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League admits blown call cost Saitama game

by Ed Odeven

Some games are difficult to forget.

For the Takamatsu Five Arrows, their 86-84 road victory over the Saitama Broncos on Sunday will remain in the books as a two-point triumph, a triumph capped by Rasheed Sparks’ game-winning, 3-point shot.

For the Saitama Broncos, the bitter loss will remain one marred by controversy.

For the bj-league, a lesson in crisis management is part of its growth as a professional league.

On Tuesday, the bj-league said it received a formal protest from the Broncos about Sparks’ final shot.

According to a news release issued by the league, the three game officials (Hisashi Sekiguchi, David Law, Yoshihiro Ishigure) ruled the shot was taken before the final buzzer sounded. Saitama vehemently insisted the officiating crew was wrong.

Upon further review, the league examined the game film and admitted the buzzer went off before Sparks took the final shot.

The result will not change, however. According to Rule Article 45-2-7, “judgment on the (court) will not be changed after the game is ruled over.”

The league said, however, that officials “didn’t properly handle the situation by not making players return to the bench and not checking with table officials.”

In the future, if a similar incident occurs, the league said it will make the officiating crew chief make a final decision after consulting with other officials, including table officials.

Call it a painful lesson.

Even so, this turn of events is unacceptable to the Broncos, said forward Isaac Sojourner said.

“Well it seems the league doesn’t care about the meaning of the games themselves at all,” said Sojourner, who previously played for Takamatsu. “They just ruled against Saitama even though it is clear the shot was not on time.”

He added: “What is the league saying about all this? That’s because this has never happened before we won’t hold up the integrity of basketball in general. Why? The bj-league rules are held in higher regard than the game itself.”

Up next: This weekend’s slate of two-game series is as follows: Niigata Albirex BB (19-23) vs. Saitama Broncos (17-25), Oita HeatDevils (7-35) vs. Rizing Fukuoka (18-24), Toyama Grouses (10-32) vs. Sendai 89ers (23-19), Tokyo Apache (26-16) vs. Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (29-13), Ryukyu Golden Kings (32-10) vs. Osaka Evessa (26-16) and Takamatsu Five Arrows (28-14) vs. Shiga Lakestars (17-25).

Making improvements: The recent acquisitions of power forward Rodney Webb (19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks per game) and small forward Josh Peppers (15.1 ppg) have given the 89ers a big boost, according to center Chris Holm.

By adding both Webb and Peppers to their roster the 89ers have a better chance to content for the title, Holm added.

“We don’t have to worry about playing against them,” Holm said by phone from Sendai recently. “We are adding weapons to our team, more offensive and firepower to our team, more guys and more abilities.”

At the same time, Bobby St. Preux, the All-Star Game MVP, and Holm can conserve some of their energy for the season’s stretch run.

“Before,” Holm noted, “me and Bobby were playing 40 minutes per game.

“Now we have guys to where we can rest and we don’t have to worry about a drop-off. I think it just gives us a lot more weapons, and I think teams are definitely aware of the changes that we made.”