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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kawamura leads Brex to JBL championship

Staff writer

Takuya Kawamura single-handedly guided the Link Tochigi Brex to their first-ever JBL championship with a late-game explosion on Monday.

News photo
Number one: Link Tochigi's Takuya Kawamura drives on the basket during the Brex's title-winning victory over the Aisin SeaHorses on Monday. KYODO PHOTO

The reigning league-leading scorer hit a game-tying 3 as the clock expired in the fourth quarter and added five in overtime as Link Tochigi swept the defending champion Aisin SeaHorses with a 71-63 victory in Game 3 of the Japan Basketball League Finals at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.

The second-year club in the JBL top league grabbed its first title before another sell-out crowd, while Aisin failed in its quest for its third-straight championship.

Kawamura knocked down a 3-pointer with just 7.2 seconds left in regulation to cut the deficit to 57-55, right after SeaHorses forward J.R. Sakuragi set the table as he dropped one of two free-throws to make it 58-55.

After a timeout, with 6.3 seconds remaining, Kawamura caught a pass from Shunsuke Ito then launched a high-arching long shot from the top of the key. Despite being double-teamed by two Aisin defenders, he still managed to nail the money shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

Kawamura sank another key 3 and added a layup later on to secure the win for the Utsunomiya-based club.

"It just feels great," said Kawamura, who had a game-high 27 points, 15 of which came in the fourth period and overtime.

"During the timeout I knew the ball was coming to my hand. So I was determined to make the shot," he said of the buzzer-beater.

The SeaHorses were on pace to prevent a series sweep with their energetic defensive effort inside the paint. They outrebounded 55-39 and blocked 13 Link Tochigi shots.

But it was all spoiled by Kawamura's phenomenal offensive surge and his Brex teammates' hustle chasing the ball.

Ex-NBA player Yuta Tabuse had nine points and a game-high five steals, leading the team's 16. Veteran Ken Takeda contributed 11 points.

"Aisin was very strong as we expected. Their defense was just so tough," Tabuse said. "But fortunately we were able to win this championship."

Bulls move closer

TORONTO (AP) A message in the Chicago locker room read: "How bad do we want it?" The way Joakim Noah played, it was easy to tell.

Derrick Rose scored 26 points, Noah had 18 points, 19 rebounds and matched a career-high with seven assists and the Bulls beat Toronto 104-88 on Sunday night to take a one-game lead over the Raptors for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Magic 98, Cavaliers 92

In Cleveland, Mickael Pietrus scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter and Jameer Nelson hit a late 3-pointer.

Trail Blazers 91, Lakers 88

In Los Angeles, Martell Webster hit three free throws with 3.1 seconds left.

Suns 116, Rockets 106

In Phoenix, Amare Stoudemire had 35 points and 13 rebounds as the Suns used 3-pointers to pull away at the finish.

Warriors 120, Thunder 117

In Oakland, Monta Ellis scored 27 points in his return following a two-week absence and Stephen Curry added 25.

Heat 111, Knicks 98

In New York, Dwyane Wade scored 32 points as Miami pulled into a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with Milwaukee.

Hornets 114, Timberwolves 86

In New Orleans, Emeka Okafor scored 23 points, Marcus Thornton added 22 and Darren Collison had 17 points.

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