MANILA, Philippines – The Toyama Grouses returned to Japan B. League action without their key stars, and still came away with a 108-103 road win over the Shiga Lakestars on Wednesday, March 2.
With the win, the Grouses rose up to 15-21 while they await the return of imports Julian Mavunga and Fil-Am Dwight Ramos, who is under required quarantine after a short stint for Gilas Pilipinas back home.
Shiga star Kiefer Ravena rode the momentum of his career-high 28-point outing last game, and finished the game with 24 markers, 10 coming in the first quarter alone, to go with 10 assists in 28 minutes off the bench.
The Lakestars looked headed for an easy win after cruising past the Grouses in the first quarter, 36-23, thanks to a massive 20-point start from import Novar Gadson, and 10 markers from Ravena.
However, Shiga’s momentum was completely sapped from that point as Toyama engineered a steady 37-point turnaround from 16 points down, 18-34, early in the first, to a comfortable 21-point gap, 89-68, late in the third period.
The Lakestars tried to reignite their first-quarter fire in the final frame, and came as close as 4 points, 103-107, off a clutch Ravena triple in the waning seconds of regulation.
But their late rally just fell short as they dropped their second straight game for a 10-19 record.
Former NBA player Brice Johnson carried Toyama in the absence of Mavunga and Ramos, and finished with a near triple-double of 33 points, 15 rebounds, and 8 assists while team captain Ryumo Ono added 17 markers off the bench.
Gadson saw a season-high 41-point line on 17-of-25 shooting go to waste as fellow import Sean O’mara was limited to just 9 markers in 33 minutes.
Ravena and Shiga have a mountain to climb over the weekend as they face the league-leading Ryukyu Golden Kings, holders of a 27-3 record, in back-to-back games starting this Saturday, March 5.
Meanwhile, Ramos’ status for the Grouses’ weekend games against the Sun Rockers Shibuya remains in doubt.
The Ibaraki Robots also played this Wednesday night against the Akita Northern Happinets, but decided not to field Gilas prospect Javi Gomez de Liaño in the 70-76 loss. – Rappler.com