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BASKETBALL | B. League Completes Action-packed Opening Week




The B. League ushered in the 2020-21 season with 20 games in the first division last weekend, a taste of things to come over the next several months.


Six teams emerged undebated after the opening round of games, eight clubs own 1-1 records, and six squads are tied with 0-2 marks.


The unbeatens: Chiba Jets Funabashi, Niigata Albirex BB, SeaHorses Mikawa, Shimane Susanoo Magic, Toyama Grouses and Utsunomiya Brex.


In his first game in a Toyama uniform, veteran power forward Julian Mavunga poured in 46 points on Saturday, October 3 in the Grouses' 97-89 road victory over the Kyoto Hannaryz, his former club. Ex-Kyoto Honoo Hamaguchi, who directed the Hannaryz from 2011-20, picked up a win in his Grouses debut on the bench.



Mavunga converted 16 of 25 shots from the floor, including 7 of 12 from 3-point range, in the top offensive performance of Week 1. Teammate Naoki Uto added 21 points and six assists.


"Good win tonight," Mavunga tweeted after the game.


Cal Poly Pomona alum Jordan Faison paced the Hannaryz, now coached by Shinya Ogawa, with 28 points and 13 rebounds.


A day later, Mavunga, a Miami (Ohio) University product, also recorded the first triple-double of the new season, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 97-75 Toyama triumph. Satoru Maeta and Uto contributed 24 and 16 points, respectively. 


For Kyoto, Faison finished with 28 points and 13 boards, David Simon provided 22 points and 12 rebounds and Ryo Terashima poured in 20 points.




Season's First Game


At Arena Tachikawa Tachihi, the Alvark Tokyo, winners of the past two titles (2017-18 and 2018-19), edged the Kawasaki Brave Thunders 85-79 on Friday, October 2.


Due to the global pandemic, the 2019-20 season ended early in March, and a champion was not decided.


The Alvark, however, had the best overall record (32-9), and the Brave Thunders were tied with the Brex for the second-best mark (31-9).


Tokyo coach Luka Pavicevic's squad outscored the visitors 15-6 in the second period to take a 31-22 halftime lead.



Kawasaki rallied for 35 fourth-quarter points, but it wasn't enough to overcome the hosts.


Alex Kirk notched a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds) for the Alvark. Seiya Ando also had a strong performance with 18 points, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, and six assists. Joji Takeuchi and Daiki Tanaka chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively, before 1,311 spectators.


Alvark Tokyo guard Seiya Ando drained four 3-pointers in the team's season-opening win on October 2.


Yuma Fujii led the Brave Thunders with 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Veteran big man Nick Fazekas had 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.


"I think Kawasaki is one of the top three teams in the league," Pavicevic told reporters after the game. "I'm really happy that we were able to play team basketball and that we worked hard to win. 


“Looking back on the game, we succeeded in defending wisely and hard from the beginning of the first half, and we were able to keep Kawasaki, which has a very strong offense, in the 20s [in total points] in the first half, which was a big factor in this victory."



Alvark Tokyo guard Daiki Tanaka dribbles the ball during the opening week of the B. League season.



Saturday Showcase


In the first full day of games, all 20 first-division teams were in action.



Northern Happinets 80, Brave Warriors 55


In Nagano, Akita spoiled Shinshu's first-division debut, jumping out to a commanding 43-24 lead entering the third quarter.


Ryuto Yasuoka (14 points) and Noboru Hasegawa and Kengo Nomoto paced the Northern Happinets. 



For the Brave Warriors, who played in B2 last season, Josh Hawkinson  led the way with 17 points and 12 boards. Shinshu shot 34.8% from the floor.


Utsunomiya Brex forward Ryan Rossiter shoots a free throw.



Brex 73, Golden Kings 61


In Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, frontcourt stalwart Jeff Gibbs' 15 points, and 14 apiece by Yusuke Endo and Makoto Hiejima, helped carry the hosts past Ryukyu.


Endo added a game-best five steals, while star forward Ryan Rossiter, who struggled offensively with 1-for-10 shooting (three total points), made big contributions in other facets of the game. Rossiter supplied eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks for the powerhouse team.


Jack Cooley had 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Narito Namizato scored 13 for the Golden Kings, who missed 13 of 15 3-point attempts.




Other Saturday Results


  • Nagoya Diamond Dolphins 89, Levanga Hokkaido 54
  • Osaka Evessa 94, Hiroshima Dragonflies 83
  • Yokohama B-Corsairs 74, Niigata Albirex BB 55
  • Chiba Jets Funabashi 83, San-en NeoPhoenix 65
  • Toyama Grouses 97, Kyoto Hannaryz 89
  • Shimane Susanoo Magic 73, Shiga Lakestars 51
  • SeaHorses Mikawa 82, Sunrockers Shibuya 78
  • Kawasaki Brave Thunders 55, Alvark Tokyo 52



Chiba Jets Funabashi playmaker Yuki Togashi shoots a jumper against the San-en Neo Phoenix.


