Week 4 of the Japan B. League saw two teams with Filipino imports remain entrenched in the upper half of the standings as they created some separation between them and the other Filipino-reinforced squads in the middle and bottom portions of the standings.
We take a look at how the teams with Filipino imports who played significant minutes performed this past weekend.
Ray versus Kiefer: 1-1
The marquee match-up between two Filipino stars resulted in a blowout victory each for their respective squads.
Ray Parks Jr. and the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins drew first blood last Saturday and blasted the visiting Shiga Lakestars, 107-68. For the second straight game, Parks led the Diamond Dolphins in offense as he scored 22 points. He also registered 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Kiefer Ravena and the Lakestars bounced right back by ending Nagoya’s four-game winning streak, 110-70, as the Phenom rediscovered his form and dropped 4 triples in the first half.
After opening the season with three close losses, the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins have since found their groove and had rolled off four straight victories prior to Sunday’s loss to Shiga.
A large part of their success is the stellar play of Parks, who has recovered from an injury and a slow start in his first two games.
Parks has been the best performing Filipino these past four games which saw him improve his averages to 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. The Nagoya coaching staff acknowledged that Parks’ offensive production was something they expected. What surprised them was how good Parks has been on the defensive end as he has helped the Diamond Dolphins notch their four wins by an average margin of 25 points.
Nagoya barely missed out on a playoff spot last season. The Diamond Dolphins, now with a 4-4 record, have been winning even with import Shayne Whittington playing in only three games. Despite their recent loss, Nagoya looks like a dangerous team which is poised to contend for the title.
Ravena slowed down after averaging 13.8 points, 6.8 assists (third-best in the B. League) and 2 steals (fifth among all players) in his first four games. In his next three games, he only normed 5.6 points and 2 assists. Ravena came back in a big way in their victory over Nagoya as he finished with 16 points, 9 assists, and 3 steals.
The Shiga Lakestars are one of four teams with a 6-2 record, next only to the league-leading Hiroshima Dragonflies, who are at 7-1. Coach Luis Guil Torres needs Ravena to be consistently sharp as they will next be up against two powerhouse squads – the Kawasaki Brave Thunders on Wednesday and defending champions Chiba Jets on November 6 and 7.
Dwight’s Toyama sinks deeper
Dwight Ramos was better in his second week in Japan as he upped his numbers from his debut the previous week. Despite facing one of the top teams with one of the best defenses in the Ryukyu Golden Kings, Ramos dropped 16 points and 12 points in their back-to-back encounters, which unfortunately ended in losses for Toyama.
In his first four games as a pro, Ramos averaged 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds.
One of the biggest surprises this year is that the Toyama Grouses remain the only winless team in the B. League. This is a steep drop for a squad which made the playoffs last season. The squad, in fact, retained two of their previous imports, Joshua Smith and Julius Mavunga, added NBA veteran Brice Johnson, and picked up two prized recruits, 6-foot-3 forward Kevin Hareyama, the Shiga Lakestars’ top local last season, and shooting guard Keijuro Matsui, the first Japanese US NCAA Division I player in history.
The team is scoring a league-worst 71.7 points per game and is also one of the worse shooting teams from the field. Toyama needs to get itself in the win column fast if it still hopes to make a run for the playoffs.
Thirdy and San-En arrest skid
Thirdy Ravena had to do some heavy-lifting in their Saturday game against the Ibaraki Robots as the SanEn NeoPhoenix missed the services of import Robert Carter. Ravena’s 14 points from a 60% shooting clip were not enough to prevent San-En from plunging to their third straight loss.
The NeoPhoenix regrouped last Sunday as they welcomed back Carter, posting an 83-66 triumph over the Robots to improve their standing to 3-5, tying three other squads for 15th spot in the standings. Ravena scored only 7 points but had 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Thirdy has been the most consistent Filipino import thus far in the B. League. He has scored in double figures in six of his club’s eight games and is averaging 12.6 markers, second only to German import Elias Harris. He is also collaring 4.6 rebounds per game, third in the squad to Harris and import Justin Knox.
Kobe slumping along with Niigata
The Niigata Albirex failed to get a win in their two games against the Mikawa/Aishin Sea Horses. Niigata suffered a 58-81 beatdown last Friday, but almost pulled off an upset last Saturday after Kobe Paras tied the score in the closing moments of the game only for the Albirex to lose by a last second game-winner from Sea Horses import Davante Gardner.
Niigata is on a five-game losing skid, its 2-6 record placing among the bottom four in the entire B. League.
The squad’s struggles seem to mirror the personal struggles as well of their prized Filipino import. Paras tallied just 6 points in their loss last Friday, the same output he produced in their Saturday game.
Paras has seen his production plummet since averaging 16.8 points in his first four games in the B. League. In his last four games, averaged just 10.8 points. The decline in offense is huge for an Albirex team which only has three players, including Paras, who are averaging in double figures.
Niigata is in the bottom four in team offense among the 22 B. League squads. Simply put, for the Albirex to get back on the winning track, they needs Paras to be more involved and active on the offensive end. – Rappler.com