Matthew Aquino made a successful Japan debut as the Shinshu Brave Warriors powered past Bambitious Nara 93-52 in the 97th Emperor's Cup in Kishiwada on Saturday (30 October).
Aquino, the 6-foot-8 Filipino center, came off the bench to produce nine points, two rebounds and a block to help the Brave Warriors advance to the next round of the national Japanese tournament.
Shinshu leaned on the all-around brilliance of Josh Hawkinson and Yuta Osaki as it mounted a double-digit lead that kept Nara at bay across three quarters. Aquino then seized control in the fourth where he helped preserve the lead until the end.
Hawkinson spearheaded the Brave Warriors with a double-double outing of 23 points and 13 rebounds laced with three assists, while Osaki supplied 17 points, six boards, and six assists.
Yang Jae-min also made his presence felt in the winning effort as he poured out 16 points, seven rebounds and a steal.
The win set Aquino and Shinshu on a collision course with the Bobby Ray Parks-led Nagoya Diamond Dolphins on Sunday.
Parks played only 18 minutes in the prelude to the clash as the Diamond Dolphins hardly needed his contributions in a dominant 93-58 victory over the Earthfriends Tokyo Z.
Still, the 6-foot-4 guard made sure to produce efficient numbers, delivering six points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field, four assists, three rebounds and two steals.
Scott Eatherton carried the scoring load for Nagoya with 21 points and six rebounds, while Yutaro Suda shouldered some of the load with 17 points and five boards.
Also advancing to the next round of the Emperor's Cup were Dwight Ramos and the Toyama Grouses, as well as Kobe Paras and the Niigata Albirex BB.
Ramos saw limited time for the Grouses in a lopsided 105-71 win over the Aomori Wat's at the Hokkaido Prefectural Sports Center.
Still, the Filipino stalwart contributed four points, three rebounds and three assists in 12 minutes of action, as Kevin Hareyama dealt most of the damage in the rout where he detonated 28 points built on eight triples.
Meanwhile, Paras took charge for the Albirex, lifting his side over the Yamagata Wyverns 71-60 at the Kishiwada City Gymnasium.
The Filipino high-flyer put up a game-high 12 points, all but three coming from long distance, as he helped build a sizeable cushion for Niigata that thwarted a late surge from the Wyverns.
The action resumes on Sunday in the Emperor's Cup, also known as the All Japan Basketball Championship.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.