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B.League Fans Treated to Plethora of Compelling Series Finales

Five weekend rematches were decided by one or two points on October 15 in the B.League, and Gunma held off Yokohama despite Yuki Kawamura's 40 points.

Five of the 12 B.League matches on Sunday, October 15 were decided by one or two points.

In other words, pro basketball fans throughout Japan witnessed pulse-rising action in crunch time. These were games to remember.

The reigning champion Ryukyu Golden Kings defeated the Sunrockers Shibuya 84-82 at Tokyo's Aoyama Gakuin University, improving to 4-0 on the season. Four other clubs have identical records through the second weekend of the 60-game campaign: Osaka Evessa, Fighting Eagles Nagoya, Nagasaki Velca and Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.

Moreover, the Gunma Crane Thunders withstood Yokohama B-Corsairs guard Yuki Kawamura's 40-point outburst, including 15 points in the fourth quarter, winning 81-80 at Open House Arena Ota.

Kawamura, a rising star on the Japan men's national team, is the B.League's leading scorer this season (29.5 points per game).

B-Corsairs guard Yuki Kawamura shoots from close range on October 15. (B.LEAGUE)

Elsewhere, the Chiba Jets topped the visiting Shinshu Brave Warriors 86-85, the Saga Ballooners edged the Hiroshima Dragonflies 72-71 in overtime at home and the Utsunomiya Brex earned a 71-70 road triumph over the Alvark Tokyo.

What else stood out on Sunday, the day when all 24 B.League first-division (B1) clubs played their fourth game of 2023-24?

Five teams fell to 0-4. The Sendai 89ers, Kyoto Hannaryz, Toyama Grouses, Ibaraki Robots and Sunrockers are still seeking their first victory.

Golden Kings forward Vic Law runs the offense against the Sunrockers at Aoyama Gakuin Memorial Hall on October 15. (B.LEAGUE)

Golden Kings Hold off Sunrockers

Vic Law sank an outside jumper and was fouled on the play with 5 seconds remaining. That gave the Golden Kings an 83-82 lead.

Law made the free throw to put his team ahead by two.

Before the final buzzer, Shibuya's Ryan Kelly, who had fouled Law on the previous possession, missed a 3-pointer.

Law finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Teammates Allen Durham, Alex Kirk and Yoshiyuki Matsuwaki added 12 points apiece.

Ryukyu was 15-for-15 at the foul line in the series finale. 

For the Sunrockers, Kelly had 26 points on 11-for-16 shooting. Daiki Tanaka scored 18 points, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

Crane Thunders fans cheer for the home team in Ota, Gunma Prefecture. (B.LEAGUE)

Thrilling Finish at Gunma's Home Gym

With 34 seconds to play in the game on Sunday, Kawamura knocked down his fourth 3 of the 10-minute fourth quarter. The B-Corsairs led 80-79.

But there was still time on the clock, and the Crane Thunders worked the ball inside to Ghanian-born big man Ben Bentil, who drew a foul while posting up with 15 seconds to play. Bentil canned two clutch free throws, giving the hosts an 81-80 lead.

Gunma's Ben Bentil shoots a free throw in the fourth quarter. (B.LEAGUE)

After a B-Corsairs timeout, the ball wound up in Kawamura's hands for the final play, but his outside jumper missed its target. Gunma fans rejoiced and Crane Thunders players congratulated one another, exchanged high-fives and hugs.

Naoto Tsuji led Gunma (2-2) with 19 points. Bentil had 15 and Narito Namizato finished with 10 points and six assists to lead a balanced offensive attack.

Yokohama (2-2) led 42-39 at halftime. Devin Oliver, who had an 11-point outing, was the B-Corsairs' other double-digit scorer.

After Yokohama lost the series opener 100-91 on Saturday, October 14, Bentil said he expected an intense rematch the next day.

"We knew that they were going to come out a lot more aggressive," Bentil acknowledged in a post-game interview at the arena.

