Finally, they’ve done it.
Point guard Ryuzo Anzai knocked down a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:07 left, and Enoch Davis sank an insurance shot with 33 seconds remaining in the final quarter as the Saitama Broncos grabbed their first victory of the season with a 70-63 win over the Niigata Albirex in their home opener at Saitama Municipal Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
Saitama played with initiative throughout the game. It had an 11-point lead at the half. But Niigata again showed its persevering play as it did in the first games of the season against the Tokyo Apache last weekend, catching up with the Broncos late in the third quarter with a Nick Davis layup to tie the contest at 51.
With the game hanging in the balance, it became wilder as the players of both sides played very physically underneath the basket in the fourth quarter.
But Anzai, a co-captain of the Broncos, hit the game-winning shot from the arch from a pick-and-roll with David Benoit, followed by Enoch Davis, who sank a critical fadeaway jumper.
“I wasn’t necessarily thinking of hitting the jumper,” said Anzai, who finished the game with six points. “But I got a space in front of me, so I shot it.”
The Broncos had lost the previous eight games, including six in the preseason, and the fans seemingly imagined that it would be another loss for the home team, when Niigata came back strong and tied the game in the third period.
But this time the Broncos hung in there tough.
“I didn’t expect this many fans would come out for today,” said shooting guard Kosuke Shimizu, who scored 17. “Honestly, I was confused at first. But with the DJ, they all rooted for us and cooked the game, so I really appreciate them.”
Meanwhile, despite the strong counterattack in the second half, Albirex head coach Masaya Hirose was upset that they dropped a game they could’ve won.
“It was a bad game for us,” he said. “We didn’t play our basketball and missed too many shots. We trapped (the Broncos) using full-court defense in the middle of the game, but they well managed it.”
Niigata lost ace point guard and veteran Makoto Hasegawa in a Nov. 6 game to an injury. On Saturday, Takamichi Fujiwara started the game instead of Hasegawa. Fujiwara had six points and six assists.
Benoit was held to just 13 points but grabbed 17 boards, and Enoch Davis had a game-high of 21 points for the Broncos, while Nick Davis and Matt Garrison had 15 points each with 18 rebounds and 11 rebounds, respectively.