The Chiba Jets clinched their maiden B-League championship Tuesday after holding off Utsunomiya Brex 71-62 in the deciding third game of the finals.
Gavin Edwards led the way for Chiba with 15 points and 6 rebounds, while finals MVP Sebastian Saiz scored 12 points, including a crucial tip-in off a missed basket to put the Jets up 65-60 with 38 seconds left.
The victory at Yokohama Arena was a case of third time lucky for the Chiba Jets, who finished runners-up to Alvark Tokyo in 2018 and 2019, in the last two full seasons before the coronavirus pandemic forced the abandonment of the 2019-2020 campaign.
“We’ve been so close. This is the third year in a row we’ve been to the finals, and it feels like it’s just slipped through our fingers every year,” said a tearful Edwards following the final buzzer.
“I’m not only happy for us as players, but for the fans. They fought for us the last three years.”
Chiba Jets captain Yuki Togashi, who contributed 7 points and 4 assists, said the Jets players were determined to clinch the elusive title through a team effort.
“We weren’t thinking about ourselves as individuals today. All that mattered was the team winning,” the point guard said.
Yusuke Endo topped the scoring for Utsunomiya with 13 points, while Makoto Hiejima added 12 before fouling out late in the final term.
With the finals expanded this year from a one-off contest to a best-of-three series, the teams headed into the deciding clash following one lopsided win each.
The Jets had blown away Brex 85-65 in Saturday’s series opener before the Tochigi Prefecture side bounced back with an 83-59 victory on Sunday.
Game 3 was a tightly fought affair from the outset, with Chiba leading 21-18 at the end of one quarter before the teams went into halftime knotted at 35.
The teams headed into the final change deadlocked at 50 points apiece after going basket for basket in the third term. But with both sides struggling to score late, the Jets were able to pull away following Saiz’s tip-in and some clutch free-throws from Shannon Shorter.