Two second-place clubs posted statement-making sweeps and moved within a game of the bj-league’s conference leaders over the weekend.
Cohey Aoki and Tizzo Johnson scored 20 points apiece in the Tokyo Apache’s 103-81 victory Sunday over the Toyama Grouses at Ariake Colosseum.
The Takamatsu Five Arrows extended their winning streak to nine games with a 76-73 triumph over the visiting Ryukyu Golden Kings.
The Apache, who improved to 20-12, now sit a game behind the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (21-11) in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Western Conference-leading Golden Kings are now 24-8; the Five Arrows are 23-9 and winners of two straight over Ryukyu after losing the first four games in the season series.
Also Sunday, the high-octane Phoenix lit up the scoreboard in a 97-69 win over the host Niigata Albirex BB to complete a two-game sweep.
Seven Phoenix players scored eight or more points, led by Michael Gardener’s 23. Levonn Jordan added 17 and Sun Ming Ming had 10 and grabbed 12 boards.
For Niigata (14-18), Emmanuel Little had a 16-point outing and Akitomo Takeno and Paul Butorac contributed 13 apiece. Butorac, who made his Albirex debut on Dec. 27, also had a season-best 17 rebounds.
In the Apache’s triumph, the 165-cm Aoki dished out a season-best nine assists, pulled down a season-high five rebounds and increased his stunning success rate at the free-throw line to 100-for-110 by game’s end.
Johnson (16 rebounds) and Julius Ashby (18 points, nine boards) gave the Apache strong production in the frontcourt, while Masashi Joho and John Humphrey added 12 points apiece.
Jerod Ward led the Grouses (9-23) with 36 points.
In the Five Arrows’ win, Kazuyuki Nakagawa finished with 22 points and four steals. Matt Garrison, continuing his solid play after the All-Star break, chipped in with 16 points and 11 boards, while Babacar Camara had a 14-point afternoon. Floor leader Rasheed Sparks stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, eight rebound and seven assists.
Chris Ayer was the top scorer (27 points) for the Golden Kings, while Naoto Takushi had 15 and Jeff Newton had 12. A day after Shigeyuki Kinjo scored 25 points, the shooting guard was 2-for-8 from the field in a seven-point outing.
Jeffrey Price and Tsubasa Yonamine both scored 20 points in the Oita HeatDevils’ 75-63 win over the visiting Shiga Lakestars.
Takamichi Fujiwara paced the Lakestars (12-20) with 15 points.
Oita (7-25) led 52-51 after three quarters and pulled away down the stretch.
The Sendai 89ers, meanwhile, earned a 94-79 home win over the Saitama Broncos.
Bobby St. Preux paced the 89ers with a game-high 26 points. Chris Holm provided 22 points and 14 rebounds and Hikaru Kusaka gave the hosts 17 points, and Honoo Hamaguchi’s club improved to 16-16.
Taishiro Shimizu and Yuki Kitamuki had 18 points apiece for the Broncos (13-19).
The game of the day, however, was played in Osaka. Three players scored 30-plus points and the fourth quarter featured 66 combined points. It ended this way: Rizing Fukuoka 109, Osaka Evessa 100.
Two-time MVP Lynn Washington had a 46-point, 17 rebound performance, setting the single-game standard for the 2008-09 season. He was 16-for-21 from the field and 12-for-17 at the free-throw line.
Washington became the fifth player in the league to score 40 or more points this season, joining Michael Parker and Humphrey (44, once apiece), Gardener (42, twice) and ex-teammate Newton (40, once) in the exclusive fraternity.
Marlyn Bryant pumped in 35 points for the Rizing (13-19) and Parker added 31 points and 11 boards. Kohei Mitomo poured in a season-best 22 points, eclipsing his previous high of 14 (on Saturday) on a day when the Fukuoka club needed every one of them.
Nile Murry had 20 points and 10 assists for Osaka (20-12), Eric Walton scored 13 and Ryuichi Horikawa added nine.