MANILA, Philippines – It was a productive weekend for most of the Filipino imports in the Japan B. League as their individual brilliance shone in the two games that they each played.
Only two of them, though, came out of the weekend unscathed.
Dwight Is MVP: Most Valuable Pinoy
There was a sequence in last Sunday’s matchup between the Toyama Grouses and the Shiga Lakestars when Kiefer Ravena was on a breakaway after he picked the pocket of Dwight Ramos. Just as the Phenom soared for what looked like a sure twinner, Ramos swooped in from behind to block Ravena’s layup. That, in a nutshell, typifies the big bounce back from Ramos and the Grouses this weekend.
Toyama was coming off two losses the previous week against the league-leading Ryukyu Golden Kings. They made up for those two defeats by winning twice over the skidding Shiga Lakestars.
Keijuro Matsui and Ramos more than made up for the absence of import Joshua Smith, who missed both games against the Lakestars.
The two former US NCAA Division 1 wingmen lit it up from the field as Matsui sank three triples to finish with 16 points while Ramos dropped 18 points. The Filipino star also shot 63.6% from the field, a remarkable improvement from the previous week when he connected on just 30% of his attempts in two games.
The Grouses fended off a late push by the Lakestars to escape with a 107-102 win on Saturday. The next day, the Lakestars again staged an endgame rally, but the Grouses held on for another victory, 95-90.
Matsui paced Toyama with 19 points but it was Ramos’ all-around wizardry which spelled the difference as the Gilas stalwart finished with a near triple-double of 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 10 assists.
The Toyama Grouses now have a 6-12 record after dropping their first eight games. None of their wins, however, has come against a team with a winning record.
Ramos and the Grouses have a chance to show they can hang with the top squads as they face the Shinshu Brave Warriors on Wednesday, and Ray Parks and the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins in back-to-back games this coming weekend.
Parks goes perfect from downtown
If not for Nagoya’s huge 91-58 win over the Kyoto Hannaryz where he hardly broke a sweat in 14 minutes of Saturday’s action and produced just 5 points, Ray Parks would have at least tied Ramos as this past weekend’s Most Valuable Pinoys.
Parks played on Sunday what perhaps is the most impressive offensive display by a Filipino in the B. League thus far.
The former ABL MVP was flawless from beyond the arc as he sank all six attempts from the three-point distance to end up with 20 points. He shot an impressive 85.7% from the field and also dished out 4 assists despite being on the floor for a mere 20 minutes. The Diamond Dolphins were merciless as they walloped the overmatched Hannaryz, 93-48.
This is the fourth time this season that Parks has scored at least 20 points in a ballgame. This is also the fifth time he has led his squad in scoring.
With an 11-7 record, the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins are now fourth in the standings in the West, just a game behind the Seahorses Mikawa and the Shimane Susanoo Magic. Nagoya and Mikawa will face off on Wednesday, with the winner gaining at least a tie for second place in the West.
Solid showings from Ravenas not enough
Kiefer Ravena and the Shiga Lakestars fell to their 10th straight loss this past weekend. The last time the Lakestars tasted victory was on October 24 versus the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.
The Phenom was steady in both losses to the Toyama Grouses as he sparked endgame rallies that simply were not enough to turn the tide for the Lakestars.
Ravena scored 8 points last Saturday but dished out 9 assists and stole twice in 23 minutes of floor time.
He followed it up with 13 points spiked by two triples plus five dimes in another Shiga defeat on Sunday.
The Shiga Lakestars have a 6-12 record. Their next three games will be against squads with losing records, the Osaka Evessa and the Yokohama B-Corsairs, so this could provide an opportunity for the Lakestars to get back on the winning track.
Thirdy Ravena, meanwhile, shook off the rust from his two-game suspension and delivered numbers that are par for the course for the leading Filipino scorer in the Japan B. League.
His production, though, was found wanting as the San-En NeoPhoenix kept in pace but could not topple the defending champions Chiba Jets.
The younger Ravena filled up the stat sheet with 15 points, 5 boards, and 5 assists as San-En fell to Chiba last Saturday, 89-101. He followed up his performance with 12 points the next day as the NeoPhoenix crumbled anew amid the superior Chiba firepower, 80-87.
The NeoPhoenix have only three wins to show for in 18 games. Coincidentally, Thirdy’s last win in the B. League also happened last October 24.
No end in sight for Kobe’s woes
One gets a sense the Niigata Albirex have stopped caring, and that Kobe Paras feels the same.
The squad sits last in the standings of the entire B. League with just two victories and 16 losses. In the team’s first 12 defeats, they lost eight games by 8 points or less. Seven of those eight losses were by 5 points or less.
Since the resumption of the B. League after the FIBA window break, the Albirex have dropped their last four games by an average of 20 points.
Against the Shibuya Sun Rockers this weekend, Niigata fell twice, 70-79 on Saturday in a game where Paras made only 1-of-6 attempts from the field, and 72-97 on Sunday as Paras shot just 1-of-4. He ended with a total of 5 points combined in both games. He also ended up with zero boards in Sunday’s game, the third time in four games Paras failed to grab a single rebound.
The Niagata Albirex have lost its last 15 games.
Paras scored in double-digits in his first six games for Niigata and averaged 16.3 points, second-best among Asians in the entire B. League. He has averaged just 6.6 points in his last 12 games where he has scored in double figures just twice.
The road ahead does not get paved for Niigata as they go up against the Shimane Susanoo Magic on Wednesday and the Hiroshima Dragonflies this coming weekend. Both Shimane and Hiroshima have winning records.
Javi misses victory
Javi Gomez de Liaño’s stint on the floor last Saturday turned out to be rather uneventful. He saw action for 18 minutes and scored 2 points on 1-of-3 shooting from the field. He turned the ball over four times. He did, however, grab 3 rebounds and also registered 1 block and 1 steal. The Ibaraki Robots were blown out by Japanese star point guard Seiya Ando and the Shimane Susanoo Magic, 59-87.
The next day, the Robots pulled off what is easily one of the biggest upsets this season in the B. League when they exacted revenge on Shimane, 88-85. Gomez de Liaño was not fielded in during the game.
With the win, the Ibaraki Robots escaped the cellar and improved to 3-15, a game ahead of bottom dwellers Niigata and Kyoto. – Rappler.com