Top Saturday Performers


Noteworthy efforts from October 3 included:


  • Nagoya: Takumi Saito (14 points), Justin Burrell (13 point, eight rebounds), Jeff Ayres (12 points).
  • Hokkaido: Nick Mayo (20 points), Jawad Williams (14 points).
  • Osaka: Takuya Hashimoto (18 points), Tatsuya Ito (17 points), Josh Harrellson (16 points, 14 rebounds, six assists), Ira Brown (13 points, 16 rebounds), Andrew "Scootie"Randall (16 points), Rei Goda (six assists)
  • Hiroshima: Gregory Echenique (22 points, 16 rebounds).
  • Yokohama: Aki Chambers (18 points, nine rebounds), Reginald Becton (15 points, 10 rebounds).
  • Niigata: Rosco Allen (26 points, 12 rebounds).
  • Chiba: Josh Duncan (23 points, 9-for-11 shooting, nine rebounds), Gavin Edwards (19 points), Yuki Togashi (18 points, seven assists), Sebastian Saiz (15 points, 12 rebounds).
  • Shimane: Hiromu Kitagawa (13 points), Yusei Sugiura (13 points).
  • Shiga: Shunto Murakami (17 points), Will Creekmore (12 points).
  • Mikawa: Davante Gardner (26 points, 10 rebounds), Takuya Kawamura (18 points).
  • Shibuya: Ryan Kelly (23 points), Charles Johnson (16 points), Muusa Dama (14 points, 13 rebounds).
  • Tokyo: Alex Kirk (12 points, 13 rebounds).
  • Kawasaki: Nick Fazekas (14 points), Pablo Aguilar (12 points).


Sunday Scores


  • Toyama Grouses 97, Kyoto Hannaryz 75
  • Utsunomiya Brex 79, Ryukyu Golden Kings 68
  • Levanga Hokkaido 78, Nagoya Diamond Dolphins 66
  • Hiroshima Dragonflies 83, Osaka Evessa 84
  • SeaHorses Mikawa 89, Sunrockers Shibuya 87
  • Akita Northern Happinets 80, Shinshu Brave Warriors 76
  • Shimane Susanoo Magic 75, Shiga Lakestars 63
  • Niigata Albirex BB 80, Yokohama B-Corsairs 75
  • Chiba Jets Funabashi 103, San-en NeoPhoenix 54



Sunday Spotlight Game


In Osaka, Dragonflies coach Takeshi Hotta's team outscored the hosts 30-17 in the fourth quarter for a bounce-back victory.



As a result, Hiroshima earned its first victory since being promoted to B1 for the 2020-21 campaign. The Dragonflies competed in the second division from 2016-20.


University of Kansas alum Jamari Traylor sparked Hiroshima with 22 points and 14 rebounds, Echenique finished with 20 points and 12 boards, while shooting guard Seiya Tanaka had 14 points. Rookie guard Isaiah Murphy, who was born in Okinawa, contributed 12 points.


Brown led the Evessa with 24 points, Harrellson added 18 points with 14 rebounds, and Tatsuya Ito dished out 11 assists.


"I feel that we were able to grow as a team from yesterday by correcting the points of reflection that we lost in the fourth quarter [of yesterday's game]," Hotta told reporters. 


Up next: The Dragonflies face a tough test against the visiting Alvark on October 9-10.



"I want [us] to prepare well and do our best to win the opening home games," Hotta said.



Top Sunday Performers


Noteworthy efforts from October 4 included:


  • Utsunomiya: Ryan Rossiter (15 points), Hironori Watanabe (15 points), Josh Scott (14 points), Kai Toews (10 points).


  • Ryukyu: Jason Washburn (17 points, 10 rebounds).


  • Nagoya: Shuto Ando (15 points).


  • Hokkaido: Nick Mayo (23 points, 12 rebounds), Tsukasa Nakano (12 points), Asahi Tajima (12 points, six assists).


  • Mikawa: Kosuke Kanamaru (28 points, five 3-pointers), Davante Gardner (26 points, six assists).


  • Akita: Takatoshi Furukawa (20 points), Kadeem Coleby (16 points, 10 rebounds).


  • Shinshu: Josh Hawkinson (26 points, 17 rebounds, five assists), Tatsuya Nishiyama (14 points).


  • Shimane: Luke Evans (20 points, nine rebounds).


  • Shiga: Will Creekmore (18 points), Shunto Murakami (16 points), Kevin Hareyama (13 points, 10 rebounds).


  • Niigata: Richard Hendrix (30 points, 14-for-20 shooting, 12 rebounds, three steals, four blocks).


  • Yokohama: Reginald Becton (19 points, 14 rebounds), Kenta Morii (10 assists).


  • Chiba: Sebastian Saiz (27 points, 19 rebounds), Josh Duncan (16 points), Koh Flippin (seven assists), Yuki Togashi (seven assists).



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 @itsjapanforward.




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