Japan B. League

Japan B. League report card: Kiefer, Kobe heroics not enough to lift teams to victory

Ariel Ian Clarito
Japan B. League report card: Kiefer, Kobe heroics not enough to lift teams to victory

TOP GUARD. Kiefer Ravena has been putting up impressive numbers for Shiga.

Japan B. League

Kiefer Ravena and Kobe Paras deliver for the Shiga Lakestars and the Niigata Albirex, respectively, during the past week of the Japan B. League

MANILA, Philippines – Dwight Ramos and Thirdy Ravena returned to Japan after their Gilas Pilipinas stint in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers but were still not reactivated by their respective ballclubs. 

Ramos’ club, the Toyama Grouses, went 2-1 last week as they defeated the Shiga Lakestars and split their weekend encounter with the Sun Rockers Shibuya. The Grouses have a 16-22 record, which puts them at 14th place in the entire Japan B. League.

Ravena’s squad, the San-En NeoPhoenix, was blown out twice by the strong Alvark Tokyo, which is third in the standings. That was not the only big news for the NeoPhoenix, who announced on Friday, March 4, the sacking of Serbian head coach Branislav Vicentic.

Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins continued their long break after both of their scheduled weekend games against league No. 2 Chiba Jets were postponed. The Diamond Dolphins, third in the West and seventh overall in the entire league with a 21-9 record, last played on January 29 in a loss to the Utsunomiya Brex.

Only three Filipinos saw action in the Japan B. League top division last week. Two of them had spectacular showings for their respective squads.

Kiefer sustains fine individual play

Kiefer Ravena did all he could and more in a punishing three-game stretch last week for the Lakestars.

Last Wednesday, March 2, against the Toyama Grouses, Ravena went 5 out of 8 from the three-point region as he exploded for 24 points on an impressive 61.5% overall shooting clip from the floor. He posted a double-double as he also dished out 11 assists. The Lakestars, though, still fell to the Grouses, 103-108.

Over the weekend, the Lakestars had to deal with a major headache twice as they faced in back-to-back encounters the No. 1 team in the B. League, the Ryukyu Golden Kings, bannered by former Meralco resident import Allen Durham.

“The Phenom” almost had another double-double on Saturday, March 5, as he scored 17 points and issued 9 dimes. He connected on 3 out of 6 tries from beyond the arc and also had 3 boards and 2 steals. These numbers all went for naught as the Lakestars were dominated by the league leaders, 84-98.

On Sunday, March 6, Ravena dealt with foul trouble but still was able to provide a spark off the bench as the Lakestars managed to keep in step with the Golden Kings. Shiga trailed majority of the way but got back within 4 points, 71-75, with over a minute to go. That was the closest they could get as they dropped a close one to Ryukyu, 73-82. Ravena finished with 14 points, 3 boards, and 3 assists.

In Shiga’s last four games, Ravena was on a tear and averaged phenomenal numbers. He has been scoring 20.75 points, converting 55% of his attempts from three, to go with 7.75 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal.

Ravena ranks among the league leaders in two statistical areas. He is sixth overall in assists with his average of 5.9 dimes in 31 games. He is also fourth among all players in steals with 1.5 per outing.

The Lakestars, though, are still on the bottom rung of the standings with a 10-21 slate, 18th overall in the B. League.

Kobe gets back on track

Kobe Paras looks determined to finish the second half of the season on a high note and put his struggles behind him, at least if we were to base it on his seemingly renewed drive and energy this past weekend.

In a 13-game stretch spanning from December 19 to February 6, Paras averaged just 15.46 minutes a game. This was a steep decline from his playing time in his first 10 games when he was on the floor an average of 27.8 minutes.

The Niigata Albirex faced this weekend a formidable foe in the Akita Northern Happinets, which are fifth in the East and eighth overall in the entire B. League. Coach Fujitaka Hiraoka called Paras’ number and played him long minutes in the two games against Akita. Paras repaid his coach’s trust with two solid performances. 

In their 76-92 loss on Saturday, Paras filled up the stat sheets with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block in 25 minutes on the floor. 

Determined not to get blown off the court in their Sunday rematch, the Albirex fought back from a 14-point deficit and unleashed an 18-6 run to get to within two points, 63-65, with a little over three minutes left in the clock. Their rally, however, was not enough as they were denied anew by the Northern Happinets, 67-71.

Paras played longer as he was on the court for 29 minutes and exploded for 5 triples out of 8 attempts to finish with 17 points, his best production since October 17, when he put up 18 points against Levanga Hokkaido.

Niiagata remains at last place in the team standings with a 5-31 record, half a game behind San-En, which has 5 wins and 30 losses.

Javi finally sees action

The Ibaraki Robots had three games on their plates last week, all of which resulted in defeats. 

They went toe-to-toe with Alvark Tokyo on Wednesday and were down by just 2 points at the end of the third quarter. The Robots eventually lost by 6, 70-76.

They suffered another fourth-quarter collapse on Saturday against Kyoto Hannaryz in a game that was tied until the end of the third quarter. The Robots dropped a close one, 81-86.

Javi Gomez de Liaño did not see action in both games, but he was finally fielded in on Sunday in a game that saw the Robots fail keep up with the red-hot Kyoto squad. Ibaraki lost by a more decisive margin, 70-96. 

Gomez de Liaño was on the floor for four minutes. He missed his two attempts from the field. The three losses plummeted the Robots further down in the standings. They are now tied for 19th place with Kyoto with similar 8-28 records. – Rappler.com