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B.League Playoffs: Chiba Jets and Ryukyu Golden Kings Secure Final Spots in the Semifinals

Chiba beat the Utsunomiya Brex in 2OT and Ryukyu edged the Alvark Tokyo to join the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins and the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the B.League semis.

Four teams remain in the hunt for the B.League title.

The two final spots in the upcoming playoff semifinals were determined on Monday night, May 13 as the reigning champion Ryukyu Golden Kings and Chiba Jets emerged victorious in Game 3 showdowns against the Alvark Tokyo and Utsunomiya Brex, respectively. Which means they join the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins and the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the next round of the playoffs.

Ryukyu closed out its quarterfinal series against Tokyo with a hard-fought 58-57 win at Ariake Coliseum.

Later Monday night, Chiba triumphed 103-93 in double overtime over Utsunomiya, which had a league-best 51-9 record during the regular season, at Nikkan Arena Tochigi.

In the best-of-three semifinals, Nagoya will play host to Hiroshima. Games are scheduled for Friday through Sunday, May 18-20.

Ryukyu, meanwhile, returns to Okinawa Arena for a three-game showdown with Chiba on May 18, 19 and, if necessary, 21.

The Jets' Christopher Smith finished with a game-high 36 points. (B.LEAGUE)

Chiba Outlasts Utsunomiya in Epic 2OT Series Finale

On Monday night, the Jets' Christopher Smith scored a game-tying driving layup with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter. That gave Smith 36 points on the night and knotted the score at 74-74.

Overtime followed.

Chiba came up with a big play with time running down in OT. Point guard Yuki Togashi passed the ball to big man John Mooney, who nailed a jumper in the lane with 25 seconds left in OT. That tied it at 83-83.

Utsunomiya's DJ Newbill missed a 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining in OT, thus forcing a second OT period.

And then the Jets pulled away, outscoring the Brex 20-10 the rest of the way.

Chiba's Yuki Togashi shoots a 3-pointer in overtime as former Jets teammate Gavin Edwards of the Utsunomiya Brex defends. (B.LEAGUE)

Togashi knocked down two big 3s in the second OT, firing up his team. He finished with 20 points, including 6 of 11 from 3-point range, 12 assists and three steals. Mooney had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Shuta Hara scored 11 points and Xavier Cooks pulled down 11 rebounds. Smith wound up with a game-best 36 points.

Brex guard Makoto Hiejima drives to the basket in Game 3. (BLEAGUE)

Newbill led Utsunomiya with 30 points, Makoto Hiejima poured in 20 and Grant Jerrett and Gavin Edwards both had 16.

"It was truly an epic battle," Jets head coach John Patrick said on the Amazon Prime Video interview after the game.

Patrick, whose team qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card team, noted that both squads made numerous big shots and had key defensive stops.

Before shifting his focus to the semifinals, Patrick complimented his opponent at the end of an intense series.

"Utsunomiya had a wonderful season," Patrick said.

Yuki Togashi (B.LEAGUE)

Players' Comments After Brex-Jets Series Finale

Speaking on Amazon Prime Video, Chiba captain Togashi reflected on his decisive role in the game. "I wanted the ball," he said of the high-pressure moments.

And Togashi, one of the best Japanese pro basketball players of the 21st century, delivered a big-time performance, adding to his legend.

At a loss for words after the game, Edwards said, "I don't know how to express the disappointment we (the Brex) all feel."

Chiba triumphed 82-70 in Friday's Game 1. Utsunomiya rebounded with a 67-58 victory on Saturday in Game 2.

And the Jets kept alive their hopes of a championship treble. They won the East Asia Super League and All Japan Basketball Championship titles in March.

Ryukyu Golden Kings point guard Ryuichi Kishimoto takes a 3-point shot as Alvark Tokyo player Ryan Rossiter defends in the first quarter in Game 3 of the B.League quarterfinals on May 13 at Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum. (B.LEAGUE)

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Ryukyu's Path to the Final Four

The Golden Kings reached the B.League Final Four by the slimmest of margins ― one point ― in the decisive game.

It was a patented defensive struggle for both teams. The Alvark and the Golden Kings both had 20 points in the second quarter, and neither team reached that mark in the other three periods.

Tokyo trailed 32-29 at halftime.

Ryukyu point guard Ryuichi Kishimoto had a tone-setting second quarter with 10 points to give his team a big boost.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Golden Kings led 48-45, and the tense drama played on for 10 more minutes. Ryukyu hurt its cause at the free-throw line (9-for-19 overall, including 4-for-8 in the fourth), but made enough big plays at both ends of the floor to survive. 

Allen Durham, who finished with 16 points, made 1 of 2 foul shots with 22 seconds remaining, giving the Golden Kings a 58-57 lead. Teammate Vic Law missed two free throws with 3 seconds on the clock. 

Tokyo's Leonardo Meindl, who grabbed the rebound after Law's second missed free throw and dribbled quickly to the other end of the court, missed a 3 at the buzzer.

Alvark center Arturas Gudaitis looks to score in second-quarter action. (BLEAGUE)

Ryan Rossiter led Tokyo with 20 points and Arturas Gudaitis had 13, while Taiki Osakabe finished with seven.

Kishimoto and Law both scored 12 for Ryukyu.

