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Broncos down Apache

by Ed Odeven

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Double-overtime games dramatically raise the blood pressure of every coach — and often cause insomnia.

News photoGordon James of the Broncos goes up for a basket as teammate David Benoit and the Apache’s John Humphrey pay close attention during their bj-league game on Sunday in Tokorozawa, Saitama Pref.
YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

So Kenji Yamane’s squad made sure he had a chance to relax more during Sunday’s matinee matchup than he did the night before.

The Saitama Broncos scored proficiently, crashed the boards and, voila, defeated the Tokyo Apache 101-77 on Sunday at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium before a rowdy crowd of 2,387.

After a dazzling display of entertainment the night before — Tokyo outlasted Saitama 99-96 in double overtime, a game in which Kazuhiro “Sure Shot” Shoji had six 3-pointers (he took 10) and 20 points and Gordon James added 15 and 16 rebounds for Saitama, and Tokyo’s Michael Jackson had 27 and nine boards, John Humphrey scored 33 points, or two below his jersey number, and Dameion Baker had an 18-point, 10-rebound effort in his Apache debut — this game provided a riveting diversion for Kanto’s hoops fans.

And, really, it was a chance to see the Broncos at the top of their game. There was Taishiro Shimizu (14 points, six assists) making things happen from the point. There was Kazuki Hara (15 points) knocking down shots with regularity. And there was versatile Andrew Feeley hitting 4 of 8 shots, doing so with either hand.

Saitama forward Marcus Toney-El said Sunday’s triumph is one his team can build off of.

“The team is excited,” he said after his 11-point, nine-rebound, three-assist, two-steal performance. “We’ve been working hard in practice and . . . it’s taken longer than most teams to really focus and come together, but I like what the team has been doing the last month.”

Toney-El also commended the team’s character-revealing victory Sunday.

“Being in a dogfight, like we were yesterday with Tokyo in a double-overtime loss, and to be able to come back today and win by a large margin, I think that says a lot about our team,” he said.

Hara said the team’s rebounding and inside play were keys to victory. He also pointed to second shots as giving his team a comfort zone to get good scoring opportunities.

The Apache, of course, had a different perspective in postgame interviews.

Tokyo coach Joe Bryant said, “We really got out-hustled. They got every loose ball. I think they had 15 offensive rebounds in the first half and that kind of set the tone for the game.

“As a coach you talk about the Xs and Os. The hustle is just what you have inside you, what you have in your heart.”

For Tokyo (7-11), the next four games should be a true test of the team’s character. Bryant’s club plays host to the first-place Niigata Albirex (13-5) next weekend and follows that up with a pair of games against the Osaka Evessa (12-6), the league’s defending champions, at Ariake Colosseum.

“We have 22 more (regular-season games) and we’ve just got to keep fighting,” Bryant said bluntly. “We have to try to at worse get a split over the next four games.”

Tokyo’s Tony Jones scored a game-best 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Saitama’s high scorer was James, who had 22 and 15 rebounds. Baker, meanwhile, had 21 before fouling out in the fourth quarter and Humphrey had 17.

For Saitama, ex-NBA player Benoit’s presence in the lineup made an immediate impact. He entered the game with 2:21 left in the first quarter and his team ahead 17-13.

Benoit, an imposing presence in the middle, helped the Broncos seize control of the game. They used a 10-2 run to pull ahead 38-22 in the second quarter at the 4:27 mark.

Saitama controlled the glass in the first half, getting numerous second- and, third-scoring opportunities on trips down the floor. James, Benoit and Toney El grabbed the bulk of the still-up-for-grabs balls and outmuscled their Tokyo counterparts for the ball.

This is a microcosm of that: Benoit had 10 rebounds in the half in just 12 minutes of playing time.

Tokyo trailed 45-28 at the break.

The Broncos led by as many as 20 in the third, a quarter marred by David Benoit’s disqualification (he was called for a flagrant foul), but cut it to 65-51 entering the final period.