The former NBA player credited his teammates for stepping up in a tough game. "These guys did a great job keeping us in the game," Bentil said over the arena loudspeakers, "and at the end of the day the coaching staff [led us to victory]."

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Yokohama Coach Discusses the Match

Reacting to the loss, B-Corsairs coach Taketo Aoki said his team can learn lessons from the experience.

"It was a completely different game from yesterday," Aoki told reporters. "Defensively, I think we were aggressive for most of the game, and I think we showed our potential, which is what we should be aiming for. 

"Although we lost as a result, we have changed [some team] members from last season, and with a different potential from last season, we must continue to make further progress [toward evolution and growth] in the future. … This loss is not the end of the season. It will be a challenge to see how we can continue our progress as a team from here."

Brex guard Seiji Ikaruga in action against the Alvark at Yoyogi National Stadium. (B.LEAGUE)

Ikaruga Lifts Brex with Late Free Throw

Utsunomiya veteran guard Seiji Ikaruga made the first of two free-throw attempts with 3 seconds left against Tokyo on Sunday at Yoyogi National Stadium before a B.League regular-season record crowd of 10,225.

After Ikaruga missed his second foul shot, teammate Makoto Hiejima grabbed the offensive rebound and the clock ran out before the Alvark (3-1) could take another shot.

DJ Newbill had 18 points for the Brex (3-1), while Isaac Fotu poured in 17 and made three steals. Hiejima chipped in with 14 points and Gavin Edwards contributed 12 points and six rebounds. Ikaruga dished out six assists.

Utsunomiya outscored the hosts 48-30 in the paint.

Ballooners players congratulate Yusuke Karino, who made the game-winning shot in overtime on October 15 at Saga Arena. (B.LEAGUE)

Ballooners Earn First B1 Victory

Shooting guard Yusuke Karino nailed an outside jumper with 1 second remaining to put the Ballooners ahead 72-71 on Sunday. Dragonflies forward Dwayne Evans' desperation 3 was off the mark at the buzzer.

As a result, Saga improved to 1-3 in its first season in B1.

Evans had forced overtime with an inside bucket with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter. That knotted the score at 64-64.

Reynaldo Garcia and Chase Fieler scored 15 points apiece for Saga. Josh Harrellson had nine points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Yoeli Childs added 11 points and 11 rebounds and Karino provided nine points.

Yusuke Karino (B.LEAGUE)

"I can only say that I am happy about today's victory," Karino commented.

He added, "I think the most important thing is to win at home, [and] I am really happy that we were able to win in front of everyone."

For Hiroshima (1-3), Nick Mayo was the top scorer with 25 points. Ryo Terashima and Ryo Yamazaki scored 15 and 12 points, respectively.

Jets guard Yuki Togashi had a game-best 29 points against the Brave Warriors on October 15 at Funabashi Arena. (B.LEAGUE)

Jets Complete Their First Sweep of Season

At Funabashi Arena, Yuki Togashi sparked the Jets offense with 29 points and six assists against the Brave Warriors.

DJ Stephens had 19 points and nine rebounds for Chiba (2-2), which outscored the visitors 34-24 in the paint.

Shinshu pulled within 86-85 on a Louis Kurihara putback with 7 seconds left. Neither team scored again.

Stanton Kidd paced the Brave Warriors (2-2) with 16 points, but he struggled to make shots (4-for-17 from the floor). Deon Thompson notched a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Kaito Ishikawa handed out seven assists.

Chiba won the opener 97-83 on the previous day.

Velca newcomer Yudai Baba shoots a layup in the third quarter against the Grouses on October 14 in Toyama. (B.LEAGUE)

Baba Makes Velca Debut

On Saturday, former NBA G League player Yudai Baba appeared in his first game with the Nagasaki Velca.

Baba came off the bench and made a dynamic all-around impact with 17 points, including 7 of 8 at the foul line, three rebounds, one assist and three steals in 14-plus minutes. The Velca defeated the host Toyama Grouses 96-84.

In the Sunday rematch, Baba, a Japan national team player, had 15 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals in 19-plus minutes in Nagasaki's 94-83 win.


Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.


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