Chiba Jets edge Seoul SK Knights in thriller to rule EASL

John Bryan Ulanday - Philstar.com
Chiba Jets edge Seoul SK Knights in thriller to rule EASL
Yuki Togashi fired 24 points and seven assists for Chiba.
East Asia Super League

LAPU-LAPU CITY – Japan B. League’s Chiba Jets stamped their class as the region’s best, capping a perfect campaign with an exciting 72-69 finale win over Seoul SK Knights of the Korean Basketball League to rule the East Asia Super League (EASL) Sunday at the jam-packed Hoops Dome here.

Yuki Togashi, fueled by the “MVP” chants from Filipino fans, starred for the Jets in soaring to greater heights across the Pacific as the Japanese ball club completed a seven-game sweep of the EASL’s first home-and-away format.

Togashi fired 24 points on four treys and seven assists, highlighted by the game-sealing freethrows in the last 14 seconds for a three-point Chiba separation that it just held on until the buzzer following Jameel Warney’s missed game-tying trey.

John Mooney collared 16 points and 16 rebounds plus six assists, two steals and a block while Ira Brown threw in 12 points to complement Togashi for Chiba, which became a fan-favorite in Cebu en route to the crown of the EASL participated by eight teams all throughout, including teams from the Philippines.

Xavier Cooks, after a 24-point, 22-rebounds in Chiba’s 92-84 semifinal win over the Jeremy Lin-less New Taipei Kings, added six points and seven rebounds.

“Hats off to the players, they deserved it and somehow, we went undefeated. It was a dramatic, difficult game. We banked on our defense and Yuki took over in the end,” said coach John Patrick.

“That’s been the story of our season. We could not be prouder and we’re glad to do it in Cebu. It’s hot and loud and that’s how basketball is played.”

Chiba, a thousand miles away from home, indeed treated the Philippines as its homecourt.

And the Jets delivered.

No teams led by as many as eight points in the back-and-forth duel but Chiba still stared at a 64-67 deficit midway through the payoff period before Togashi took matters into his own hands.

Togashi, the smallest player on the court, drained seven points in the Jets’ 9-3 turnaround marked by a booming triple for a 63-62 lead, setting the stage for an even wilder finish.

Cooks and Mooney shared the load off their crucial baskets to make it a 70-66 cushion, Youngjun An answered with a trey to make it a one-point gap then Togashi sealed the deal.

Warney had a chance to send it to overtime but to no avail as the Filipino-dominated Hoops Dome roared in cheers, including from the Japanese fans, who traveled all the way to Cebu.

Chiba was the last team to arrive in Cebu just a day before the Final Four owing to its scheduled match in the B. League.

The Jets were also the last team standing in the EASL a few days after, reigning as kings with no wounds to show in a remarkable tournament sweep.

Warney, the EASL’s top scorer, scored 22 points and 17 rebounds while An and Leon Williams added 18 and 15 points, respectively, in a commendable run for the Knights.

Seoul, which also finished runner-up last season, barged back into the finals with a sweet 94-79 revenge on Korean rival Anyang that took home the bronze medal following a 78-76 win over New Taipei.

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