Every basketball coach wants their center to become, well, a center of attention.
It’s simple mathematics. And if the center gets double-teamed on the low blocks, he can kick out the ball to a teammate on the perimeter or a guy who is cutting to the basket.
This creates mismatches.
Ever since George Mikan laced up his sneakers it’s gone something like this: An open man will appear somewhere on offense if two bodies are being deployed to defend the big fellow.
This approached worked well for the Takamatsu Five Arrows last weekend.
Their budding star, center Julius Ashby, finished the weekend with nine assists — four in an 84-70 victory over the visiting Tokyo Apache on Saturday and five more dimes in an 88-86 win a day later.
Ashby helped his team solidify its third-place spot in the bj-league standings at 14-10, or one game behind the Niigata Albirex BB (15-9).
The Osaka Evessa (17-7) maintained their spot in first place by splitting a pair of games against the Oita Heat Devils (13-11).
The Sendai 89ers (12-12) are in fifth, followed by Apache (9-15) and the Toyama Grouses and Saitama Broncos, both of which are 8-16.
Ashby, who appeared in the bj-league All-Star Game on Jan. 27 in Okinawa, scored 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting in the Feb. 3 contest. His four assists were tied for the team-high with point guard Rasheed Sparks.
Power forward Reggie Warren led six Five Arrows in double figures with 21 points.
John “Helicopter” Humphrey scored 24 points and Dameion Baker chipped in with 12 and 18 boards for the Apache.
In their rematch, balanced scoring again guided the Five Arrows to victory.
Sparks’ 20 points topped the charts for the hosts, who got double-digit scoring from four others and nailed 10 of 22 3-points shots.
Sparks led the defensive effort for Takamatsu, which looks more and more like a team capable of making a run in the playoffs, with five steals (five teammates also had one or more steals).
For Tokyo, Humphrey had a 38-point outing, including 21 on 3s, and cleared 10 boards.
In Sendai, the visiting Broncos recorded a 91-77 victory last Saturday.
Kazuhiro Shoji (19 points), Andrew Feeley (18 points, 13 rebounds), Marcus Toney-El (17 points) and Double-Double-san aka Gordon James (12 points, 20 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots) sparked Saitama to a road win.
Ryan Blackwell had a team-best 23 points for Sendai.
Both teams put on a clinic in bad perimeter shooting on Sunday.
How bad was it?
They combined to shoot 5-for-40 on 3-point attempts (Sendai was 2-for-22, Saitama 3-for-18).
The 89ers, though, finished with 55 rebounds, or 15 more than they had in Saturday’s defeat, which helped them secure a 77-68 win.
Michael Chappell had 20 rebounds to go along with a team-high 24 points, while Blackwell had 23 points and 11 boards.
For Saitama, James scored 29 and Feeley filled the score sheet with 23 points and 21 rebounds. No one else scored more than six for Saitama.
Host Toyama opened the weekend with a 74-64 win over Niigata, closing out the contest by outscoring the Albirex 18-6 in the final frame.
Jerod Ward, the All-Star Game MVP, scored 31 and added 13 boards and four steals for good measure.
Nile Murry had 18 points and five of the Grouses — 13 steals.
Jack Hartman was Niigata’s high scorer (15 points).
Despite Ward’s 30 points and his team’s 17-for-19 performance at the charity stripe, Toyama dropped the series finale 76-75.
Hartman and Nick Davis scored 20 apiece for the Albirex.
Strong passing and consistent ball movement keyed the win for Niigata, which got three or more assists from four players.
The HeatDevils earned a 90-85 road win over the Evessa last Saturday.
The key ingredients?
Oita had just eight turnovers and had four players score in double digits, including Yukinori Suzuki and Chris Ayer (19 apiece).
Osaka, on the other hand, had 16 turnovers while playing without reigning league MVP Lynn Washington (ankle injury).
Matt Lottich netted a team-best 21 points and Jeff Newton produced his usual numbers — 18 points, 17 rebounds.
The Evessa bounced back with a 92-81 triumph, reducing their turnover total to eight.
Newton’s 22-point effort was No. 1 for the home team, which despite Washington’s absence, showcased its overall balance (five guys scored 12 or more points).
Andy Ellis had a 31-point performance in defeat.
UP NEXT: Three games are on the slate for Saturday: Sendai at Toyama (6 p.m.), Niigata at Saitama (6:30) and Osaka at Takamatsu (7).
Oita plays host to Tokyo at 3 p.m. on Sunday, and the league’s other three series — Sendai-Toyama (1:30), Niigata-Saitama (3) and Osaka-Takamatsu (2) wrap up that day.
The Heat Devils and Apache square off again on Monday at 3 p.m.