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B.League Finals: Golden Kings Outplay Dragonflies in Game 1

With a series-opening victory at Yokohama Arena, the Ryukyu Golden Kings are one win away from capturing back-to-back titles in the B.League Finals.



B.League Finals
Ryukyu Golden Kings swingman Keita Imamura had a team-high 15 points in Game 1 of the B.League Finals against the Hiroshima Dragonflies on May 25, 2024, at Yokohama Arena. (B.LEAGUE)

Read the full story on SportsLook - B.League Finals: Golden Kings Outplay Dragonflies in Game 1

YOKOHAMA ― Playing with intensity, unity and fluidity, the Ryukyu Golden Kings delivered a strong overall effort against the Hiroshima Dragonflies in Game 1 of the B.League Finals.

Game 2 is on Sunday with a 1:10 PM tipoff at Yokohama Arena.

In their storied history, the Golden Kings have won five season titles, including four in the now-disbanded bj-league (2008-09 and 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2015-16). They have a shot in this championship series to capture back-to-back titles for the first time.

Longtime Golden Kings point guard Ryuichi Kishimoto had a tone-setting performance, nailing a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and leading all players with six points in the opening stanza. American teammate Allen Durham chipped in with five first-quarter points, including a 3-pointer, and Ryukyu jumped out to a 24-16 advantage entering the second period.

Led by Kishimoto, the Golden Kings sank 5 of 8 shots from beyond the 3-point arc in the first quarter. It was an omen of things to come.

B.League Finals
Golden Kings center Jack Cooley in action in the second quarter as the Dragonflies' Tshilidzi Kawata (15) and Kerry Blackshear Jr defend. (KYODO)

Ryukyu Plays to Its Strengths

The Okinawan club's spirited performance showcased the players' championship pride and commitment to capitalizing on its strengths.

For instance, after former Golden Kings forward Dwayne Evans missed a 3-pointer for the Dragonflies 16 seconds into the game, Ryukyu swingman Keita Imamura, a fleet-footed runner in the open court, grabbed the defensive rebound and dribbled to the other end of the court. Imamura quickly released a pull-up 3-pointer on the fast break. The ball sailed through the bottom of the net for the game's first points at the 9:25 mark.

Seconds later, after Hiroshima shooting guard Ryo Yamazaki missed a layup, veteran center Jack Cooley, a former NBA player, converted a left-handed layup, courtesy of a pinpoint pass from Kishimoto. That made it 5-0 at the 8:37 mark.

Quality perimeter shooting and inside muscle from Cooley, Durham and others produced the Golden Kings' well-balanced offensive attack.

En route to a Game 1 victory before an enthusiastic crowd of 12,969, Ryukyu bench boss Dai Oketani's team knocked down 15 of 33 3s and held Hiroshima to 8-for-21 long-range shooting.

On defense, the Golden Kings had a much better effort in this series opener than in Game 1 of the B.League playoff semifinals, when the Chiba Jets torched the reigning champs 95-62 on May 18 at Okinawa Arena.

B.League Finals
Golden Kings coach Dai Oketani reacts during the game. (KYODO)

Key Factor in Game 1: Dominant Defense Pays Off for the Golden Kings

Oketani, in his instructions to players and overall strategy, repeatedly emphasizes defense and rebounding as pillars of the team's strength.

While looking back at Game 1 against Hiroshima, Oketani highlighted defense as the key to victory.

"I think we were able to fight hard on defense from the start of the game and exploit the weaknesses of our opponent on offense," Oketani told reporters after the game.

The statistics illustrated that the Golden Kings played a strong game on defense, particularly in limiting the Dragonflies to 38.3% shooting (25 of 65) from the field.

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


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