The Tokyo Apache secured the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed for the upcoming bj-league playoffs by beating the Saitama Broncos 84-78 at Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex on Saturday.
John “Helicopter” Humphrey had a team-high 20 points for Tokyo, which improved to 33-18. Frontcourt mates Julius Ashby (11 points, 14 rebounds) and Nick Davis (eight points, 15 boards) both had stellar outings for coach Joe Bryant’s team. Cohey Aoki added 12 points.
Humphrey sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 11 seconds remaining, and that accounted for the game’s final points.
All-Star guard Taishiro Shimizu scored a season-best 32 points for Saitama, which fell to 19-32. Teammate Kazuhiro Shoji added 12 points.
The Apache will play host to the East’s No. 3 seed, the Sendai 89ers, in the opening round of the playoffs next month at Ariake Colosseum.
The 89ers, meanwhile, improved to 30-21 with a 104-96 win over the visiting Niigata Albirex BB.
Led by Rodney Webb’s 22 points, Josh Peppers’ 21, Chris Holm’s 17 and Hikaru Kusaka’s 16, Sendai had plenty of offensive punch to prevail against the pesky Albirex.
Holm, a bruising center, pulled down 17 boards and dished out eight assists, while Kenichi Takahashi had seven assists.
Akitomo Takeno had 22 points for Niigata (24-26) and Antonio Burks poured in 20.
In other action Saturday, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (35-16), who will play the Albirex in the first round of the playoffs, defeated the host Toyama Grouses 101-75.
Marcus Morrison paced the victors with 22 points.
Michael Gardener contributed 16 points and dished out six assists for the Phoenix. Stanley Ocitti and Levonn Jordan had 11 points apiece. Five Hamamatsu players had six or more rebounds, including Sun Ming Ming with seven, which was a key factor in the game.
The Phoenix jumped out to a 32-12 lead after one quarter.
Jerod Ward was the top scorer for Toyama (11-40) with a 24-point effort.
Seven players scored in double figures as the Takamatsu Five Arrows earned a 100-80 home win over the Rizing Fukuoka.
Rasheed Sparks was the No. 1 scorer for the Five Arrows (33-18), finishing with 22 points. Takamatsu big man Babacar Camara had a 15-point, 18-rebound effort. Shuichi Takada and Satoshi Takeda had 13 points apiece and Yu Okada chipped in with 11.
Marlyn Bryant finished with 26 points and 13 boards to lead Fukuoka (21-30). Tsuyoshi Kawazura had 14 and Kohei Mitomo added 10 for the Rizing.
The three-time defending champion Osaka Evessa picked up a 100-87 road win over the Oita HeatDevils.
Ryan Blackwell (30 points, 15 boards), Nile Murray (27 points), Lynn Washington (23 points, 11 boards), Shota Konno (15 points) and Jun Nakanishi (five assists) helped Osaka improve to 34-17 and maintain a one-game lead over third-place Takamatsu in the Western Conference standings.
For Oita (8-43), Jeffrey Price put 30 points on the board and Tsubasa Yonamine handed out seven assists.
If Takamatsu and Osaka both finish with 34-18 records, overall point differential will be the tiebreaker to determine which team will host their first-round playoff series. The Ryukyu Golden Kings edged the Shiga Lakestars 78-73 in Okinawa.
Naoto Takushi scored a team-high 18 points for Ryukyu (40-11) and Jeff Newton contributed 15.
The Western Conference-leading Golden Kings, who will face Fukuoka in the first round, held a 57-45 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Ray Schafer led the Lakestars (19-32) with 18 points.
The bj-league’s regular season concludes on Sunday.