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Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008

EMPEROR'S CUP

Alvark advance to final


Staff writer

Just like reigning double champions, the Alvark players performed like kings.

News photo
Toshiba guard Takuya Kita scores a layup past Alvark forward Charles O'Bannon during the semifinals of the All-Japan Basketball Championships on Saturday at Yoyogi National Stadium Annex. With an 86-58 win over the Brave Thunders, defending champion Toyota Motors advanced to Monday's final. KAZ NAGATSUKA PHOTO

Toyota Motors showed no mercy around powerful defensive schemes from the beginning and went on to crush the Toshiba Brave Thunders 86-58 in the semifinals of the All-Japan Basketball Championships (Emperor's Cup) at Tokyo's Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex on Saturday.

The highlight of the contest came in the first, when the Alvark held the Brave Thunders to just nine points, while they had 27.

Toshiba tried to shrink the gap on fast breaks, but yielded to Toyota, which firmly kept its defense underneath the basket throughout the game.

The Alvark, the defending champs of the All-Japan Championships and the JBL, never let up offensively and didn't give their opponent much of a chance to get closer.

"We did a nice job on running the court and had good extra passes, making other players open," Alvark coach Torsten Loibl said after the game.

"More importantly, we kept Toshiba to just nine points in the first quarter and I think it was pretty huge."

For Toyota Motors, guards Louis Campbell and Takuma Watanabe and forward Charles O'Bannon scored 14 points each, followed by forward Michael Takahashi, who had 13 points and game-high 10 boards.

"As you see on the result, it was a blow for us," Toshiba coach Mitsunori Kamata said. "(The Alvark) put tight pressure on us from the beginning and we ended up taking difficult shots, which led to their fast-tempo offense. Then, we (became) impatient . . . . We tried to resume the game around defense, though, we were never able to play at our own pace."

Toshiba's veteran sharp-shooting guard, Takuya Kita, apologized for his team's poor showing to the fans.

"I feel it's a real pity that we got beaten this badly at a stage like the semifinals," said the 35-year-old former Japan national team player.

"Toyota played as a team, making screens for each other. As for ourselves, we played on one-on-ones and it was like, if someone takes the ball, he should take the shot."

For the Brave Thunders, guard Shohei Kikuchi was the lone double-digit scorer (12 points).

Alvark team captain Satoru Furuta agreed with his coach that the key to victory was the first period.

The former national team center explained it came from their concrete determination and confidence to defend the title.

"It was a game that we could exhibit what we wanted to — to start with defense and offensively pass the ball well," said Furuta, who had game-high six assists. "So we were able to play pretty comfortably today."

For the fourth time in five years, the Alvark advanced to the tourney's final.

"Nobody expected us to advance to the final," Loibl said with a laugh. "But none of us will have been satisfied with second place."

Furuta followed Loibl with even stronger words.

"We are the team that will go for the repeat," Furuta said.

"We've got to the start line, finally. I think a team that doesn't miss this kind of chance is strong. So we want to win for sure."

In Saturday's second semifinal, Aisin forward Kosuke Takeuchi had a steady game, scoring 17 points and grabbing 14 rebounds as the Sea Horses cruised past the Hitachi Sunrockers 91-75.

Takeuchi's identical twin brother, Joji, notched 26 points and grabbed 12 boards for the Sunrockers.

Earlier in the day, the Fujitsu Red Wave edged the Chanson V-Magic 76-73, and the Momo Sunflowers defeated the Toyota Motors Antelopes 79-76 in the semifinals of the women's tournament.

The women's final will be played at 2 p.m. on Sunday and the men's semifinal winners meet at 2 p.m. on Monday in the same arena.



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