MANILA, Philippines – Kai Sotto’s impressive debut for the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B. League went down the drain as they suffered an 86-78 loss to Carl Tamayo’s Ryukyu Golden Kings at the Okinawa Arena on Wednesday, March 8.
The 7-foot-3 Sotto, who is coming off a two-year run with the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League in Australia, wasted no time making his mark in the Land of the Rising Sun as he finished with 10 points on an efficient 4-of-7 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, and a game-high 3 blocks.
In what could have been a very exciting showdown between the two former high school rivals, Tamayo, unfortunately, was not fielded in the whole contest despite already making his debut in a Golden Kings uniform in the recently concluded East Asia Super League Champions Week.
Ryukyu rode on the hot hands of its point guard Ryuichi Kishimoto, who cashed in six of his nine attempts from long distance to wind up with a game-high 20 points.
Three-time PBA best import Allen Durham backstopped Kishimoto with 19 points and 5 rebounds as the third-seeded Golden Kings improved their record to 30-9.
With Hiroshima trailing by only 2 points, 59-61, after a triple by Seiya Funyu at the 9:01 mark of the fourth and final frame, Ryukyu stepped on the gas and went on an 11-2 tear in the next four minutes of play to push its lead to its biggest at 11 markers, 72-61.
The Dragonflies showed some signs of life late in the game, cutting the deficit back to only 5 points, 75-80, with still 1:12 remaining, before Durham connected on three straight charities to extend the Golden Kings’ advantage to 8 with just 33 seconds left.
Kishimoto then sealed the deal with a dagger trey to put Ryukyu’s cushion back to its largest at 11, 86-75, as Hiroshima, which failed to tie the Golden Kings at the No. 4 spot, dropped to 28-11.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. paced the Dragonflies in the loss with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Naoto Tsuji and Dwayne Evans II added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
In another clash between two Filipino basketball stars, Matthew Wright got the better of his former Gilas Pilipinas teammate Ray Parks as the Kyoto Hannaryz gutted out a 74-71 win over the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.
Wright was one assist shy of a double-double, tallying 15 points and 9 dimes, while Parks was held to just 6 markers on 1-of-8 clip from the field.
Ryukyu 86 – Kishimoto 20, Durham 19, Imamura 14, Tashiro 9, Flippin 8, Duncan 6, Cooley 5, Maki 5, Matsuwaki 0, Tamayo 0, Onodera 0.
Hiroshima 78 – Blackshear Jr. 16, Tsuji 12, Evans II 11, Sotto 10, Mayo 9, Murphy 7, Terashima 5, Nakamura 5, Funyu 3, Asayama 0.
Quarters: 18-15, 36-35, 61-54, 86-78.
San-En NeoPhoenix def. Seahorses Mikawa, 87-74. (Thirdy Ravena – 10 points, 3-of-8 field goal, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 26:19 minutes.)
Levanga Hokkaido def. Ibaraki Robots, 88-83. (Dwight Ramos – 4 points, 2-of-3 field goal, 1 block, 14:17 minutes.)
Shimane Susanoo Magic def. Shiga Lakes, 98-89. (Kiefer Ravena – 8 points, 3-of-7 field goal, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 22:37 minutes.)
Yokohama B-Corsairs def. Shinshu Brave Warriors, 83-71. (Matt Aquino – 2 points, 1-of-1 field goal, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 6:32 minutes.)
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