Kings start the season with two consecutive wins – Ryukyu Golden Kings vs Utsunomiya Brex GAME2 –

Bleague

On Sunday, October 2, 2022, Ryukyu Golden Kings vs Utsunomiya Brex GAME2 was held at Okinawa Arena.

The Kings won GAME 1 81-52 the previous day. The Kings avenged a disappointing loss in last season’s finals.

However, it is hard to believe that Utsunomiya, last season’s champion, will end up like this.

Utsunomiya’s ace Makoto Hiejima said at the press conference after GAME 1, “I was a bit confused in the unique atmosphere of the high-energy Okinawa Arena. I hope to be able to enjoy this atmosphere tomorrow. I want to be able to enjoy this atmosphere tomorrow,” he said, vowing to make up for it.

GAME 2 will be a true test of their skills as they show each other what they are made of.

 

Kings take control of the game with their tough defense

Kings starters are #4 Koh Flippin, #7 Allen Durham, #24 Naoki Tashiro, #30 Keita Imamura, #45 Jack Cooley.

Utsunomiya’s starters are #6 Makoto Hiejima, #9 Yusuke Endo, #18 Seiji Ikaruga, #40 Josh Scott, and #42 Isaac Fotu. This is the same lineup as in Game 1.

 

 

Again, the Kings take the lead. Imamura’s perimeter shot gave them an early lead, and their high-strength defense forced Utsunomiya into turnovers.

 

Utsunomiya gets the ball to Hiejima, but the pressure from Imamura and Tashiro makes it difficult for him to get an easy shot off. 4:53 left in the quarter, Utsunomiya commits its fourth turnover early, and Josh Duncan runs in for a fast break from there and dunks it. With the score 11-2 and the Kings leading by 9, Utsunomiya’s HC Sasa called a timeout.

 

 

The Kings did not let up on offense, as Flippin, who was a key player in the GAME 1 win, drove past Utsunomiya’s Ikaruga for a layup, and on defense, Matsuwaki drew an offensive foul to the delight of the Okinawa Arena crowd.

 

The score in the first quarter was 22-6 with the Kings leading by 16 points. Kings took control of the game after defending the Utsunomiya offense with high intensity.

In the second quarter, the Kings continued to maintain their offensive rhythm, and at the end of the first half, the score was 41-20, 21 points in favor of the Kings. Utsunomiya, however, was beginning to regain its composure. Utsunomiya committed 9 turnovers in the first quarter alone, but zero turnovers in the second quarter, showing that last season’s champions had not given up on the game at all.

 

The looming champion, accumulating patience

In the third quarter, Utsunomiya plays an all-court 2-2-1 zone defense. This is not a defense that comes in with high pressure to get the ball, but a zone defense that slowly and steadily drives the opponent into a trap.

Utsunomiya’s patient defense caused the Kings to lose control of the ball, and the wheels of play began to come off little by little. The Kings had over five team fouls by the middle of the third quarter, and at the end of the third quarter, Duncan had four individual fouls, Imamura and Kishimoto had three.

The score at the end of the third quarter was 63-46, and the point difference was 17 points from the 21 at the end of the first half, but something was clearly different from the first half. The crowd at the Okinawa Arena was beginning to sense that something was about to happen.

 

Utsunomiya, who continued to persevere, finally got a big momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

A missed defensive switch by the Kings allowed former Kings player Kitagawa to break free in the corner for a 3-pointer. With 8:36 left in the fourth quarter, the score was 63-55, an eight-point difference. The defending champions finally began to show their true colors.

 

With Utsunomiya in a perfect rhythm, the Kings continued to commit turnovers, but they stayed on their toes with desperate defense. Both Kings and Utsunomiya became more focused in the final stages of the game. The crowd at Okinawa Arena applauded as both sides chased after the loose ball.

 

With 2:10 remaining, Kings ace Imamura does the decisive work.

Imamura did not miss the slightest opening in the driving lane, accelerated in a straight line, and twisted his way past Fotu and Scott for the goal. 79-64, the score was once again 15 points ahead.

 

The Kings regained their focus after the ace’s flow-changing blow and ran away with the game. The final score was 85-70, with Kings winning by 15 points.

 

Utsunomiya has lost two straight to start the season, but by no means has the power of last season’s champions waned.

Utsunomiya has lost two straight to start the season, but by no means has the power of last season’s champions waned.

Utsunomiya grabbed the flow of the game with consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but immediately after that, they took a timeout before the Kings. Timeouts are usually used to change the flow of a game, and it is rare for the side that has caught the flow to stop the game with a timeout of their own.

When I asked HC Sasa about this at the post-game press conference, he replied, “It is true that I have never taken a timeout in a situation like that, but right now I wanted to emphasize (team) linkage rather than the flow of the game. We had been playing with a quarter in between and checking our offense one by one, so I wanted to take a timeout to let the players know that we were doing it and give them confidence,” he explained.

Utsunomiya, last season’s champion, is in the midst of building a new team with head coach Sasa replacing Anzai.

 

Naoki Tashiro, captain of the Kings, also expressed his gratitude to Sasa, who led the Kings as head coach until midway through the 2018-19 season, in candid words. 

“I was a player who couldn’t play defense, and Mr. Sasa instilled defense in me. Most of my basketball values are influenced by his philosophy, and I am grateful to have played basketball with him.”

 

Utsunomiya Brexit is led by Norio Sasa. If there is a rematch this season, it will be in the playoffs.

Despite the two consecutive wins, Utsunomiya remains a major obstacle for the Kings to overcome in order to win the championship.