Kirisaki Daichi is captained by one of the Uncrowned Kings, Makoto Hanamiya. Hanamiya is also the one responsible for injuring Kiyoshi last year.
The “Uncrowned Kings” are a group of players (including Teppei Kiyoshi ) who are thought to be almost as strong as the Generation of Miracles, but who were overshadowed by that group’s dominance. Hanamiya’s specialty (well one of them) is an under handed style of play where he coordinates his team to take cheap shots out of the view of the referee. This sadistic style of play is also responsible for Kiyoshi’s injury. Kiyoshi had already noticed that something was off with his knee before that game. However, during the game Hanamiya decided that they weren’t going to win. So, he decided to cripple Seirin instead. He gave one of his teammates a signal and he landed on Kiyoshi’s knee causing even more damage to it. That injury cost him the remainder of the season and led to Seirin’s eventual defeat. Instead of getting surgery to completely fix his knee, Kiyoshi has come back using only rehabilitation. However, that is causing his knee to still accumulate damage and limits the amount of time he can still play to one year.
This game starts out really bad for Seirin. The upperclassmen are already tense and worked up because of what happened last year and the dirty play from their opponents gets under Kagami and Kuroko’s skin. At one point, Kagami starts to take a swing at one of the players before Kuroko stops him. Things escalate from there with the other players being targeted by Hanamiya. So, Kiyoshi tells the team to let him play alone under the basket, which means that he’ll be absorbing most of the physical play. Realizing that Kiyoshi is willing to absorb their cheap shots, Hanamiya becomes frustrated and gives the signal to have Kiyoshi taken out. One of the players drops and elbow right onto Kiyoshi’s face, leaving his teammates concerned and infuriated. However, Kiyoshi remembers that when he decided to come back he told himself that this would be the role he’d play for his team. He would be the one to defend his teammates. To Hanamiya’s surprise, Kiyoshi gets back up and declares that he’ll protect Seirin while spreading his arms in front of his teammates.
Before the teams break for the half, Kuroko asks Hanamiya why he plays so dishonestly. Hanamiya starts to tell a sob story about how he has to play this way to compete with great players. However, he laughs and tells Kuroko that it’s because he likes crushing the dreams of people who work hard. This further incenses the Seirin players, even Kuroko. Hanamiya happens to run into Aomine in the bathroom and Aomine tells him that Seirin will win the game not because of strategy, but because he made Kuroko angry. Hanamiya’s had a plan though. It turns out that Hanamiya and one of the other players have very high IQs and have the ability to memorize and predict the opponents attack patterns. The strategy is what their team refers to as the “Spider’s Web”. They steal every pass that Seirin tries to make for the remainder of the quarter. However, Kuroko comes up with an idea to stop it. He’ll break the team’s attack patterns by not playing with the team.
Truly during the whole game we see Kuroko quietly seething with anger, which is obviously a bit out of character for him but it’s fun to see when the occasional emotion breaks through Kuroko’s calm demeanor. True to Aomine’s prediction Kuroko proves to be Hanamiya’s undoing as he dismantles Kirisaki Diachi’s defense by not playing as part of the team. However, Seirin is still only Seirin closing the gap in small increments. On top of that Riko is forced to take Kiyoshi out of the game before his injuries get any worse. Even though Kiyoshi objects, the rest of the team echoes her concerns. They tell them that he’s protected them enough and that they’ll finish things for him. The final piece of the puzzle is Hyuga, who hasn’t made a shot all game. Hyuga has been pushing too hard because of his feelings about what happened the last time these teams played. With the game on the line and the consequences of Kiyoshi’s sacrifice looming, Hyuga manages to calm down. With Hyuga’s threes falling again and a fired up Kuroko, Seirin emerges victorious.
This victory feels a little unsatisfying because Hanamiya seems to still be just as determined to be a terrible person which means that teams will still have to contend with him in the future. At the beginning of this game, one of the onlookers actually makes the comment that these kinds of games don’t make you feel good to watch. I think the same goes for the show. Characters like Hanamiya add tension and they give you a person to root against, but it’s just not fun to watch someone play that way. As much as it wasn’t a fun game to watch, it did give us a lot of information about the team and how things started for the Seirin team. It also showed some new dimensions to Hyuga and Kiyoshi’s characters. Seeing the pair participate in their first high-five was a real touching moment even if they did have to go through that really frustrating game to get through it.
More than anything else, these games really set the stage for the Winter Cup finals. Every team that was involved immediately left the stadium and started to prepare in their own way. They all know that every member of the Generation of Miracles, including their “Phantom Sixth Man” will be participating in the Winter Cup. They can’t wait to play against each other and I can’t wait to see it.