The Nationals are finally here, and the whole arena is rocking, shouting for blood as national noobs Shohoku step onto the court. Toyotama’s fans, almost as intimidating as the team, fill both the arena, as well as Shohoku’s players, with unease and hostility.
“If this is what they think about us let’s show them how wrong they are,” Coach Anzai answers in response to his distressed players. While Anzai’s words seem to relieve his players, the heckling continues to spill from Toyotama’s stands.
Toyotama, a team known for setting a fast pace and going on the offensive, averaged 130.5 points per game in the Osaka regionals. So it’s no small feat that Shohoku’s strong defense manages to contain Toyotama to a below-average halftime score of 28. This discrepancy is due largely to Coach Anzai’s substitution of “phenom” Sakuragi for Yasuda. Before the substitution, Toyotama establishes their typical fast pace, scoring a whopping nine points within the first minute of the game! Shohoku struggles to keep up with Toyotama’s offense, but Yasuda’s encouragement to take things slow changes the nature of the game!
Shohoku’s Center Akagi scores Shohoku’s first points of the game with his awe-inspiring “Gorilla Dunk,” leaving spectators mesmerized! The slower pace of the game disrupts Toyotama’s rhythm, resulting in more fouls and less baskets. Shohoku’s transition defense, coupled with a strategy of feeding passes to Akagi and ace player Rukawa, allows the team to simultaneously apply pressure on Toyotama while making many in the crowd question their C ranking.
However, controversy breaks out on the court with the appropriately dubbed “ace killer” Minami at its center. Rukawa is led off court after a brutal injury caused by Toyotama’s captain, Minami. But was the foul intentional?
The first half is over and Toyotama is more determined than ever to pick up the pace. It’ll all come down to the second half. With Shohoku’s ace mangled from an earlier collision, Coach Anzai better have a trump card up his sleeve!