MANILA, Philippines – The Japan B. League opened 2022 with three playdates scheduled right on the first three days of the new year.
A couple of Filipino reinforcements got their year off to a decent start. For others, though, they could only hope their not-so-ideal start to the year is not a portent of things to come for the remainder of the season.
Paras back in Niigata’s rotation
The Niigata Albirex suffered their 23rd straight defeat after falling to the Sunrockers Shibuya in back-to-back games on the first weekend of the year. The losses were not totally unexpected since the Albirex were up against a Shibuya squad which is in the top 10 of the standings.
There were two silver linings, though, for Niigata over the weekend. First is that they kept the second game close against the Sunrockers and only trailed by 4 at the end of the third quarter before succumbing by a margin of 11 points. Second, Kobe Paras finally played with renewed drive and energy.
This was a welcome sight since Paras appeared close to getting totally left to rot on the Niigata bench. In their final three games to end 2021, he played 13 minutes against the Shiga Lakestars, then was not fielded in the next game, and saw action in just 21 seconds in their last game.
Paras scored 6 points in each of Niigata’s game against Shibuya. All his points came from three where he shot 50% from the field. He also averaged 1.5 steals. All these he did in 16.4 minutes of play.
The stat line may not be that impressive, but considering where Paras was in Niigata’s rotation the past games, the numbers are already a marked improvement.
In his last eight games for 2021, Paras had been on the floor an average of 9.56 minutes. He scored just 3.12 points and went scoreless in two of these eght games.
Parks’ Nagoya, Ramos’ Toyama pass acid tests
Ray Parks’ Nagoya Diamond Dolphins and Dwight Ramos’ Toyama Grouses opened the year matched up against two of the top teams in the B. League.
For the Diamond Dolphins, it was an opportunity to send a strong message to the rest of the league that they could take down an elite team.
For the Grouses whose wins all came against teams with losing records, it was a chance to prove to themselves they could defeat a top 10 squad.
Nagoya went 1-1 against their West rival, the Shimane Susanoo Magic. Both teams now have 18-8 records to end the week tied for second place in the West behind the league-leading Ryukyu Golden Kings.
The Diamond Dolphins defeated the Susanoo Magic on Sunday, January 3, 91-76 in a game where Nagoya practically led from start to finish. Nagoya’s balanced attack saw five Diamond Dolphins’ contribute in double figures, including Parks, who was the second-leading scorer with 15 points on an efficient 7-of-10 shooting from the floor. He also had 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Shimane bounced back the next day to snap Nagoya’s nine-game winning streak. Parks was limited to just 4 points on 1-of-7 shooting as the Diamond Dolphins went down to the Susanoo Magic, 81-88.
Toyama went toe-to-toe with the Hiroshima Dragonflies, who won their last three games in 2021 and was tied for seventh place in the entire B. League.
The Grouses lost their New Year’s Day encounter to the Dragonflies, 79-84, in a game where Ramos was restricted to a mere 3 minutes of play as a precaution after getting hurt in their game last week.
Dwight Ramos and the Grouses bounced back on Sunday with an emphatic 90-74 victory over Hiroshima. Ramos had been on a slump as of late and had not scored in double figures since December 18. In his last five games, he only averaged 2.6 points.
Against Hiroshima, Ramos exploded for 15 points and connected on 71.4% of his attempts from the field. He sank three triples and had 2 boards and 1 steal in just 18 minutes of floor time.
Ravenas, Gomez de Liaño get blanked
The Ravena brothers and Javi Gomez de Liaño could not quite keep pace with the top teams that they had to contend to open their 2022 campaign.
The Shiga Lakestars were defeated convincingly two games in a row by the Akita Northern Happinets, 77-94 and 67-92. Lakestars head coach Luis Guill Torres went on record as saying that he was displeased at how calls went against his squad which was already reeling from injuries to key players.
Kiefer Ravena was saddled with foul trouble in both games against the Northern Happinets, who came into the new year tied for seventh place in the standings. He was limited to less than 20 minutes of play on Sunday and finished with just 6 points. The Phenom did better the next day with 9 points and 3 assists but committed 5 turnovers as he could not find his rhythm and missed all his attempts from three.
Thirdy Ravena and the San-En NeoPhoenix missed the services of import Justine Knox and thus struggled to deal with the length of the Kawasaki Brave Thunders, who featured three imports and naturalized Japanese Nick Fazekas.
The NeoPhoenix simply did not have the firepower to battle the Brave Thunders, tied for first in the East standings, on even terms and were mauled decisively on Sunday, 71-103. Thirdy scored 10 points in the loss.
The return bout the next day saw a totally different San-En NeoPhoenix, showing up and leading by 3 at the end of the third quarter. Thirdy lived up to his billing as the most consistent Filipino reinforcement in the B. League by scoring in double digits anew, the 20th time in 24 games he has done so.
Thirdy finished with a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds. His efforts, however, were still not enough to stymie the vastly superior Kawasaki squad as the NeoPhoenix fell again, 68-78.
The Ibaraki Robots faced an Alvark Tokyo squad which sits at fourth in the standings of the entire B. League. The Robots simply did not have the resources to match the firepower of the Alvark which won both games by an average of 14.5 points.
Gomez de Liaño saw 4 minutes of action on Sunday and only had 1 steal to contribute to the stats sheet. He was fielded in for 8 minutes on Monday and sank his only attempt from three. – Rappler.com