Ravena brothers grateful for Pinoy fans' support in B.League

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 04 2021 12:14 PM | Updated as of Oct 04 2021 12:19 PM

Brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena split their weekend series at the Shiga Prefecture. (c) B.LEAGUE 
Brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena split their weekend series at the Shiga Prefecture. (c) B.LEAGUE 

It was a weekend to remember for brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena.

A basketball journey that started in their backyard court at home opened a new chapter at the Ukaruchan Arena at the Shiga prefecture in Japan. There, Kiefer and the Shiga Lakestars hosted Thirdy and the San-En NeoPhoenix in the opening weekend of the 2021-22 B.League season.

Both Kiefer and Thirdy got their chances to shine in the two games. On Saturday, it was Kiefer who made a big impression in his B.League debut, putting up 11 points and eight assists while piloting Shiga to a 93-83 come-from-behind win.

But Thirdy made sure that San-En would not leave the prefecture without a victory. On Sunday night, he and the NeoPhoenix turned the tables on the Lakestars, coming back from an 18-point deficit to win 101-96 in overtime. Thirdy put up 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and hit a clutch three-pointer in overtime to help ensure the win for San-En.

"I guess, he gets the last laugh," Kiefer said of Thirdy after the game.

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The Ravena brothers were all business inside the court -- they defended each other multiple times and Kiefer even got a crucial stop on Thirdy in Sunday's game -- but after the game they were all praises for each other and grateful to have gotten the opportunity to be on the same court.

"We were really looking forward to it," said Kiefer, who endured a contract standoff with the PBA before finally getting cleared to play for Shiga shortly before the start of the season.

"This is the first time that we played against each other in a real game, a professional game," he added. "We're happy that we finished the weekend healthy, without any injuries, and of course it's a long season, so we have to prepare for all the other teams in the league."

"It was a great game, a great weekend overall, and we're just happy to be representing our teams and of course our country as well," said Thirdy, who blazed a trail for Filipino players when he signed with San-En last year.

What made the weekend all the more special for the Ravena brothers was the support of the Filipino fans in Japan.

The B.League made sure to shine a spotlight on the weekend series between Shiga and San-En, billing it as the "Sibling Rivalry" game. Shiga offered free tickets to Filipinos for both games, and plenty of Pinoy fans took them up on their offer.

"We're just so grateful that a lot of Filipinos came over. A lot of Filipinos coming from Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, really traveled a lot of miles just to watch us siblings play," said Kiefer. "We can't show our appreciation to them, but hopefully when they see this or read this, we're able to give that message that we truly appreciate their time, their effort in traveling, watching us brothers play."

Thirdy may have been playing for the visiting team but he also felt the love from the Filipino fans as well.

"Salamat sa mga nanood sa venue at sa live, sa FB live or sa kung saan man 'yan. Maraming-maraming salamat sa suporta niya. Masaya kami na na-represent ang bansa natin, lahat ng andito sa B.League," he said in his post-game interview after earning Player of the Game honors.

Both brothers are hopeful that they will receive the same support from their kababayans as the season goes on. B.League teams play in a home-and-away format, giving Filipinos all over Japan plenty of opportunities to watch not just the Ravenas but the other Filipino players who have also signed as Asian imports in the league.

Aside from Thirdy and Kiefer, also playing in Japan are: Kobe Paras (Niigata Albirex), Javi Gomez de Liano (Ibaraki Robots), Dwight Ramos (Toyoma Grouses), Ray Parks (Nagoya Diamond Dolphins), Kemark Carino (Aomori Wat's), and Juan Gomez de Liano (Earthfriends Tokyo Z).

Moreover, three Filipino volleyball players are suiting up in the V.League: Jaja Santiago (Saitama Ageo Medics), Bryan Bagunas (Oita Miyoshi), and Marck Espejo (FC Tokyo). 

Footballers Sarina Bolden (Chifure AS Elfen Saitama) and Quinley Quezada (United Chiba) are playing in Japan's pioneering WE League.

"It always feels like when we're playing, we're having homecourt advantage because the Filipinos are here," said Kiefer.

Shiga and San-En will play twice more this season, with the NeoPhoenix hosting Kiefer and the Lakestars at the Hamamatsu Arena on January 22 and 23 next year.

In the meantime, the Ravena brothers will first shift their focus on their upcoming matches. For Kiefer, it's another home series against the Ibaraki Robots next weekend. For Thirdy, he will be welcoming Paras and Niigata Albirex to their home court.

"We're very happy that we got this weekend done, and we both got our wins," Thirdy said. "But you know, looking ahead, we still have a lot of games."

"What you usually think right after the game is how you prepare for the next one. So it's important to enjoy the win as well, but we can't be content with just going away with one win. We have to prepare the best that we can," he stressed.