The win against Kirisaki Daichi is enough to get Seirin through to the Winter Cup but, when they see their draw they’re less than thrilled to realize that they have to face off against Aomine and Touou in the very first round.
With just under a month before the Winter Cup finals begin, Riko calls in a special trainer for the team: her father. It turns out that her father, aside from being an athletic trainer, is a former member of Japan’s national team. He trains each memeber of the team in what he says will become their special abilities. The hope is that making them stronger individually will make them stronger as a team. He trains everyone except for Kagami, who goes back to America to train with his old teacher. After a couple of episodes of training, the tournament begins. Riko’s father shows up to watch his new students compete. Apparently, he knows the coaches of the Shutoku and Touou teams personally, presumably it means that those guys are former teammates of his. Before the tournament begins, the members of the Generation of Miracles are summoned by their former captain, Seijuro Akashi. Kagami interrupts the meeting and Akashi tries to stab him in the face with some scissors. Kagami dodges the attack and Akashi leaves the meeting just as quickly as he got there, saying that he just wanted to confirm that the other GoM members remembered their promise.
Putting that incident behind them, Kuroko and Kagami head to the court for their game against Touou. Like in the Shutoku game, both Touou and Seirin are determined not to underestimate each other and both teams attack with their full arsenal from the start. In the first quarter there are some surprises for Touou. First is Kuroko’s “Ignite Pass Kai”, which uses rotation to increase the penetrating power of his ignite pass, making it so strong that it knocks Aomine’s hand out of the way. Then there’s Kagami’s increased maturity which prevents him from trying to challenge Aomine directly one-on-one. Needing to loosen the game up , Hyuga takes over. He uses his newly acquired skill, “Barrier Jumper” (a deep step back three point shot) to score from the outside. Hyuga also reveals a habit of his; when he’s on fire he cracks his neck, and it’s cracking a lot right now. However, the Touou shooting guard, Ryo Sakurai, won’t be out done and matches Hyuga shot for shot. Using the vanishing drive, Kuroko is able to get Hyuga in position for a game time 3 pointer at the buzzer of the first quarter.
That look at the vanishing drive allows Touou to form a plan. According to Momoi, Kuroko is using a combination of misdirection, knowledge of human eye tracking, and Kagami’s huge presence on the court to complete the drive. However, instead of using the team to stop the drive, Aomine decides that he’ll do it himself. Aomine stops the Vanishing Drive by closing his eyes. Kuroko gets flustered and fires off an ill-advised Ignite Pass Kai, which Aomine also stops. With Kuroko completely defeated, Riko has no choice but to sub him out of the game. Seeing his friend in need of help, Kagami takes it upon himself to save Kuroko this time. He takes Aomine on by himself and actually seems to be getting the better of the matchup throughout the 2nd quarter. Riko’s father had advised her that Kagami’s reliance on Kuroko was supressing his abilities. With Kuroko no longer available, Kagami’s talents awakened. Along with his own abilities, Kagami’s also awakened Aomine’s competitive fire and animal instincts.
Between the halves, Aomine actually warms up, allowing him to comeback faster and looser in the 2nd half. On top of that Momoi has instigated a plan to neutralize Kuroko, who’s spirit had returned thanks to Kagami. After trading baskets Touou switches their point guard, Shoichi Imayoshi, to guard Kuroko. Momoi explained to the team that Kuroko’s misdirection could be read via his teammates gaze. Coupling that knowledge with Imayoshi’s ability to read people neutralized Kuroko. However, Momoi had also given the team instructions on how to neutralize Seirin’s other starters as well. That left them with no other option than to rely on Kagami but, with Aomine sharpening that wasn’t working either. The final nail in their coffin seemed to be when Touou realizes that Kuroko’s misdirection has worn off. However, this was also part of Seirin’s plan.
