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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Chiba Jets Whip Ryukyu Golden Kings in the Emperor's Cup Final

Days after winning the East Asia Super League final, the Chiba Jets dominated the final three quarters of the All Japan Basketball Championship final.



Chiba Jets
The Chiba Jets pose for a commemorative photo after winning the 99th All Japan Basketball Championship title on March 16, 2024, at Saitama Super Arena. (KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Chiba Jets Whip Ryukyu Golden Kings in the Emperor's Cup Final

At the end of the first quarter, the Chiba Jets held a four-point lead over the Ryukyu Golden Kings. And it looked like a classic back-and-forth duel between two fierce rivals.

After all, there were six ties in the opening 10 minutes of the 99th All Japan Basketball Championship final at Saitama Super Arena on Saturday, March 16.

But that abruptly changed as Chiba coach John Patrick's team transformed that slim lead into a 16-point advantage by halftime. That trend continued in the third and fourth quarters as the Jets cruised to a 117-69 victory over the reigning B.League champions.

Saturday's showdown was a rematch of the 98th Emperor's Cup final in March 2023. Chiba won that encounter 87-76 in Tokyo for its fourth All Japan Basketball Championship crown, following a three-peat in 2017-19.

It was also another high-stakes clash of the teams that met in the 2023 B.League Finals. The Jets entered the playoffs with a league-record 53 wins in 60 games but fell to the Golden Kings in a two-game sweep.

This season, the Jets have a possible shot at winning a championship treble.

For starters, remember this: The Chiba Jets captured the East Asia Super League title by beating the Korean Basketball League's Seoul SK Knights 72-69 on March 10 in Cebu province, Philippines. And the Jets appeared to be playing with supreme confidence as Saturday's game marched on in Saitama.

Chiba Jets
Chiba Jets floor leader Yuki Togashi shoots a jumper over Ryukyu Golden Kings captain Ryuichi Kishimoto. (KYODO)

Pivotal Scoring Sequence for the Chiba Jets

After Ryukyu's Vic Law made a 2-point shot to pull his team to within 27-23 early in the second quarter, Chiba knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers, the first by Ira Brown and two more by Emperor's Cup MVP Yuki Togashi to take a 36-23 lead with 7:14 remaining in the opening half.

The Jets led 48-32 at halftime, and their hot-shooting performance continued in the third quarter as they built an insurmountable lead.

In the middle two periods, Chiba outscored Ryukyu 60-28.

As a result, the Golden Kings trailed 75-49 entering the fourth quarter.

Tourney MVP Togashi shared his thoughts on the runaway victory after the game in an interview with NHK.

In conveying his feelings about the outcome, the Chiba Jets captain said, "I can only say that it was great, 15,000 fans came to the game, and I was happy to be able to play in this atmosphere."

Chiba Jets
Jets star Yuki Togashi drives to the basket past Golden Kings forward Allen Durham. (KYODO)

Jets Rely on a Balanced Offensive Attack

Led by American swingman Christopher Smith, who had a game-high 26 points and dished out six assists, the Chiba Jets finished with five double-digit scorers and they sank 21 of 37 3-point shots. 

The others: Togashi (20 points, including a tone-setting 6-for-9 from 3-point range, and eight assists), big man John Mooney (17 points, 14 rebounds), backup point guard Asato Ogawa (14 points) and forward Xavier Cooks (13 points). 

Ren Kanechika and Brown chipped in with nine points apiece and Shuta Hara added eight.

Analyzing the Chiba Jets' impressive offensive performance, Togashi, speaking to NHK, summed it up this way: "We were able to get the ball rolling as a team and get open to shoot. So everyone was able to score points and we had a great offensive game. I think it was the result of all team members working together."

Chiba Jets
Tournament MVP Yuki Togashi (KYODO)

Jets Control the Game

For most of the game, Ryukyu was unable to slow down Chiba's high-powered offense.

"After the first shots by Togashi and Smith, who we were wary of, we lost our pace, and as a result, the margin was too large," Golden Kings coach Dai Oketani told NHK after the game. 

"We will continue to fight one by one in the last half of the B.League season so that we can return what we have gained from this loss to our fans in the form of results."

Ryukyu's Allen Durham and Ryuichi Kishimoto shared the team lead in points (13). Law added 12 and Jack Cooley had 11 for the Golden Kings, who were held to 6-for-26 shooting from 3-point range.

Chiba Jets
Ryukyu's Keita Imamura dribbles as Chiba's Xavier Cooks defends in the championship match. (KYODO)

B.League Season Update for Chiba and Ryukyu

The Chiba Jets are 27-15 and in third place in the B.League's Eastern Conference, owning the best record among the wild-card contenders. 

Meanwhile, the Golden Kings lead the Western Conference with a 30-12 record and look to bounce back with a stronger performance once the B.League schedule resumes on Wednesday, March 20.

Ryukyu, which has won seven straight regular-season games, faces the visiting Osaka Evessa on that day, while Chiba travels to play the Ibaraki Robots.

The Jets are focused on playing strong for their final 20 games of the regular season before the playoffs start while seeking to climb in the standings, according to Togashi.

"We are behind in the league this season," the Chiba Jets floor leader told NHK. "But we want to continue this momentum and make up for the disappointment of losing to Ryukyu in the finals last year."

Chiba's John Mooney (33) and Ren Kanechika defend Ryukyu's Ryuichi Kishimoto in the Emperor's Cup final. (KYODO)

All-Tournament Team Announced

After the Emperor's Cup final, Togashi was named tournament MVP. He was the EASL Final Four MVP a week earlier.

Togashi and Chiba Jets teammates Mooney and Smith, products of the University of Notre Dame and Utah State, respectively, were chosen for the Best Five Team, aka the all-tournament team. Kishimoto and Utsunomiya Brex star Makoto Hiejima were also named to the team.

Continue reading the full story, which includes news items on baseball, soccer, rugby and more, 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

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