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Hiroshima Dragonflies Off to a Strong Start in Basketball Champions League Asia

The Hiroshima Dragonflies beat Indonesia's Pelita Jaya and South Korea's KCC Egis by a combined 47 points in Dubai before falling to Iran's Shahrdary Gorgan.

With back-to-back victories to open the group phase of the Basketball Champions League Asia, the Hiroshima Dragonflies qualified for the tournament's semifinals in Dubai.

The Dragonflies, who captured their first B.League title on May 28, took commanding leads into halftime in both games. Head coach Kyle Milling's squad led 48-29 after two quarters on Sunday, June 9 against Indonesia's Pelita Jaya and earned an 86-69 victory.

On Monday, June 10, the Dragonflies were back in action in the United Arab Emirates and raced out to a 54-32 advantage over the Korean Basketball League's KCC Egis by halftime. Hiroshima triumphed 107-77.

What was Milling's assessment of his team's performance in its second Group B match?

"The players were highly focused on the game," Milling told reporters. "We were able to move the ball well and shoot openly. The other team was a big, physical team, so we were able to play a physical game from the start. We were also able to fight with confidence from start to finish."

Hiroshima Dragonflies
The Dragonflies' Takuto Nakamura in action on June 11. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Hiroshima Dragonflies Fall to 2-1 in Final Group Phase Match

Hiroshima competed against Iran's Shahrdary Gorgan in the teams' final Group B group phase match on Tuesday night, June 11. The Dragonflies, who held a one-point lead at halftime, lost 94-81, falling to 2-1 in the group phase.

Backcourt mates Sina Vahedi and ex-NBA player Joe Young, who made a huge impact off the bench, combined for 57 points for the victors at Sheikh Saeed Bin Maktoum Sports Hall. Young had a game-high 34 points as Shahrdary Gorgan improved to 2-1.

Shahrdary Gorgan's Joe Young runs the offense in a Basketball Champions League Asia game. (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Dwayne Evans led the Dragonflies with 29 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Kerry Blackshear Jr finished with 22 points, including 11-for-11 from the foul line. Ryo Yamazaki had 16 points.

Hiroshima was held to 8 of 31 on 3s.

After Tuesday's match, Milling said the game was a tale of two halves.

"It was a good effort in the first half," he said of his team's performance. "I think in the second half we ran out of a little gas, the third game in three days, [and] I'm proud of the effort the players did. But our shots weren't going in, in the second half, a little short, which sometimes could mean our legs weren't there."

Hiroshima Dragonflies
Kerry Blackshear Jr (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Highlights of the Dragonflies' First Game in Dubai

On Sunday, the Dragonflies sank 17 of 37 3-pointers to help build and sustain a sizable lead against their Indonesian opponent.

Point guard Toshiki Kamisawa paced Hiroshima with a 20-point effort, including 6-for-10 from 3-point range. Four teammates also scored in double figures. Evans had an 18-point, 13-rebound effort and Takuto Nakamura and Kaine Roberts each scored 11 points. Versatile forward Blackshear contributed 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Nakamura sank 3 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc.

"We didn't get a lot of practice in after the [B.League] Finals but I thought we did a good job of expressing how we wanted to play," American-born coach Milling said.

He added, "We got off to a good start and shot the ball well, and I thought we executed our defense and offense with confidence."

Kamisawa said he was pleased with the team's overall performance.

"We were able to play well as a team, so I was able to shoot when I was wide open," Kamisawa said in a postgame news conference.

The 26-year-old playmaker added, "I think we were able to win because we were able to play our own basketball, both offensively and defensively."

Hiroshima Dragonflies
Dwayne Evans (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

Take a Food Journey Around the World!

Balanced Scoring Carries Dragonflies in Rout of KCC Egis

In Monday's convincing win, the Dragonflies knocked down 16 of 29 3-point attempts. 

Evans had a team-best 24 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Blackshear and Kamisawa poured in 15 points apiece, with Kamisawa canning 5 of 7 3s. Center Tshilidzi Kawata added 13 points, 10 rebounds and a block in 22 productive minutes. B.League playoffs standout Yamazaki finished with nine points.

What is the Basketball Champions League Asia?

Previously known as the Asian Basketball Club Championship (1981-2003) and the FIBA Asia Champions Cup (2004-2023), the tournament, now an eight-team competition, was renamed the Basketball Champions League Asia for the 2024 edition. 

Championship-winning professional teams from China, South Korea, Japan and Iran, along with other teams from Asia via qualifying tournaments, participate in the annual event.

The 2024 tourney's semifinals are set for Friday, June 14 and the title match and third-place game are set to be held the next day.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was not held from 2020-23.

The B.League's Alvark Tokyo won the tourney in 2019 in Thailand.

In the 2024 competition, Group A's four participants are Al Riyadi (Lebanon), Shabab Al Ahli (UAE), NS Matrix Deers (Malaysia) and the Liaoning Flying Leopards (China).  

The winner of the Basketball Champions League Asia will represent the continent at the 2024 FIBA Intercontinental Cup, a six-team tourney, in Singapore from September 12-15.

Yuta Watanabe
Former Memphis Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe shoots a jumper as Brooklyn Nets guard Dennis Smith Jr defends in the first half at FedExForum on February 26 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Petre Thomas/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Watanabe Appears Set to Join the Chiba Jets

Former NBA player Yuta Watanabe is expected to accept an offer from the Chiba Jets and join the team for the 2024-25 season, according to a basketnews.com article published on Tuesday

Watanabe, 29, split the 2023-24 season between the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies.

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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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