Jack Cooley rebounds to save the team – Ryukyu Golden Kings vs Shiga Lakes GAME2 –

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On Sunday, November 20, 2022, the Ryukyu Golden Kings played Shiga Lakes GAME 2 at their home Okinawa Arena.

The previous day, Kings won GAME 1 by 21 points, 72-51. Shiga lost their first game under the new system after the termination of former HC Luis Guil’s contract and the departure of foreign players.

Shiga is in danger of collapsing if Game 2 goes the same way. That is something that cannot be allowed to happen.

The 6807 fans who packed the Okinawa Arena must have imagined nothing but a Kings victory over the bottom-ranked team in the West Division.

But basketball is not a video game, and the 6807 fans will learn the hard way that the game is not decided by player ratings.

 

Shiga’s Japanese big man Kawamata struggles

Kings starters are #1 Josh Duncan, #14 Ryuichi Kishimoto, #30 Keita Imamura, #34 Shota Onodera, #45 Jack Cooley.

Shiga’s starters were #1 Kelvin Martin, #7 Kai Toews, #13 David Doblas, #32 Yusuke Karino, and #99 Koya Kawamata.

Shiga changed their starting lineup from Game 1, with 204cm Japanese big man Kawamata starting.

Shiga’s goal was to move up 198cm Kelvin Martin from the #4 position to the #3 position and match him up with Kings’ Japanese players to take advantage of Martin’s scoring ability.

The goal was also to keep Kawamata on the court for as long as possible to avoid foul trouble for the foreign players.

From the first quarter, Kawamata lived up to these expectations. He put his body on the line defensively against Kings’ foreign big men, Jack Cooley, Josh Duncan, and Allen Durham.

Kawamata went down to the bench with four minutes left in the quarter, but his six minutes on the clock were significant.

 

Martin scored 5 points in the first quarter as Shiga had hoped, and he continued his strong performance in the second quarter, making 4/4 100% of his 3-pointers. Shiga took control of the game with a team 3-point offense, with #32 Yusuke Karino also making 3-pointers.

For Kings, Cooley had 10 rebounds in the first half alone. Cooley had 10 rebounds in the first half alone, including 5 offensive rebounds. There were many times when Shiga seemed to get into a rhythm, but Cooley grabbed the offensive rebounds and did not let Shiga get into a rhythm.

With 2:52 left in the second quarter, Kings tried to push back the flow of the game with a powerful block by Durham.

The first half ended in a 40-40 tie. The tension of competition and the fun of basketball returned to the Okinawa Arena with Shiga’s efforts, which were different from the previous day.

 

How to attack “mismatches”?

In the 3rd quarter, Kings took the lead with a 3-pointer by Imamura. But Shiga did not back down a step.

Kings gathered the ball in Durham and went after Kawamata, but Kawamata was able to prevent it on three consecutive possessions. Kawamata further blocked Kishimoto. Kings connected again with Imamura’s 3-pointer for a 46-44 Kings 2-point lead.

Kings thought the inside was a “mismatch” and Durham attacked Kawamata thoroughly. However, Kawamata stayed on the court despite three fouls to keep Shiga’s inside from breaking down.

Exploiting “mismatches” is an ironclad rule of basketball, but it is also the fun of basketball to lose your rhythm when you are bound by “mismatches.

With 4:50 left in the third quarter, Cooley committed an offensive foul. Cooley had three fouls and had to be benched, but Duncan left the game in the first half with an injury and was unable to play. The Kings send out #42 Jay Washington.

With Durham and Washington, Shiga has the inside advantage, as opposed to the other way around. Shiga is now able to score inside.

 

Now Kings would have to defend the “mismatch,” and Imamura, who played the full three quarters, would run cover defense for the Kings.

At the end of the third quarter, Shiga’s Yusei Sugiura made a buzzer-beater 3-pointer. 60-64 Shiga led by 4 at the end of the third quarter.

 

Rebounding master Jack Cooley in action

Shiga accurately exploited Kings’ disadvantage.

Kings were completely robbed of the rhythm of the game, but Jack Cooley, with his big “hands”, grab the rhythm of the game back.

When Flippin’s drive spilled, Cooley picked up the rebound ball and made a basket count one throw. He also ran fastbreak and scored with a light step.

 

Cooley’s struggles help his teammates regain their composure, and the Kings begin to show their true potential.

Flippin’s defensive pressure gets the crowd excited. Even though Shiga still leads by one point, the excitement is as if the home team is dominating.

After the game, Kings’ HC Oketani praised Cooley’s effort, saying, “It was a great effort, like a god. Cooley went 4 fouls, but conversely forced all four of Shiga’s inside players to foul out.

With 2:12 left in the fourth quarter, Imamura received the ball at the top of the 3-point line, and the loud background music stopped. The next moment, just as the whole arena had hoped, the ball caught the net and the crowd cheered loudly. Imamura’s fourth 3-pointer of the day extends the Kings’ lead to five points, 79-74.

Finally, Cooley’s big hands made a steal on an inbounds pass. Cooley, with his big “hands”, grabbed the win.

The final score was 89-84. Kings were overwhelmed by Shiga’s spirit, but Cooley’s effort in the end won the game.

 

“Basketball” is a game of flesh-and-blood combat

After the game, Kings HC Oketani said, “Duncan got injured five minutes into the game and we had a tough time, but the whole team fought in the same direction and were able to win the game.

When asked whether he thought “this is no good” or “this happens,” in regards to their struggles against Shiga, the lowest ranked team in the district, HC Oketani replied, “This happens, yes.”

“Shiga played good basketball today. We took countermeasures as a team, but Martin shot better than his usual percentage, and Sugiura made three consecutive 3-pointers. Shiga took advantage of our (Kings’) disadvantage quite well.”

HC Oketani commented on Cooley’s big game, “Jack’s defense was really good today. He doesn’t allow easy layups, and he also gets rebounds. You can only do that with Jack,” he praised.

Jack Cooley was also very pleased with his performance. “With our team’s lack of size, I knew the key was to get rebounds, and I’m glad I was able to contribute to the team,” he said with a smile.

However, when asked about missing the final free throw and not reaching 30 points, he said, “That was AD’s (Allen Durham) 19 points, so I got pulled for that. It wasn’t my fault.” He replied with a joke.

 

Also at the press conference was Kings #24 Naoki Tashiro.

Tashiro scored zero goals in this game, his third straight game without a goal since October 26 against Hiroshima, and he has been unable to play an active role.

“I haven’t found my rhythm,” Tashiro said. “I’m getting too happy or sad about my good or bad days, so I need to be more stable mentally,” he said calmly in evaluating himself.

At the end of the first quarter of the game that day, Tashiro drove from the left side but his foot slipped. I thought it was a harsh question, but I asked him if he remembered the moment he got injured in such a situation.

Tashiro answered honestly. “I don’t have the moment today, but when I drive, I sometimes think of the moment when I got injured. This is the second time I have torn my anterior cruciate ligament (including my college days), and when I was a college student, I got injured because of my playstyle where I would just rush in transition. Now, I don’t rush in transition anymore, but it still happens for a moment. I think mental rehabilitation will continue in the future.”

It takes a year to recover not only the body but also the mind. Tashiro spoke of the difficulties involved. “Even if I am mentally better, if my physical condition does not improve, my condition will not improve either. I would like to continue to maintain a good balance between my body and my mental condition.”

 

The team at the bottom of the district shows spirit and puts the top teams on their heels.

They will physically fight each other for the good of the team.

They play with a balance of body and mind.

 

It’s all part of basketball.

Basketball is not a video game. Basketball is about flesh and blood fighting.