference.
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