After almost eight months of competition since the start of the B. League’s 2020-21 campaign, the last two teams standing, the Utsunomiya Brex and Chiba Jets Funabashi will square off in the B. League Finals, which begin Saturday.
The matchup features the two top teams from the regular season. Utsunomiya led the league with an .817 winning percentage while the Jets were second at .754.
It’s a worthy matchup for the league’s first championship series. This year’s title will be decided in a best-of-three series, whereas previous finals were played as a single game.
Game 1 is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Saturday and Game 2 will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday. The third game, if necessary, will take place Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. All three games will be played at Yokohama Arena, where attendance will be capped at 5,000 per game because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The league will crown a champion for the first time since the 2018-19 season, as last year’s postseason was canceled due to the pandemic.
“We don’t represent just our teams but all the teams,” Utsunomiya head coach Ryuzo Anzai said about competing amid the pandemic during a news conference on Friday. “So hopefully, we’ll play games that will make all the fans have fun.”
The Brex won the 2016-17 title after the league’s inaugural season and are looking to win their second to equal Alvark Tokyo for the most in league history.
The Alvark won their two titles by beating the Jets in the finals in 2018 and 2019. So the Jets will be motivated to hit the floor with another chance to win a championship.
“This is our third time and of course we are here to win the championship,” Jets star point guard Yuki Togashi said. “We’ve been prepared for that and are excited about the games.”
Utsunomiya went 3-1 against the Jets during the regular season. The Brex had the best defense in B1, allowing 70.8 points per game, while the Jets were the league’s second-best scoring team with an average of 89 points. So the finals will essentially be a battle of strength versus strength.
Both teams feature as much talent and depth as any club in the league. Each also has a naturalized player — Ryan Rossiter for Utsunomiya and Chiba’s Gavin Edwards — and can compete with three foreign-born players on the floor (league rules allow a maximum of two import players on the court simultaneously).
Rossiter, forward L.J. Peak and guards Makoto Hiejima and Yusuke Endo are the key players for Utsunomiya.
For Chiba, Togashi, Edwards and Spaniard forward Sebastian Saiz are the players to watch.
“I think it’s all about just playing hard,” Edwards said. “We have a really good, talented team but I think to really take advantage of that talent, we just have to play hard.
“The Brex are a really good team. They play hard and execute well and play together. So it’s really going to have to take us playing together and playing our best to beat them.”
A victory by the Brex would make them the first top-seeded team to win the title.
No matter which club wins, either Anzai or Chiba’s Atsushi Ono will become the first Japanese coach to lead a team to the championship.
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