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Chiba Jets Complete Perfect Run to East Asia Super League Title

Tournament MVP Yuki Togashi led the Jets with 24 points in a back-and-forth East Asia Super League championship match against the Seoul SK Knights.

The Chiba Jets completed an unbeaten East Asia Super League campaign, defeating the Korean Basketball League's Seoul SK Knights 72-69 in the championship final on Sunday night, March 10 in Lapu-Lapu, Cebu province, Philippines.

Jets point guard Yuki Togashi was selected as EASL Final Four MVP after scoring a game-high 24 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:33 to play, in the title match. That gave Chiba a 63-62 lead.

Moments earlier, Togashi made back-to-back layups to put the Jets ahead by three. But Seoul's Youngjun An kept it close, draining a 3-pointer to pull his team to within 70-69.

SK Knights standout Jameel Warney attempted a potential game-tying 3-pointer with 4 seconds remaining and missed. Chiba big man John Mooney grabbed the rebound before the final buzzer sounded and before the Jets players and their fans in the stands and watching the game overseas celebrated.

The Jets received a title-winning prize of $1 million USD (¥147 million JPY).

East Asia Super League
Chiba Jets guard Yuki Togashi shoots a jumper against the Seoul SK Knights in the EASL final. (©EASL/via KYODO)

Togashi Reflects on the Excitement of the East Asia Super League

After receiving MVP chants from fans during and after the game, Togashi acknowledged the festive atmosphere in various countries throughout the EASL season was special.

"Everywhere we'd go, we had a lot of supporters. A lot of cheers," Togashi was quoted as saying by Rappler.com, a Philippines website. "Actually, it was really fun to play."

The veteran Japan national team point guard added, "It's not like what I did, it's the environment. Everybody loves sports, basketball, everybody enjoyed it and that was really great for us. It was really not only about myself but it was the whole atmosphere that created the whole environment."

East Asia Super League
The Chiba Jets went 8-0 in EASL games during the 2023-24 season. (EASL)

In a statement posted on the team's official X (formerly Twitter) account, the Jets paid tribute to their loyal supporters.

"To come this far through a tough schedule, we were able to do so thanks to everyone who continued to support the team," read a portion of the post. "Thank you so much!"

High Praise from the B.League Chairman

"Congratulations to the Chiba Jets for becoming the first B.League team to win the EASL championship," B.League chairman Shinji Shimada said after the match. 

"I am proud that a team from the B.League won the East Asian championship without losing a single game from the preliminary [round]."

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Another Title Within Their Reach

Six days after winning the EASL title, the Jets return to the spotlight in another tournament finale. On Saturday, March 16, they will face the B.League's Ryukyu Golden Kings in the 99th All Japan Basketball Championship final at Saitama Super Arena. The tourney is also known as the Emperor's Cup.

Tipoff is 3 PM.

East Asia Super League
Chiba's Yuki Togashi runs the offense in the championship game. (©EASL/via KYODO)

Details from Sunday's EASL Final

In Sunday's showdown with Seoul, University of Notre Dame alum Mooney notched a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds. He also contributed six assists and two steals. Ira Brown finished with 12 points for the Jets, who led 37-34 at halftime.

The SK Knights pulled ahead 54-51 by the end of the third quarter. And then the Jets outscored their KBL rivals by six points in the decisive fourth quarter at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City.

Warney paced the runners-up with 22 points, followed by An with 18 and Leon Williams with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Chiba sank 8 of 27 3s in the final, with Togashi making 4 of 12. Seoul was held to 5-for-23 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.

In Sunday's EASL third-place match, the KBL's Anyang Jung Kwan Jang Red Boosters, formerly known as Anyang KGC and the tourney's 2022-23 champions, beat the New Taipei Kings 78-76.

How Chiba Clinched a Berth in the EASL Title Match

Togashi led Chiba with 28 points in the EASL semifinals on Friday, March 8 as the B.League club clinched a spot in the championship final by beating New Taipei 92-84. 

Jets forward Xavier Cooks (24 points on 10-for-13 shooting and 23 rebounds) and frontcourt mate Mooney (22 points and 11 rebounds) also had key performances in the win.

The Jets played a B.League regular-season home match on Wednesday against the Gunma Crane Thunders, giving them little time to rest and recuperate after flying to the Philippines on Thursday.

B.League Finals
Jets coach John Patrick in a May 2023 file photo. (B.LEAGUE)

Second-year bench boss John Patrick marveled at his captain's high-level play in the EASL Final Four and his team's mental toughness in the two games in Cebu.

"[It] starts with Yuki ignoring the tiredness… ignoring being a little sore, being injured, or whatever on the floor," Patrick was quoted as saying by Rappler.com. "That's really amazing from a coaching standpoint.

"I could say it now, to see how hard they pushed themselves and they did it, because it was a big goal for them."

Despite fatigue, the Jets' focus was clear, as Patrick, a former Stanford University point guard (1987-91), outlined in his post-game comments to reporters.

"We were trying to win the whole thing," Patrick said, according to Rappler.com. "It's a bold statement, but I think the players stuck to it even if we were really tired." 

The Road to the East Asia Super League Final Four

Chiba went 6-0 to top the four-team Group A standings. Anyang went 4-2. Philippine Basketball Association club TNT Tropang Giga had a 1-5 record, as did Taiwanese club Taipei Fubon Braves.

In Group B, the defending B.League champion Golden Kings placed third with a 3-3 record and didn't advance to the Final Four. Teams played a home-and-away schedule against the other three clubs in their group. 

From Group B, Seoul and New Taipei both advanced to the Final Four with 4-2 records.

The EASL season began in October 2023.

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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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