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BASKETBALL | Utsunomiya Hammers Chiba, Forces a Decisive Game 3 in B. League Finals

The Brex played better in all facets of the game and bounced back from a blowout loss to the Jets.

Ed Odeven

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Brex guard Hironori Watanabe shoots a jumper in the fourth quarter in Game 2 of the B. League Finals on May 30. (B. League)

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YOKOHAMA ー Determined to extend their season into June, the Utsunomiya Brex delivered a high-powered, quality performance in a must-win game against the Chiba Jets on Sunday, May 30.

Utsunomiya’s 83-59 victory in Game 2 of the B. League Finals evened up the series at one game apiece.

Game 3 is set for Tuesday evening, also at Yokohama Arena, at 7.

The Brex had the B. League’s top record in the 2020-21 season (49-11) and defeated the Jets three out of four times.

The Jets (43-14), who had the second-best winning percentage, defeated the Brex 85-65 in the championship series opener on Saturday, May 29.

Both head coaches, Utsunomiya’s Ryuzo Anzai and Chiba’s Atsushi Ono, talked about the significance of second-chance points and rebounding after Game 1. The Jets had the upper hand in both statistical categories in the opener. Chiba had 24 second-chance points to Utsunomiya’s six, while outrebounding its foe 44-30.

In Game 2, the Brex were the aggressors and won both key categories. 

Second-chance points: A 21-7 edge for Utsunomiya, which also outrebounded Chiba 42-32.

Jets captain Yuki Togashi drained a 3-pointer to give his club a 5-3 lead with 9:15 to play in the first quarter.

Twenty-one seconds later, Brex star Ryan Rossiter grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback. Perfect positioning in that sequence.

Rossiter repeated that sequence on his team’s next trip down the floor on offense, snaring another offensive rebound and scoring in the low post.

Brex Embark on a 15-0 Run

This was part of a 15-0 scoring run that signaled Utsunomiya had put its Game 1 loss in the rearview mirror.

Moments later, the Brex had built an 18-5 lead by the midway point of the opening quarter.

Chiba pulled within 19-14 on a Shannon Shorter layup, but Utsunomiya refused to back down, playing with relentless energy at both ends of the floor.

Brex veteran guard Hironori Watanabe nailed a pull-up jumper and flushed a 3-point dagger to beat the shot clock. That made it 24-16. On those two possessions combined, Watanabe had more than doubled his scoring output in the opener (two points). Backup big man Kosuke Takeuchi scored on a putback before the buzzer sounded at the end of the first, giving Utsunomiya a 26-16 advanage.

The Jets were held to 16 points in each of the three quarters.

The Brex, meanwhile, put 26 on the board again in the second quarter to take a 20-point lead into halftime. A day earlier, they trailed 36-35 at the break before Chiba flipped the script in the second half.


Commanding Lead at Halftime

Utsunomiya’s 52-32 halftime lead and its noticeable uptick in productivity in all aspects of play proved too much for Chiba to overcome.

After three quarters, the Brex led 68-48.

Before Sunday’s rematch, Anzai said his team analyzed its shortcomings from Game 1, with each player taking stock of what went wrong for the Brex.

The Brex’s comprehensive Game 2 win was “the result of all the players taking pride in re-examining their strengths,” Anzai commented.

Case in point: Utsunomiya’s Ryan Rossiter had an impactful 17-point, 11-rebound, six-assist, three-steal effort. He had a quiet eight-point outing in Game 1.

Josh Scott finished with 16 points, Jeff Gibbs scored 15 (after being held to four points in Game 1) and Watanabe poured in 10. L.J. Peak and Yusuke Endo added eight and seven points, respectively.

Chiba’s Sebastian Saiz scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Gavin Edwards contributed 12 points and nine boards and Yuki Togashi had nine points. Josh Duncan, who scored 14 points in Game 1, was plagued by foul trouble on Sunday and was held to four points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.

The Brex dished out 21 assists and turned the ball over 12 times. The Jets registered 12 assists along with 19 turnovers.

Reflections on the Game

Ono described Game 2 as the polar opposite of the series opener for his team.

“I think we lost all the parts [of the game] that we were able to win yesterday, such as rebounding, loose balls, and ball [control],” the Jets coach stated. “I will use this as reflection material, but I would like to prepare for Game 3.”

Jets captain Togashi echoed his coach’s main point.

“[For Chiba], the game was exactly the opposite of yesterday’s,” Togashi commented. “As a team, I think it was a difference in consciousness and feelings rather than tactics, so I would like to prepare especially mentally for another chance.”

As both teams walked off the court after Game 2, the Jets carried the look of disappointment on their faces, while the Brex shared a moment of joy.

“One more, one more,” said Yuta Tabuse, a longtime Brex guard and the first Japanese to play in the NBA. He entered the game late in the fourth quarter for the first time in the series, and recorded an assist on a Gibbs 3-pointer with 2:08 remaining.

Tabuse’s message was a succinct reminder to his teammates of their only remaining goal this season.


Rossiter, who had team-high totals in points, rebounds and assists and shared the team lead in steals with Seiji Ikaruga, said the Brex rose to the challenge in Game 2.

“We did what we had to do,” the Siena (New York) College alum said.

“We played hard and we played together the entire game.”

As far as Rossiter is concerned, there’s little time to savor Sunday’s victory.

He said what happened in Game 2 “doesn’t matter any more.”

The reason?

“We’ve got to get ready for Tuesday,” Rossiter concluded.



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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Ed Odeven is a longtime sports journalist who previously worked for The Japan Times as its chief basketball reporter for nearly 14 years. He also covered a wide range of other sports for the newspaper, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. A graduate of Arizona State University, Odeven worked for several newspapers in the Grand Canyon State before moving to Japan. He has freelanced for dozens of media outlets around the world.