Sunrockers Shibuya shooting guard Kaito Morizane received his first starting assignment of the season on Sunday, November 7.
The fourth-year pro capitalized on the opportunity with an impactful, season-high 18 points on 6-for-7 shooting (all 3-point attempts), seven assists and two steals in the Sunrockers’ 91-80 victory over the visiting San-en NeoPhoenix at Aoyama Gakuin University Memorial Hall.
Entering the 2021-22 B. League campaign, which got underway in early October, Morizane had appeared in 90 Sunrockers games and made just four starts (all in 2020-21) over the three previous seasons.
Morizane’s dynamic effort helped lead Shibuya (8-3) to its third straight victory. The team shares the best record in the East Division with the reigning champion Chiba Jets, Alvark Tokyo and Kawasaki Brave Thunders.
“I’ve had a lot of unsatisfactory play until now when I was asked to score, but I want to continue to play like today,” the 24-year-old Morizane said in a postgame interview session with reporters.
The Sunrockers opened the weekend series with a 70-64 victory over San-en on Saturday, November 6.
Inserting Morizane into the lineup the next day produced immediate results. He was one of five Shibuya players to score three or more points, and Sunrockers head coach Tsutomu Isa’s team took a 23-11 lead into the second quarter. Morizane, a left-handed shooter, was 1-for-1 from beyond the arc and dished out two assists) in the opening quarter.
Koyo Takahashi and Josh Harrellson paced the hosts with six and five points, respectively in the first period.
Replicating their success in the early going, Shibuya closed out the game by outsourcing San-en 27-16 in the fourth quarter, with Harrellson (nine points) and Morizane (six) pacing the offense over the final 10 minutes.
Harrellson finished with a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds). James Michael McAdoo added 13 points, backup forward Max Hisatake sparked the hosts with 13 points and seven boards in 11-plus minutes and Leo Vendrame chipped in with 12 points.
Hisatake said he was focused on chasing after loose balls.
“I was conscious of going to get all the rebounds,” Hisatake told reporters after his high-energy performance.
Isa noted that Morizane’s perimeter shooting skills were on display throughout the game.
“I think that if a bullish play like that comes out from today’s game, it will have a better effect on the team,” Isa said of Morizane’s aggressive 3-point shooting.
Morizane’s excellent long-range shooting was, in fact, a team-wide performance. The Sunrockers made 15 of 28 3-point attempts.
For the NeoPhoenix (3-8), Robert Carter was the high scorer with 20 points. Justin Knox added 18, ex-Sunrocker Yusei Sugiura poured in 14 and Thirdy Ravena had 13.
Golden Kings Setting the Pace in the West
The Ryukyu Golden Kings defeated the Niigata Albirex BB 71-63 on Sunday, earning their fifth straight victory.
The Golden Kings (9-2) are in first place in the 11-team West Division.
Dwayne Evans played a key role in the win, contributing 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds and six assists.
It was far from a one-man effort for the Golden Kings.
Allen Durham added 16 points and 10 rebounds, Hayato Maki, Keita Imamura and Koh Flippin all had seven-point outings and Narito Namizato handed out four assists.
Ryukyu chalked up 16 assists against five turnovers. Niigata (2-9) had 15 assists and 19 turnovers.
The Albirex lost their eighth in a row.
Crowded Atop the East
Josh Duncan scored a team-high 18 points as the Chiba Jets defeated the visiting Shiga Lakestars for the second consecutive day on Sunday, winning 89-83.
Backup point guard Fumio Nishimura chipped in with 16 points and five assists, John Mooney had 15 points and Gavin Edwards supplied 12 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Star guard Yuki Togashi was held scoreless (0-for-3 from the floor) in about 28 minutes of court time.
Filipino guard Kiefer Ravena paced the Lakestars (6-5) with 27 points and 10 assists, both season-high totals. Ovie Soko finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Sean O’Mara matched Soko’s scoring total.
In Tachikawa, the Alvark Tokyo built a commanding lead entering the final quarter en route to an 84-57 victory over the Kyoto Hannaryz.
Sebastian Saiz led the Alvark with 17 points, Daiki Tanaka had 15 and Shuto Ando 12. Ryan Rossiter added 10 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
The Hannaryz (2-9), who have dropped their last eight contests, trailed by 27 points after three quarters. Jerome Tillman led Kyoto with 17 points.
At Kawasaki’s Todoroki Arena, former NBA big man Nick Fazekas delivered a 36-point effort in the Kawasaki Brave Thunders’ 87-74 win over the struggling Toyama Grouses.
Pablo Aguilar contributed 15 points and four steals and steady Brave Thunders playmaker Yuma Fujii, who’s averaging 13.2 points and 5.9 assists, finished with nine points and seven assists.
Julian Mavunga scored 28 points for the Grouses (1-10).
Susanoo Magic Edge Dragonflies in OT
In Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, Reid Travis’ 35-point, 18-rebound effort helped lift the Shimane Susanoo Magic to a 113-109 overtime win on Sunday over the Hiroshima Dragonflies.
Seiya Ando poured in 24 points and dished out seven assists as Shimane (8-3) completed a weekend sweep. Kosuke Kanamaru and Nick Kay, a member of Australia’s bronze medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympics, added 20 points apiece.
Kay, who played all 45 minutes, also had eight rebounds and nine assists.
For Hiroshima (7-4), Ryo Terashima scored 25 points and recorded 13 assists. Naoto Tsuji and Nick Mayo netted 21 and 20 points, respectively.
Levanga Salvage Series Split
In Obihiro, Hokkaido Prefecture, strong rebounding and effective inside scoring were key factors in the Levanga Hokkaido’s bounce-back, 71-63 victory over the Utsunomiya Brex on Sunday.
Hokkaido (4-7) outrebounded the visitors 45-31 and had a 42-24 advantage in points in the paint.
Shawn Long and De’Mon Brooks each had 21 points for the Levanga, with Long grabbing 14 rebounds to complete the double-double. Guard Ryoma Hashimoto scored 12 points.
For Utsunomiya (6-5), Josh Scott had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Makoto Hiejima added 19 points.
A day earlier, the Brex earned a 93-70 win.
Around the League
Elsewhere Sunday, the Ibaraki Robots defeated the Osaka Evessa 81-72. Marc Trasolini (22 points) and Eric Jacobsen (15) were the top scorers for the visiting Robots (2-9).
Kyle Hunt paced the Evessa (4-7), who won the weekend opener, with 29 points on 14-of-19 shooting.
The Akita Northern Happinets beat the host Shinshu Brave Warriors 79-75, with Stephen F. Austin product Jordan Glynn leading the way with 23 points.
Happinets point guard Noboru Hasegawa scored a season-high 17 points and provided four assists and three steals in a well-rounded effort as Akita (5-6) avenged it’s Saturday loss.
Shinshu (6-5), which trailed 62-48 entering the fourth, mounted a spirited comeback over the final 10 minutes. Josh Hawkinson had 18 points and 10 rebounds, Anthony McHenry scored 15 and Ko Kumagai recorded 15 points, eight assists and four steals.
In other weekend finales, the Yokohama B-Corsairs topped the visiting SeaHorses Mikawa 79-67 and the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins triumphed 100-90 over the Gunma Crane Thunders. Both winners earned splits in their two-game series.
Yokohama and Nagoya both improved to 6-5, while Mikawa fell to 8-3 and Gunma to 4-7.
Author: Ed Odeven
Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter ＠ed_odeven.