JAPAN rode on the heads up play of veteran national player Kosuke Takeuchi as the host country completed a 3-0 sweep of the visiting Meralco-Cadet team, 88-61,Sunday night at the close of the 2013 Pocari Sweat Challenge in Tokyo, Japan.
The 6-foot-9 Takeuchi muscled his way for 23 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes of play to lead the Japanese to the lopsided win.
The Japanese, who are using the three-game friendlies as part of their build up for the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in Manila this August, were hardly threatened in a game that saw them take a 75-42 lead entering the final quarter.
The Meralco-cadet squad, reinforced by import Chris Blake, just couldn’t find its rhythm against the aggressive Japanese squad.
Blake had a hard time beating Japan’s constant double-teaming, but still found a way to lead Meralco-Cadet with 16 points.
Youthful Kevin Alas and Reynel Hugnatan added 12 and 10, respectively, in a losing cause for the nationals.
Japan’s naturalized player JR Sakuragi again didn’t suit up, but his presence was hardly needed as the Japanese played relentlessly the entire game.
Garvo Lanete, a member of the national cadet team, believes however, the Gilas national squad could beat the Japanese even with Sakuragi playing.
“The guy Sakuragi did not play yet,” Lanete said in his Twitter account @garvothe13, in response to Filipino naturalized player Marcus Douthit's query. “You guys can easily beat them even w/ him.”
The Japanese, who placed a strong second in last year’s Fiba Asia Cup in Tokyo behind champion Iran, opened the friendlies with an 86-67 win on Friday. They followed it up with a close 83-76 win.
The first two games were played in Sendai.
Proceeds of the friendlies will go straight to the ongoing aid for the 2011 tsunami victims in Japan.
The Filipinos are expected to return to Manila on Monday.