The Philippines’ debut weekend at the Japan B. League has so far been a mixed bag of good and bad news.
After riding a huge wave of hype for the eight Filipino representatives, only four actually suited up in the first two days of both Divisions 1 and 2, as Nagoya Diamond Dolphins import Bobby Ray Parks Jr. was a late scratch due to a muscle injury.
His return for Sunday, October 3, and his team’s succeeding games are still up in the air.
Meanwhile, Gilas Pilipinas prospects Dwight Ramos, Javi Gomez de Liaño, and Kemark Cariño are fully expected to miss at least two weekends’ worth of games due to mandatory local quarantine protocols for arriving foreigners.
Still, in perhaps a great sign of things to come for the rest, those Pinoys who were able to play, and get significant minutes more than delivered for their respective squads, even after being pitted against bigger, more experienced international imports.
Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena | Shiga Lakestars vs San-en NeoPhoenix
Japan B. League Pinoy pioneer Thirdy Ravena refused to once again roll over for his brother Kiefer as the San-en NeoPhoenix outlasted the Shiga Lakestars home team in a 101-96 overtime thriller on Sunday, October 3.
After being limited to 11 points on 14 shots the day prior, Thirdy cranked up the efficiency in the rematch, and soared to a game-high 21 points to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists on a 3-of-6 clip from three.
Kiefer, however, was no slouch in the scoring department, as he tallied 20 points on a 3-of-5 clip from downtown with 9-of-9 free-throws, plus 7 dimes and a steal.
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In a match that more than lived up to the billing it received, Kiefer Ravena’s Shiga Lakestars completely embarrassed Thirdy’s San-en NeoPhoenix with a 93-83 comeback win from 22 points down in the third quarter.
Kiefer made a lasting impression in his debut by facilitating the massive 26-1 final frame run en route to a line of 11 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals with no turnovers. Meanwhile, Thirdy struggled to find his rhythm late, and limped to an 11-marker finish on a 4-of-14 clip.
It’s all love for the Ravena brothers off the court, of course, but Saturday’s finish likely guarantees that Sunday’s rematch at 1:35 pm will be nothing but hardwood war.
Kobe Paras | Niigata Albirex BB vs Kyoto Hannaryz
Kobe Paras and the Niigata Albirex BB bounced back from their season-opening loss with a rousing 76-75 victory over the Kyoto Hannaryz in the Japan B. League on Sunday, October 3 at the City Hall Plaza Aore Nagaoka.
After exploding for a team-high 25 points on Saturday, the Asian import Paras struggled to find his rhythm early in the game, but still put up 10 points, including two huge baskets in the final three minutes of action, which ultimately helped Niigata steal the victory from Kyoto.
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Speaking of making a lasting first impression, former UP Fighting Maroon Kobe Paras surely accomplished that and more after dropping 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 4-of-6 from three in an 81-85 loss for Niigata Albirex BB.
The former US NCAA recruit actually erupted for 20 points in the first half alone as he made his first four triples, but ultimately struggled in the endgame as Kyoto Hannaryz seized the win.
Paras’ potential was already undeniable even before this game, and all his team needs is better chemistry for the wins to likely follow, maybe even as early as Sunday, 2:05 pm, in their Kyoto rematch.
Juan Gomez de Liaño | Earthfriends Tokyo Z vs Kagawa Five Arrows
Juan Gomez de Liaño and the Earthfriends Tokyo Z opened their Japan B. League Division 2 campaign with two straight losses as they once again fell to the Kagawa Five Arrows, 100-85, on Sunday, October 3 at the Temple Municipal Gymnasium.
After being limited to only 2 points in 3 minutes of action on Saturday, the spitfire guard Gomez de Liaño finally showed a glimpse of what he can do as he tallied 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal in 16 minutes of play off the bench in the losing effort.
Gomez de Liaño and the rest of the Earthfriends will look to pick up their first win of the season on Saturday, October 9 when they take on the Yamagata Wyverns at 5 pm, Manila time.
Juan Gomez de Liaño, quite surprisingly, barely even left the bench in his B. League Division 2 debut with the Earthfriends Tokyo Z.
Continuing the “mixed bag” theme of good and bad news, the former UAAP Mythical Team member only got three minutes of burn as the fifth man off the bench, but still managed to squeeze in 2 points, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
Fans can only hope that Gomez de Liaño, a really high-potential guard even on a national team level, gets more exposure in the 1 pm rematch.
Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. | Nagoya Diamond Dolphins vs Sun Rockers Shibuya
Unfortunately, with no further update on his muscle injury, it’s hard to determine whether or not Bobby Ray Parks Jr. will debut in time for the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins’ 2:05 pm rematch against the Sun Rockers Shibuya.
Even without the former PBA superstar, however, Nagoya still only lost at the very last second when a Leo Vendrame buzzer-beating three gave Shibuya the 80-77 win.
That is definitely a good sign as the arrival of Parks, a former NBA D-League recruit, can only guarantee better games ahead for the Dolphins.