MANILA, Philippines – The Toyama Grouses started the new year on a heartbreaking note in the Japan B. League as the Hiroshima Dragonflies earned an 84-79 home win on Saturday, January 1.
Gilas Pilipinas rising star Dwight Ramos, who was a starter in 18 of the Grouses’ last 19 games, only played a B. League career-low 3 minutes off the bench in this close affair, and finished with just 1 rebound and 2 missed free-throw attempts.
Despite Ramos’ limited involvement, Toyama still brought the fight to the Hiroshima hosts, and cut down a 10-point deficit, 59-69, early in the fourth quarter to just two, 69-71, off a 10-2 run capped by a Keijuro Matsui triple at the 5:20 mark.
However, after two free throws from former PBA import Joshua Smith kept the Grouses’ deficit at one, 79-80, with 1:39 left in regulation, the Dragonflies stepped up on defense, and challenged Toyama’s final four field goal attempts to seal the deal in their favor.
Five Hiroshima players scored in double-digits in the thrilling contest, led by local guard Ryo Terashima’s 18-point, 5-rebound, 5-assist line, and import Nick Mayo’s 16 markers, 5 boards, and 2 dimes.
Smith led the losing effort with a monster 19-point, 16-rebound double-double in 33 minutes, while top Toyama import Julian Mavunga added 14 markers, 5 boards, and 5 dimes in a shortened 20-minute run.
All eyes are now on Ramos and Mavunga to get back their regular playing time as the Grouses aim for a comeback in the Sunday, January 2 rematch at 1:05 pm, Manila time.
Despite only playing 3 minutes, Ramos was the only Filipino who even saw the court for the New Year’s Day game slate as Matt Aquino was fully benched in the Shinshu Brave Warriors’ 74-94 road loss to the defending champion Chiba Jets.
Over at Division 2, Juan Gomez de Liaño extended his absence to nine straight games as the Earthfriends Tokyo Z fell to the visiting Fukushima Firebonds, 77-87.
Both Aquino and Gomez de Liaño can make their on-court returns in their respective teams’ Sunday rematches, both at 2 pm. – Rappler.com