MANILA, Philippines – The last playing week of January in the Japan B. League saw two Filipinos, Kiefer Ravena of the Shiga Lakestars and Javi Gomez de Liano, miss out on the action.
The four others who played, though, had eventful outings while their teams scrambled to pick up much-needed victories to remain in the playoff hunt as the 60-game B. League season reached its halfway mark.
Best week for Paras, Niigata
The last time the Niigata Albirex tasted victory was on October 9, 2021 against the San-En NeoPhoenix. Niigata then went on to drop its next 26 games, including the encounter last Wednesday, January 26, against the Levanga Hokkaido.
Niigata finally picked up its first win in three months and 20 days when the Albirex escaped with a 79-76 squeaker on Saturday over the Ibaraki Robots. The Albirex then followed it up with an 87-79 win over the same team on Sunday, marking Niigata’s best performance in a week the entire season.
Kobe Paras was a key contributor to Niigata’s cause this past week. After another slump the previous weekend when he went scoreless in two games, Paras showed up by averaging 11.3 points in three games this time around in what easily is his best week yet of the season. He fired 14 points in their loss against Hokkaido, then scored 10 points on Saturday and 9 points on Sunday versus Ibaraki.
Paras connected on 6 out of 7 attempts from the three point region in the three-game stretch which saw him shoot an impressive 65.2% overall clip from the field in less than 17 minutes of play per game.
The Albirex will need more of the same from Paras when they go up against traditional league powerhouse Utsonomiya Brex on Wednesday, February 2. Then on the weekend, Niigata faces the Gunma Crane Thunders twice in what could be winnable games.
Toyama rise continues despite Ramos’ shooting woes
Dwight Ramos has been struggling with his shots as of late. He has not scored in double digits in his last five games, including the two he played this weekend. His scoring average has dropped to 9.8 points.
Good thing is the Toyama Grouses have managed to pool solid contributions from the rest of the squad to compensate for the sub-par form of one of their main men.
Just this weekend, the Grouses surprised everyone but themselves as they dominated the Hiroshima Dragonflies, 85-68 on Saturday and 89-75 on Sunday.
Ramos scored 7 points on Saturday as he could only connect on 2 of his 7 attempts from the field, including 1 out of 4 from three. The next day was even worse as he was 22% from the floor and finished with just 6 points on 2-of-9 shooting. He, though, grabbed 5 boards and dished out 2 assists.
The Grouses climbed to 14th place with a 13-19 record, the highest this season that the team has risen in the standings. The Hiroshima Dragonflies are just the third team with a winning record that Toyama has beaten this season. The Grouses’ two wins this weekend also marked the first time that they have won back-to-back games against clubs with winning records.
Parks shows versatility for Nagoya
In one of the biggest match-ups last Wednesday between two teams which were on the verge of catching up with the league leaders, the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins fended off a late rally by Alvark Tokyo and prevailed, 86-80. The win allowed Nagoya to catch up with Alvark in the standings, with both teams sporting 21 wins and 8 losses.
Ray Parks proved why he is hands down the most versatile Asian reinforcement in the entire B. League. Parks was efficient from the field as he hit 4 out of 8 attempts to finish with 10 points. He also had 4 boards in 26 minutes on the floor. But it was on defense that Parks revealed his value.
He hounded Alvark Tokyo franchise player Daiki Tanaka and made life miserable for the longtime Japan national team wingman. Parks held Tanaka, the 2019-20 B. League MVP and five-time Mythical Best 5, scoreless until the fourth quarter. Tanaka scored his first field goal when Parks was already assigned to cover Alvark Tokyo’s import Jordan Taylor.
Nagoya took the floor again on Saturday but suffered a 79-93 loss to Japanese star Makoto Heijima, New Zealand’s Isaac Fotu, and the Utsonomiya Brex. Parks this time around displayed his offensive prowess and all-around skills as he registered 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
Parks and the Diamond Dolphins will seek to get back on the winning track this week as they face two teams below .500, the Shinshu Brave Warriors and the Shiga Lakestars.
Thirdy sizzles but San-En drops to the bottom
The San-En NeoPhoenix have not won any game so far in 2022. Their five-game losing streak extends to last December 29 when they were blasted, 69-101, by the No. 1 B. League team, the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
It cannot be said, though, that Thirdy Ravena has not been doing his fair share to improve his team’s fortunes. In fact, Ravena remains one of the few bright spots for the NeoPhoenix, who dropped to a tie with the Albirex for last place in the team standings.
The NeoPhoenix kept in pace with the Kyoto Hannaryz in their match-up on Saturday but could not seal the deal in the endgame. The NeoPhoenix lost a close one, 83-88, and laid to waste Ravena’s 26-point explosion which also came with 8 rebounds.
The rematch the following day was a more convincing defeat for the NeoPhoenix, 62-79. Ravena posted more modest numbers with 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists.
Ravena has been averaging 16.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal in San-En’s last five games. He will need more support from his teammates as they are scheduled to go up twice against Ryukyu next weekend after San-En’s Wednesday showdown with the Gunma Crane Thunders. – Rappler.com