Ryukyu won Game 1 of the high-intensity series 81-80 in double overtime on Friday, May 10, then lost 73-69 in Game 2 the next day.

After a one-day break, the series resumed with a high-stakes rematch in Game 3.

Perspective from Golden Kings Coach Oketani

After Game 3, Ryukyu head coach Dai Oketani offered his assessment of his team's performance. Not surprisingly, he cited rebounding (the Golden Kings won the battle on the boards 40-31) as a key factor in the game.

"To be honest, it was a game that I thought we did well to win. However, as the score shows, I think everyone did a great job on defense and rebounding," Oketani told reporters. "It is often said that 'rebounding wins the championship,' and I think the biggest reason for our victory today was that we won the rebounding battle at the end.

"Offensively, it was a physical game, and we both knew what we had to do, so we had to eliminate each other. Even so, we kept our spirits up until the end and worked hard on rebounding, which I feel led to our victory."

Nagoya Diamond Dolphins playmaker Takumi Saito runs the offense against the SeaHorses Mikawa in Game 2 of the B.League playoff quarterfinal series on May 12 in Nagoya. (B.LEAGUE)

Diamond Dolphins Sweep SeaHorses

The Western Conference champion Diamond Dolphins closed out the regular season with six consecutive wins. 

Nagoya then completed a two-game sweep of the visiting SeaHorses Mikawa on Sunday, winning 84-75 to reach the playoff semifinals.

The Diamond Dolphins outscored the SeaHorses 32-17 in the pivotal fourth quarter.

Dynamic point guard Takumi Saito paced Nagoya with 23 points, including 5-for-8 on 3s, and eight assists. Scott Eatherton finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.

Davante Gardner and Jake Layman had 14 points apiece for Mikawa.

The Diamond Dolphins prevailed 78-69 in Game 1 on Saturday.

After securing a spot in the semifinals, Saito compared Games 1 and 2.

"As in Game 1, I think this was a game in which we continued to be patient," the Diamond Dolphins point guard told reporters. "However, I think we were able to pull away in the fourth quarter because we continued to play in our own rhythm."

Saito added, "I believe that we were able to win the game by continuing to fight and not losing sight of our own style of basketball, no matter what the situation was."

Hiroshima Dragonflies forward Dwayne Evans shoots a jumper against the San-en NeoPhoenix in Game 2 of the B.League first-round series on May 12 in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture. (B.LEAGUE)

Dragonflies Eliminate NeoPhoenix

The Dragonflies booked a spot in the semifinals with a 69-66 road victory over the San-en NeoPhoenix on Sunday. 

American forward Dwayne Evans had a team-best 18 points and five assists as the Dragonflies won for the second time in as many days in the best-of-three series. Teammates Ryo Yamazaki and Kerry Blackshear Jr chipped in with 12 points apiece in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.

Hiroshima held Central Conference champion San-en to 38.6% shooting and outscored the NeoPhoenix 19-11 in the final period.

San-en was held scoreless after Kazuki Hosokawa's 3 tied it at 66-66 with 2:43 remaining. Evans sank a go-ahead free throw with 1:57 to play and added a short jumper with 20 seconds left for the final points of the game.

David Dudzinski led the NeoPhoenix with 25 points.

In Saturday's Game 1, Hiroshima topped San-en 77-70.

Kyoto Hannaryz head coach Roy Rana in an April 2023 file photo. (B.LEAGUE)

Rana to Return for a 3rd Season with the Hannaryz

The Kyoto Hannaryz announced on May 7 that head coach Roy Rana will return for a third season at the helm.

Kyoto finished with a 17-43 record in the 2023-24 season. The Hannaryz went 22-38 in 2022-23, Rana's first season in charge. 

Rana was an assistant coach for the NBA's Sacramento Kings (2019-22) before taking over as the Kyoto bench boss.

Moving forward, Rana said he's committing to building a stronger team. 

"I am certainly not satisfied with our results but do appreciate the growth it has provided all of us through so many challenges," Rana said in a team-issued statement. "Our players and organization will benefit from the adversity we faced this season. We will celebrate our small and big wins, on and off the court, while we continue to build a championship-caliber program."

Yoshiro Ochiai (SENDAI 89ERS)

89ers Hand Coaching Reins to Ochiai

In other coaching news, the Sendai 89ers promoted longtime assistant Yoshiro Ochiai to head coach for the 2024-25 season, it was announced on May 8.

Ochiai replaces Hiroki Fujita, who guided the club from 2021-24. Under Fujita, the 89ers earned promotion from B2 to B1 following the 2021-22 season, when they had the second-best overall record (38-15) in the second flight.

Sendai went 19-41 in 2022-23 and 27-33 the next season, missing the playoffs both times.

Ochiai, who became an 89ers assistant coach in 2018, is now eager to make his mark in his new job.

"I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Sendai 89ers on the occasion of the club's 20th anniversary in my hometown, Sendai, and I will do my duty with determination," the 41-year-old said in a statement.

Ochiai continued, "I believe that our role is to continue to show dedication through basketball, no matter what, and to bring energy to this community. We are aware that we are the top basketball team in Miyagi Prefecture, and we aim to be a team that makes future children want to be like the players of the Sendai 89ers. [And] please continue to fight with me. I look forward to your continued support."


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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