TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — The energized Saitama Broncos got hot at the right time on Sunday evening.
They pulled away from the visiting Sendai 89ers with a game-deciding run in crunch time. Furthermore, a sense of urgency characterized each offensive possession and each defensive stand down the stretch.
That late-game spurt provided the spark for Saitama’s 80-75 win at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium before a rowdy crowd of 2,873.
Trailing 63-57 early in the fourth quarter, the Broncos used a 20-4 run to turn the tide. Specifically, veteran guard Taishiro Shimizu gave Saitama the jolt it needed.
Shimizu drained a pair of three-pointers and sank two free throws during the run, which also featured a Reggie Warren 3-pointer and a hard-earned 3-point play by Antoine Broxsie, who muscled his way inside for a post-up basket and sank the subsequent free throw to give the Broncos a 77-67 lead they would not relinquish.
Sendai did, however, pull within 78-75 after a trio of 3-pointers, one apiece by Hikaru Kusaka, Bobby St. Preux and Kenichi Takahashi.
Shimizu finished with 18 points for Saitama (11-10) and made 4 of 8 3-pointers.
“I was really happy for him today,” Broncos coach David Benoit said of Shimizu, “so hopefully he can continue that (productivity) because this race is really tight right now. We’ve got to be able to win close ballgames.”
When it was over, Benoit commended his opponent for a well-played contest.
“I’ve still got to give a lot of credit to Sendai,” said Benoit. “They gave us a handful today, but I was really happy with the way we responded in the second half.”
Broncos power forward Reggie Warren, who finished with a game-high 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, praised his team for its resiliency.
“I want to say to my teammates,” Warren said, “we came back and fought hard.”
Steve Horne added 19 points and Broxsie contributed 12 for the victors.
St. Preux, the league’s third-leading scorer (22.6 points per game) who missed the past four games with a sprained right shoulder, had a team-best 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. Joe Barber scored 14 points, followed by Kenichi Takahashi’s 13 and Chris Holm’s 12.
“I wasn’t really expecting much coming back,” said St. Preux, reflecting on his much-anticipated return to the Sendai lineup. “I was just trying to get into the flow. In the first half, I got lucky and hit a couple shots early. Overall, I got in the flow pretty quickly, which was surprising.”
“I’m happy he’s back in the lineup,” Sendai coach Honoo Hamaguchi said of St. Preux.
The 89ers (9-12) shot a sizzling 85 percent (6-for-7) from 3-point range in the opening quarter and took a two-point lead into the second stanza. They stretched the lead to 41-36 at the half.
“We played very hard,” St. Preux said. “Both teams didn’t turn the ball over very much, so it was difficult to get steals.”
Also Sunday, steady center Nick Davis made the game-winning basket with 5 seconds remaining, lifting the Tokyo Apache to a 79-77 win over the host Toyama Grouses.
Davis paced the Apache (15-7) with 20 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Julius Ashby’s 16 and nine. John Humphrey added 14 points, while Cohey Aoki dished out five assists.
Elsewhere, the Ryukyu Golden Kings improved to 4-0 against the Takamatsu Five Arrows, picking up a 73-69 series-closing victory.
Chris Ayer scored a game-high 25 points for Ryukyu (18-4), while Jeff Newton and Anthony McHenry had 14 points and Shigeyuki Kinjo added 11.
The Osaka Evessa defeated the Rizing Fukuoka 84-74 to complete a weekend sweep of the hosts.
The three-time defending champions outscored Fukuoka 32-18 in the final quarter.
Lynn Washington had team-best totals in points (27) and rebounds (17) for Osaka, which improved to 14-8. Nile Murry scored 26 and Jun Nakanishi handed out seven assists.
Michael Gardener scored 24 points to lead the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix to a 102-81 home win over the Niigata Albirex BB.
Hiroki Fujita and Levonn Jordan added 14 points apiece for Hamamatsu (11-10).