Saitama – The Kawasaki Brave Thunders captured their first Emperor’s Cup title in seven years on Saturday, taking the crown with a 76-60 win over the Utsunomiya Brex in the All-Japan Championship men’s final in front of a crowd of 4,738 at Saitama Super Arena.
The Kanagawa Prefecture club, which lost against the Sunrockers Shibuya in the gold medal game last year, won the annual single-elimination tournament for the fourth time.
“We’re extremely happy that we were able to play against a great team in front of this crowd while we’re going through a tough situation,” Kawasaki head coach Kenji Sato said after the game, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keisuke Masuda, one of Kawasaki’s younger players, was an unexpected hero, sinking a trio of 3-pointers and leading the team with 13 points. Center Nick Fazekas finished with 11 points and six assists while Jordan Heath contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Brave Thunders also came through defensively, limiting the Brex to just 26 points in the second half.
“I never thought I would be speaking like this (before the fans), so I don’t know what I should say,” Masuda said with a laugh. “But it feels great to have won as a team alongside the older players.”
Kawasaki point guard and captain Ryusei Shinoyama said: “It feels like we’ve finally done it because it’s been a while for us to get this.”
Organizers announced Kawasaki’s Yuma Fujii, Pablo Aguilar and Heath were chosen for the all-tournament team along with Ryan Rossiter and Makoto Hiejima of the Brex. Heath was named tournament MVP.
The tournament schedule was modified this year, with the semifinals and final moved from January to March in hopes of drawing more attention to the tournament.
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