It turns out that Kiyoshi probably won’t be able to play with the team again after this tournament because his knee is getting worse than they expected. So, Seirin is betting everything on being able to win here. To that end, they allowed Kuroko’s misdirection to run out in order to allow the Touou team to see him. When that happens he will use his misdirection to misdirect their gaze to him instead of away him. With this ability he can erase his teammates presence from the court, allowing them all to appear to be able to use his vanishing drive. However, the biggest downside to this (and there are several) is that Kuroko’s misdirection won’t work against Touou again in the future. It was a move that no one else expected them to make and it still doesn’t guarantee that they’ll win the game. It does, however, allow them to get close. That’s enough for them to worry about the future later. Even with their new trump card, Touou is able to take an 11 point lead into the 4th quarter. Even though they’re all exhausted, Seirin is determined to find a way to win the game and they come out firing back in the 4th quarter. However, Kuroko and Momoi are both surprised to see that the Aomine that comes onto the floor to start the 4th quarter looks like the old Aomine that Kuroko used to know.
With Aomine finally playing at full strength, Seirin struggles but can’t close the gap from around 10 points. Kuroko is able to throw him off momentarily by using his Overflow to misdirect Aomine’s attention away from the basket when he takes his shots. When they get a quick turnaround, Seirin moves into a full court zone press. All of those changes allow Seirin to close the gap to three points. Once that happens, Aomine goes into a state of extreme focus called the “Zone”. Once he’s in that state, he completely takes over the game and becomes an unstoppable force. The other members of the Generation of Miracles remark that not even they have seen Aomine in this state before. Seirin has nothing left to stop him, so Kagami decides to try to face Aomine alone while the rest of the team tries to keep the scoring gap from getting too big. As Kagami pushes himself to try to stop Aomine for his teammates, he does something that neither team expected; Kagami enters the Zone.
With both ace’s in the Zone, both teams couldn’t do much more than look on with the rest of the audience. However, the conclusion of the conflict came quickly. Aomine, who was pushed into the Zone by his desire to face and defeat a strong opponent, reached the Zone’s time limit. While Kagami, who entered the Zone to carry his team, managed to stay in the Zone. Still, even a regular Aomine is tough to handle and he wasn’t going to let the chance to compete pass him up. Aomine completes an unbelievable shot to put the team up by 3 points with 15 seconds left. They try to use Overflow to free up Hyuga but Kuroko’s passed his limit for that now. Hyuga hits Kagami going to the basket, but Aomine meets him in midair. When Kuroko calls out to Kagami, he remembers his training from back in season one, where he was training to compete with Aomine in mid-air. He redirects his dunk and passes to Kiyoshi, who pump fakes and draws a foul while making his shot. Knowing that they don’t have the endurance to compete with Touou in overtime, they decide to miss the free throw on purpose so that they can get the rebound. Kiyoshi misses and Kagami gets to the rebound, but Aomine blocks the shot. Kuroko was already running toward the ball while everyone else was watching the mid-air battle. He gets to the ball first and fires a full court Ignite Pass alley-oop to Kagami, who dunks the ball over Aomine to win the game for Seirin 101-100. Kuroko can barely stand after the game, but he finally gets his fist bump returned from Aomine after all this time. Signifying his recognition of their strength but, also, the fact that Aomine truly has rediscovered the person he used to be. The one who enjoyed playing basketball.
This was easily the best game that’s been on the show so far. It had all the action and all the feels you could want from a sports anime. Seirin met up against a team that wasn’t really their rival, but a seemingly insurmountable force that they needed to overcome to reach their goal. Adding on to that pressure was the revelation that this was truly this team’s only chance to reach their goal of winning an National tournament. Seirin had everything to lose and they played like it. They exhausted themselves and their abilities in order to get the win. Of course, Touou didn’t hold anything back either, especially with Aomine playing harder than he ever had before.
There’s so many great individual moments for the different players as well. A lot of those moments are linked in to Seirin’s game against Touou from the first season, so it’s particularly rewarding if you remember watching that game play out. There were also little moments like when it was pointed out that the entire team had improve enough that they could all receive Kuroko’s Ignite Pass (even if it did hurt a bit). The shootout between Hyuga and Sakurai was a great exchange and so was Kuroko getting matched up with Imayoshi. Even Momoi showed her competitive spirit in the game with her strategies. Of course the biggest story was the rise and fall of Kuroko and Kagami. Kuroko went from being completely beaten to wearing himself out to support his team. Then there was Kagami who reached a new level just because he didn’t want to let his teammates’ dreams end. There’s really not much else I can say about this matchup except that it needs to be watched and enjoyed in its entirety.