The Yokohama B-Corsairs successfully survived the humiliating prospect of demotion to the second division in the B. League’s inaugural season with a 74-53 victory over the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the promotion/demotion game at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.
Center Jason Washburn gave a dominant performance in the paint and posted a game-high 27 points and 13 rebounds to lead the B-Corsairs, who were forced to play in the decider after they fell 79-71 to the Toyama Grouses in a first-division survival playoff on May 19 in Tokyo.
“I’m just feeling relieved right now,” Yokohama head coach Shota Shakuno said after the game. “We watched Hiroshima’s last game last week and we knew they are a capable team. They were in (the top division of) the NBL last year, too. So we knew we’d get beaten if we were off guard.
“We’ve worked to capitalize on our strengths this past week and our players performed well on the court today.”
Hiroshima, which had the third-best record at 46-14 in the second division, will stay in B2 for the 2017-18 season.
One day after a nail-biting B. League championship game between the Tochigi Brex and Kawasaki Brave Thunders, a respectable crowd of 5,014 came to the arena to watch Sunday’s do-or-die contest at the same venue.
Trailing 19-8 after the first quarter, Hiroshima made a comeback and entered halftime down by just four at 30-26. But the B-Corsairs built a 55-39 lead at the end of the third quarter and went on to keep the momentum for the reminder of the game, thanks to Washburn’s 16-point effort in the second half alone.
“Obviously, the stakes were so high,” said Washburn, a 208-cm player. “There was a lot of emotions. But we won as a team. We just committed to ourselves, in the defensive end of the floor.
“A game like this, in the situation, they were looking for a lot of hope. They were looking for us to make mistakes, trying to take advantage of them. And we did a good job not giving them to them.”
Forward Jeff Parmer played with hustle and contributed to the win with his 17 points and seven rebounds, while 38-year-old veteran guard Ken Takeda was also efficient, shooting 6-for-8 from the field and scoring 12 points and grabbing three boards for the B-Corsairs.
University of Texas alum Connor Lammert racked up 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Dragonflies. Hiroshima struggled with its shooting and made just 2 of 21 shots from behind the 3-point arc.
“It’s disappointing that we came up short,” Hiroshima head coach Kenichi Sako said. “I wasn’t able to get the best out of our players. But they battled until the very end of the game.”
Dragonflies veteran Shogo Asayama said: “It’s really a frustrating result. Whatever I say now, it’s going to be an excuse. So I can’t say anything except that we are disappointed.”
Sako said that his team had the potential to win the game, but what made the difference was the experience and heart of the players on the floor.
“We had a hard time getting in the paint today,” the former superstar player said. “It’s not about techniques but about your heart.”
Yokohama outscored Hiroshima 34-24 in the paint.