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Oita edges Tokyo in overtime

by Ed Odeven

Nobody wants to lose game after game. But how you react to those losses also says a lot about your personality as a player and as a team.

The Tokyo Apache dropped a gut-wrenching, pulse-rising 85-83 game in overtime to the Oita HeatDevils on Sunday at Ariake Colosseum.

When it was over, the Apache handled the loss with dignity — but, yes, the look of frustration was there.

Yet they reminded the 3,600 fans in attendance what their mind-set is every time they step onto the court.

‘We are warriors,” Apache coach Joe Bryant and his players said in a call-and-response chant after the game.

It was an incredibly tight game in which every loose ball and every possession caused the players to leave the court without a milligram of energy to spare.

HeatDevils big man Andy Ellis provided the game-clinching basket with 38 seconds remaining, shattering an 81-all tie. He scored a game-high 26 points, but none bigger than that putback of Tsubasa Yonamine’s missed 3-pointer. Ellis sank two free throws with 20 seconds left to make it 85-81.

Michael Jackson scored the game’s final bucket with 1.3 seconds left, but it wasn’t enough for Tokyo (11-25) to snap its losing streak, which stretched to nine games.

“We don’t have our full arsenal of weapons, without Jumpei (Nakama), who is actually our best defensive player, and without John (Humphrey), who any night can erupt for 40 or 50 points, (but) I’m very proud of our guys,” Bryant said, reflecting on his undermanned roster.

Oita’s superior size created mismatch problems for Tokyo.

But the Apache made defensive adjustments from the previous night, using multiple defensive looks, throwing out a box-and-one, a triangle-and-two — everything but the kitchen sink — at the HeatDevils. This limited Ellis’ touches and cut his scoring output from 39 in Saturday’s game.

Tokyo led 26-21 after one quarter, getting a buzzer-beating 3 from Kohei Aoki.

Oita outscored the hosts 14-9 in the second quarter to even the score at 35-all.

The Apache carried a 56-49 lead into the final period, but Oita fought back and regained the lead at 69-68.

It was a 71-all game in the final minute. Then Tokyo’s Michael Jackson (24 points) put his team ahead by two on a jumper from the right wing with 40 seconds to go. The lead was short-lived. With 23 seconds left, Oita’s Chris Ayer forced overtime by converting a short shot in the paint.

“This last two games were played away for Oita and we could win both. So I think it was pretty huge for us,” HeatDevils coach Dai Oketani said of the weekend sweep.

“Our players had the mentality that we want to play coolly with composure, trying to play our own basketball. That led to the wins for us.”

Dameion Baker scored a team-best 25 points for the Apache

Mikey Marshall filled the box score with 19 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot for the HeatDevils and Yukinori Suzuki contributed 16 points and six assists.

Tokyo’s Yasushiro Ohba was disqualified after getting called for a double technical in an encounter with Ayer with 2:45 to play in the fourth.

Elsewhere Sunday, the Niigata Albirex BB defeated the visiting Saitama Broncos 88-82. Nick Davis scored 24 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, Matt Garrison added 22 points, including 4-for-7 on 3-point shots, Jack Hartman scored 16 and Daiki Terashita had 10 as the Albirex improved to 22-14. Gordon James’ 22 points and 12 rebounds led Saitama.

The visiting Takamatsu Five Arrows topped the Osaka Evessa 76-58, rebounding from a 39-point loss on Saturday. Yu Okada scored 22 points to lead the Five Arrows. David Palmer had 19 points for Osaka, which trailed 34-11 after one period.

Mamadou Diouf scored 37 points and Michael Chappell had 33 as the host Sendai 89ers beat the Toyama Grouses 98-81. Jerod Ward had 32 points for the Grouses, topping the 30-point plateau for the 11th time this season.

With two weeks left in the regular season, Osaka (26-10), the Albirex and the Five Arrows have clinched a spot in the four-team bj-league playoffs. Oita (21-15) and Sendai (17-19) are still in the hunt for the fourth spot.

The playoffs begin April 21.