The stage is set for an exciting final day of basketball in EASL Champions Week. First up, hometown team Ryukyu Golden Kings and visitors the Bay Area Dragons will battle it out for third place in a game tipping off at 16:00 JST.
The two runners-up of their respective groups have performed impressively in the tournament. Ryukyu Golden Kings won both their group stage games. They kicked off with a massive, 28-point victory over the San Miguel Beermen and closed out the group stage with a tightly-contested win against the Taipei Fubon Braves. Import star Jack Cooley has been a force inside the paint, eading team scoring with 22 points and 14.5 boards per game in the group stage.
The hometown team had a slim chance to make the championship game coming into the last round – they needed to boost their points difference by 52 to match Anyang KGC who had beaten the Beermen by a 55-point margin. In the end, despite recording a win against the Braves, the Golden Kings settled as runners-up in Group A.
“I’m so glad we could win the game,” Golden Kings sharpshooter Ryuichi Kishimoto said after the game against the Braves last night. “But I think we could do more, we could play more. So I felt a little uncomfortable. But I’m glad we can play in tomorrow’s game. I am happy to play in our home ground, I appreciate the fans who continues to support us.”
For the Bay Area Dragons, the tournament has been a rollercoaster. In their first game against Seoul SK Knights, the Dragons jumped to an early lead. But due to their inability to score in the final five minutes of the third, they squandered a 19-point lead, ultimately losing to the defending Korean Basketball League champions.
They were looking for redemption in a do-or-die second group game against Utsunomiya Brex, one of the tournament hosts. Both teams needed a win to cash their place in the medal rounds. Down two going into halftime, the Dragons needed a better third quarter than their previous game and they managed just that, outscoring the defending B.LEAGUE champions by 10 points in the third and ultimately securing a six-point victory to punch their ticket for the third-place game.
The Dragons have leaned heavily on two former NBA pros in the two games, as Andrew Nicholson and Myles Powell have combined to score 103 of the team’s 180 points total. They will look to rely on their two stars once again in this pivotal bronze medal game.
“Yesterday, we were up 19 and we lost in a game that we should have won. Everyone went back to the hotel and had a bad taste in their mouth,” Powell said after their decisive win against the Brex on Friday. “We came back today. We watched film. We listened to coach, and everybody was doing what they were supposed to do. We showed a lot of heart today, and we’re not done yet.”
The match between Ryukyu Golden Kings and Bay Area Dragons promises to be a thrilling encounter, with both teams eyeing a podium finish. The Golden Kings will be looking give their local fans something to cheer about. The Dragons, on the other hand, will be hoping to play spoilers and finish the tournament on a high.
A sold-out crowd is expected at the game, as Okinawan fans turn out in force to cheer their hometown team.