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Okada’s late 3-pointer sparks Five Arrows to 11th straight victory

by Ed Odeven

The Ryukyu Golden Kings own the bj-league’s best record after 34 games, but the Takamatsu Five Arrows, winners of 11 straight games, are the league’s hottest team.

The Five Arrows kept the streak alive by edging the three-time reigning champion Osaka Evessa 82-80 on Sunday, a day when three games were decided by five points or less.

With Takamatsu (25-9) trailing 76-75, Yu Okada drained a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:11 to play in the fourth quarter. Seconds later, teammate Matt Garrison made a basket to give the Five Arrows a four-point lead, and the hosts held on for a hard-earned victory.

Babacar Camara (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Garrison (19 points, 15 boards) gave Takamatsu coach Motofumi Aoki, the bj-league’s 2006-07 Coach of the Year, double-double efforts. Kazuyuki Nakagawa poured in 18 points, Satoshi Takeno had nine points and Rasheed Sparks contributed nine to go along with eight boards and four assists.

Takamatsu improved to 13-3 at home.

The Five Arrows will look to extend the winning streak to 12 on Saturday against the Rizing Fukuoka in Kyushu.

Lynn Washington paced the Evessa (20-14) with 29 points and 17 rebounds. Frontcourt mate Ryan Blackwell, an ex-Syracuse University and Sendai 89ers player, had 21 points and a game-best 22 boards, including a whopping 11 offensive boards, in the loss.

Naoto Nakamura added 14 points for Osaka, but Kensaku Tennichi’s club slipped to 20-14 overall, including 10-8 on the road.

Also Sunday, Jeff Newton scored 24 points and Anthony McHenry had 20 to spark the Golden Kings to a 92-73 win over the visiting Oita HeatDevils.

Newton pulled down 13 rebounds and McHenry grabbed 11 for Ryukyu (26-8).

Shigeyuki Kinjo chipped in with 12 points and four assists, Bryan Simpson scored 10 and Naoto Takushi pumped in seven for Dai Oketani’s club, which led 45-26 at halftime.

James Wilkinson had a 22-point outing for Oita (7-27), while David Reichel added 17. Yukinori Suzuki dished out seven assists.

John “Helicopter” Humphrey, a two-time league scoring champion, finished with 26 points in the Tokyo Apache’s 80-77 home triumph over the Sendai 89ers.

Tokyo center Nick Davis, one of the league’s most cerebral players, had a stellar game, finishing with 15 points, 23 rebounds and a game-high seven assists. Julius Ashby added 13 points and eight assists as the second-place Apache improved to 22-12, six games ahead of the 89ers (16-18) in the Eastern Conference standings.

Tokyo, which has won four straight games, led 61-53 after three quarters.

In the final quarter, back-to-back baskets by Kosaku Yada, a Harvard University product, gave the hosts a 65-53 lead with 8:50 play.

Humphrey drained a victory-clinching 3 with 2:08 left to make it 78-65.

Bobby St. Preux led the 89ers with 23 points.

The Rizing Fukuoka meanwhile, improved to 14-20 by beating the visiting Shiga Lakestars 92-78.

Michael Parker (25 points, 12 rebounds), Marlyn Bryant (21 points) and Kohei Mitomo (17 points) were the catalysts of Fukuoka coach John Neumann’s high-energy offense.

Ryan Rourke had 26 points and Ray Schafer contributed 20 for the Lakestars (13-21). Takamichi Fujiwara dished out nine assists.

Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix star Michael Gardener put 39 points on the board in a 79-74 road victory over the Saitama Broncos.

Stanley Ocitti added 12 points, Levonn Jordan scored eight and Sun Ming Ming had a seven-point, eight-rebound effort as the Phoenix improved to 23-11. What’s more, four Hamamatsu players had seven or more rebounds.

Reggie Warren was Saitama’s top scorer (14 points), and Kazuhiro Shoji had an 11-point game.

The Broncos (13-21) trailed throughout the final period.

Elsewhere, Yuichi Ikeda scored 22 points and Paul Butorac posted season-best totals in points (21) and rebounds (18) in the Niigata Albirex BB’s 101-81 win over the Toyama Grouses.

Butorac, who played collegiate ball at Eastern Washington University, also had five assists and four blocked shots while starting for the fourth straight game at center.

Antonio Burks had 18 points, Akitomo Takeno contributed 17 points and six assists, and Emmanuel Little scored 10 for the Albirex (15-19).

Jerod Ward led Toyama (10-24) with 32 points.