Hiroshima Dragonflies surge to first B.LEAGUE title

May 29, 2024

6 mins

Hiroshima Dragonflies surge to first B.LEAGUE title
Hiroshima Dragonflies surge to first B.LEAGUE title

Written by EASL

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Underdog Hiroshima defeats defending champion Ryukyu

The Hiroshima Dragonflies slayed Goliath, in the form of the Ryukyu Golden Kings, to cap a fairytale season and win their first-ever B.LEAGUE championship.

The Dragonflies won the Finals series 2-1, beating Ryukyu 50-65 in Game 3 yesterday evening. Ryo Yamazaki was named the B.LEAGUE Championship 2023-24 Most Valuable Player, after averaging 13.8 points and 3.3 threes during the playoffs.

Hiroshima was the underdog in these Finals. The team was promoted from the second-tier B2 League in 2019 and this season was its first-ever appearance in the B.LEAGUE playoffs. They were facing B.LEAGUE royalty in Ryukyu. The Okinawa side were the reigning B.LEAGUE champions and also six-time winners of the West District regular season.


How were the teams positioned going into the Finals?


The Ryukyu Golden Kings came into the Finals under pressure. The team lost four of their final five regular season games, squandering the West District title for the first time in seven seasons. In the playoffs, they needed all six games to get to the Finals, edging out Alvark Tokyo in the quarterfinals and EASL champions the Chiba Jets in the semis.


Ryukyu had represented Japan in the EASL during the 2023-24 season, alongside the Chiba Jets. The Golden Kings had a rollercoaster EASL season, finishing the Group Stage with a 3-3 record and missing out on the Final Four.


The Hiroshima Dragonflies were the big surprises of the B.LEAGUE season.

The team found its groove in the second half of the season, winning 19 of its final 24 regular season games to claim a wildcard spot in the B.LEAGUE playoffs.


Hiroshima shocked the Japanese basketball community in the quarterfinals, sweeping the heavily-favored San-En NeoPhoenix 2-1. In the semifinals, against their district rivals and West District champions the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins, the Dragonflies beat their opponents in three games, winning the deciding third game 79-73 in Nagoya.


How did the Finals pan out?


This year’s B.LEAGUE Finals were played in the Yokohama Arena. The 13,000-seater venue saw big crowds for all three games.


Game 1: Ryukyu Golden Kings 74-62 Hiroshima Dragonflies


Ryukyu jumped to an 8-0 run to tip off the series and hit seven threes in the first half to be up 43-25 at halftime.


The Golden Kings’ three-point shooting stayed hot in the second half, and with three minutes to go in the game, back-to-back threes from Ryuichi Kishimoto and Keita Imamura iced the game.

Imamura led the way in this game, scoring a game-high 15 points while going five-for-eight from beyond the arc.


Game 2: Ryukyu Golden Kings 63-72 Hiroshima Dragonflies


After a back-and-forth first half, the Dragonflies shut down the Golden Kings’ offense in the second half, limiting their opponents to just 29 points in the third and fourth quarters.


Hiroshima’s offense also found success from beyond the arc. Led by Ryo Yamazaki, who went four-for-five for 80 percent from three, the team finished 11-for-18 from three-point range.

The Dragonflies’ win tied the series at one game apiece.

Game 3: Ryukyu Golden Kings 50-65 Hiroshima Dragonflies


Game 3: winner takes all.


The Dragonflies’ point guard Takuto Nakamura, who took over the starting job mid-season following star Ryo Terashima’s injury, came out flying in the first quarter. Nakamura shot three-for-three from the field for seven points in the opening seven minutes and finished the game with 12 points.


The Dragonflies' third-ranked defense also showed up in this do-or-die battle. The Golden Kings, who averaged 82.6 points per game in the regular season, scored just 50 points. Ryukyu shot a dismal 32 percent from the field and went four-for-24, just 16 percent, from beyond the arc.


Ultimately, the Dragonflies’ defense proved too much for Ryukyu, as Hiroshima won 65-50 to secure their first-ever B.LEAGUE title.



Stat of the Series


The Ryukyu Golden Kings were the seventh-best three-point shooting team in Japan this season, hitting 9.6 three-pointers per game, at a ninth-ranked 33.9 percent.


The 2023 B.LEAGUE champions came into the series firing, going 15-for-33 for 45.5 percent from three in their Game 1 victory.


But the Hiroshima Dragonflies’ perimeter defense showed up after that, limiting the Golden Kings to 14-for-58 for 24 percent from deep in the final two games.



B.LEAGUE Finals 2023-24 MVP: #12 Takuto Nakamura - Hiroshima Dragonflies


#12 Takuto Nakamura averaged 12.5 points in the Dragonflies' two wins to win FInals MVP.
Courtesy: B.LEAGUE

The Dragonflies’ point guard Takuto Nakamura had a massive task mid-season, getting promoted to the starting lineup after star guard Ryo Terashima was injured.


While helping the team man the point, Nakamura found his groove in Game 2 of the Finals, scoring 13 points to help the Dragonflies tie the series.


In the Game 3 championship clincher, Nakamura came out firing, going perfect from the field for seven points in the first quarter, and finishing the game as the team’s second-leading scorer with 12 points.


His performance in the final two games helped him win the B.LEAGUE Finals 2023-24 MVP.


B.LEAGUE Championship 2023-24 MVP: #30 Ryo Yamazaki - Hiroshima Dragonflies

#30 Ryo Yamazaki averaged 13.8 points per game in the B.LEAGUE Championship 2023-24.
Courtesy: B.LEAGUE

After averaging 7.9 points in 51 games in the regular season, Ryo Yamazaki lifted his game to another level in the playoffs (the playoffs are referred to as "the Championship" in Japan).


The 31-year-old shooting guard from Saitama scored in double-figures in seven of his eight playoffs games, averaging 13.8 points.


His three-point shooting led the Dragonflies to victory, hitting 3.3 threes per playoff game.


Yamazaki’s playoffs success will give him plenty of suitors as he enters free agency in the offseason.

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