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Spirited B.League Rivalry: Alvark and Golden Kings Split a Pair of Weekend Games

As expected, the B.League title contenders showcased their talented rosters in back-to-back dramatic contests at Yoyogi National Stadium.

In a pair of memorable B.League games on Saturday and Sunday, February 3 and 4, the fierce determination of the title-chasing Alvark Tokyo and the Ryukyu Golden Kings was on display.

Playing before 9,000-plus fans on both weekend days at Yoyogi National Stadium, the same venue where the B.League held its first-ever regular-season game (featuring the same teams) on September 22, 2016, fans of both teams had one game apiece to celebrate.

The Eastern Conference-leading Alvark dominated the 5-minute overtime period on Saturday, earning a 91-80 triumph over the reigning B.League champions.

B.League
Tokyo big man Sebastian Saiz scored a game-high 31 points on February 3 against Ryukyu. (B.LEAGUE)

Tokyo outscored Ryukyu 20-9 in OT. Spanish center Sebastian Saiz had six of his game-high 31 points in the bonus period. Meanwhile, Brazilian teammate Leonardo Meindl contributed seven of his 23 points in the final five minutes.

The Alvark found a way to win despite shooting 4 of 21 from 3-point range. 

B.League
Alvark guard Kai Toews runs the offense in the series opener. (B.LEAGUE)

Ryan Rossiter (14 points, 15 rebounds, six assists) and Kai Toews (11 points) also made key contributions for Tokyo.

Western Conference-leading Ryukyu had four double-digit scorers in the series opener: Vic Law (18 points), Ryuichi Kishimoto (14), Allen Durham (12) and Jack Cooley (10).

B.League
Ryukyu's Allen Durham attacks the basket on February 4. The veteran forward finished with a team-high 21 points. (B.LEAGUE)

Ryukyu Avenges Overtime Loss to B.League Rival Tokyo

In the Sunday rematch, the Golden Kings raced out to a 27-16 lead by the end of the first quarter and held a 47-26 advantage at halftime.

Tokyo stormed back in the second half in a spirited comeback attempt. The Alvark made 5 of 6 3-point shots in the fourth quarter, but fell short, losing 76-74.

Saiz (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Rossiter (14 points) carried the Alvark offense, combining to make 14 of 26 shots from the floor. It was nearly enough to ignite a come-from-behind win, but the rest of the team scored 36 points and shot only 12-for-34.

B.League
Sebastian Saiz scores two of his game-high 24 points on February 4. (B.LEAGUE)

Durham paced the Golden Kings in their bounce-back win with 21 points and five assists. The veteran forward had 10 points in the first quarter to help his team build the lead it needed to hold off the Alvark's late rally.

Cooley chipped in with 14 points, Law notched a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Kishimoto poured in 12 points.

With the win, the Golden Kings improved to 24-12. The Alvark slipped to 30-6.

B.League
Fans of the Ryukyu Golden Kings and Alvark Tokyo show support for their teams during the series finale. (B.LEAGUE)

Tokyo forward Zack Baranski, who has played for the Alvark since 2015, recalled the B.League's inception and that first game in 2016 against the Golden Kings after the weekend finale.

"The match against Ryukyu was held here, where the B.League began, and I could feel the passionate unity of the Alvark fans growing over time," said Baranski. "I hope the circle of support will continue to expand."

Making Adjustments a Priority for the Golden Kings

Ryukyu coach Dai Oketani said his team made adjustments after its loss on Saturday. The rematch, he said, also gave the Golden Kings a measuring stick for what it can work on in the coming weeks.

"I think we were able to overcome the problem we had in yesterday's game, which was the start of the game," Oketani told reporters after the series finale. "[On Sunday] in the first half, we defended well and were able to play the basketball we were aiming for. [But] in the second half, our defense fell apart, and we allowed the Alvark Tokyo to make easy 3-point shots.

"We would like to build a team where we can bring out more of our individual abilities."

B.League
Golden Kings guard Keita Imamura in action in the series finale. (B.LEAGUE)

Looking back on the weekend series featuring two marquee teams, Golden Kings shooting guard Keita Imamura described Sunday's clash as "another tough game." 

B.League All-Star Imamura said, "We were able to lead by 20 points in the first half, but we talked about fighting through the game thinking that this point difference was something we didn't have, and I think it was good that we were able to win on the road."

Victories are important for any team, but progressing throughout a season ― making subtle adjustments and improvements along the way ― are vital, too, according to Imamura, who is averaging 13.4 points per game.

"We are trying out new tactics, and I feel that how I can adapt to them will be a challenge for the future," Imamura told reporters. "So I will prepare for the next round."

It's just a shoe!

A Look Ahead

Ryukyu returns to action on Wednesday, February 7 against the host Kawasaki Brave Thunders (20-16). Tokyo travels to Tohoku for a midweek clash against the Akita Northern Happinets (19-17). 

All 24 B.League first-division clubs will play on Saturday and Sunday, February 10 and 11.

The B.League season then pauses for a few weeks as the Japan national team gears up for a pair of FIBA 2025 Asia Cup qualifiers on February 22 (versus Guam) and 25 (against China) at Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum.

Regular-season games are scheduled throughout March. The playoffs commence in May.

Bonus Shots

The Central Conference-leading San-en NeoPhoenix (32-4) have won 14 consecutive games, while the Chiba Jets (23-13) own a 10-game win streak.

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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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