Golden Kings to defend B.LEAGUE title against Dragonflies

May 24, 2024

6 mins

Golden Kings to defend B.LEAGUE title against Dragonflies
Golden Kings to defend B.LEAGUE title against Dragonflies

Written by EASL

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B.LEAGUE Finals Preview: Champion Ryukyu faces Finals debutant Hiroshima

The B.LEAGUE Finals tip off tomorrow (May 25) with defending champions the Ryukyu Golden Kings facing the Hiroshima Dragonflies, who are playing their first-ever league finals.

Ryukyu Golden Kings vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies (Best-of-3)

This is a David-versus-Goliath match-up.

The Ryukyu Golden Kings are giants of Japanese basketball. They are the defending B.LEAGUE champions and, until this year, had won the Western District regular season seven times in a row. They have a huge fanbase in their hometown Okinawa and play at the league’s biggest, purpose-built arena.

The Golden Kings also represented Japan in the EASL in 2023-24, alongside the Chiba Jets.

The Ryukyu Golden Kings finished 3-3 in the EASL 2023-24 Season.

The Hiroshima Dragonflies, on the other hand, are relative newcomers to top-tier basketball in Japan, having been promoted to the B.LEAGUE in 2019. They compete for attention in Hiroshima with the highly successful local baseball and football teams, and play at the relatively modest Hiroshima Sun Plaza.

But the Dragonflies should not be counted out, as they are one of the hottest teams in the league, having won 19 of their last 24 games.

The Golden Kings missed out on a seventh consecutive Western District title this season, losing four of their final five games in the regular season and allowing the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins to jump ahead in the standings.

In the quarterfinals, the Golden Kings faced a hungry Alvark Tokyo squad that had lost just 12 of their 60 games all season.

After splitting the first two games, the teams took it to the wire in the deciding Game 3. With the game tied at 57 with under 30 seconds to go, Allen Durham drew a foul and put his team ahead on free throws, ultimately helping them advance to the semis.

A rematch of last year’s finals was up next for the Golden Kings, against EASL champions the Chiba Jets.

After dropping Game 1, Ryukyu roared back with two convincing victories, smashing Chiba by 34 points in the final games combined.

Now comes a date with the Hiroshima Dragonflies, who are making their first appearance in the B.LEAGUE finals.

The Dragonflies are one of the newer teams in the B1 league, only getting promoted in 2019. The team made their first playoff appearance last season.

The Dragonflies finished with a 36-24 record in the regular season, good for third in the West District.

Hiroshima cruised past the offensive juggernauts of San-En NeoPhoenix in the quarterfinals, sweeping them in two games.

Against district rivals the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins, the Dragonflies continued their fairytale season with a 2-1 series win.

Now comes their toughest test, a matchup against another district rival and the defending champions.

Will the Golden Kings prove too much for the Dragonflies, or will Hiroshima cap off their fairytale run with a trophy?

Players to Watch

Ryukyu Golden Kings – #45 Jack Cooley – C

It’s hard to pinpoint the key player in the Golden Kings’ lineup. The team runs a deep rotation, with 12 players touching the floor in the semifinal series against the Jets. However, import center Jack Cooley arguably rises from the crop.

Cooley, the league’s leading rebounder last season, continued his interior dominance this year, averaging a double-double, with 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds in 51 games.

The 6-foot-9 big man upped his game against the Jets in the semis, averaging 16.6 points and 10 rebounds in the three-game series, shooting 67.8 percent from the field.

His dominance will be tested against the third-ranked defense in the league – the Dragonflies conceded only 73.4 points per game in the regular season.

Hiroshima Dragonflies – #30 Ryo Yamazaki – SG

Ryo Yamazaki continues to shine in the playoffs.

After averaging 15.5 points in the two games against the NeoPhoenix, the 10-year-veteran averaged 16 points in the three games against the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.

Yamazaki’s success came from a hot shot from beyond the arc. The Dragonflies sharpshooter went 12-for-18 from deep (66 percent) in the three-game series against Nagoya.

His hot streak will have to continue if the Dragonflies want to outscore the league’s fourth-best offense.

Ryo Yamazaki (30) shot 66 perecent from three in the semifinals. Courtesy: B.LEAGUE

One more stat you should know

Game of second chances

The Ryukyu Golden Kings and the Hiroshima Dragonflies top the rankings in points off offensive rebounds during the 2024 B.LEAGUE playoffs.

The Golden Kings lead the charge, scoring 99 points off offensive rebounds. The Dragonflies rank second with 73 points.

Both teams averaged just under 13.5 offensive rebounds per game

Game schedule

All times Japan Standard Time

  • Game 1: Ryukyu Golden Kings (Home) vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies (Away), Saturday, May 25, 12:00
  • Game 2: Ryukyu Golden Kings (Home) vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies (Away), Sunday, May 26, 13:10
  • Game 3: Ryukyu Golden Kings (Home) vs. Hiroshima Dragonflies (Away), Tuesday, May 28, 19:05*

* = if necessary

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