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Osaka maintains poise in crunch time against Ryukyu

by Ed Odeven

Whenever the Ryukyu Golden Kings and Osaka Evessa square off, a playoff-like intensity exists between the bj-league rivals.

Saturday’s contest was no different.

This time, the host Osaka Evessa were the more effective team down the stretch, pulling out a 78-74 home victory over the defending league champions.

Osaka, the league’s first dynasty (titles in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08) improved to 3-2 against Ryukyu this season.

The Golden Kings (17-6) led 63-58 with 6:21 to play. It was the largest margin in the final quarter.

Center George Leach’s three-point play put Ryukyu ahead 73-72 with 1:27 to play, but Osaka’s Ryan Blackwell scored a go-ahead basket with 1:14 left to make it 74-73, and teammate Lynn Washington’s field goal gave the Evessa (11-12) a 76-73 advantage with 42 seconds left.

Osaka would not relinquish its lead the rest of the way.

Washington scored a team-best 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, Osaka point guard Nile Murry had 21 points and six boards and Blackwell finished with 12 points, seven boards and two steals.

The Evessa were 7-for-16 from 3-point range, including Washington’s 4-for-7 effort.

For the Golden Kings, Leach had a 24-point, 15-rebound effort. Anthony McHenry scored 12 and dished out seven assists. Tsubasa Yonamine had 11 points and seven assists, Yosuke Sugawara scored nine and Jeff Newton added seven points and nine boards.

Also Saturday, Mike Bell scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Oita HeatDevils to a 75-72 road win over the Sendai 89ers.

The HeatDevils (9-15) were 17-for-34 from the free-throw line. Sendai (14-10) was 11-for-14 at the line.

Ricky Woods added 21 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for Oita, while Rashaad Singleton had a nine-point, 16-rebound, four-block performance.

For Sendai, Josh Peppers, playing his second game with the 89ers this season, finished with 25 points, including 5-for-11 from 3-point range. All-Star center Chris Holm had 13 points and 13 rebounds, Gyno Pomare scored 10 and Kenichi Takahashi added eight points after scoring 24 in the series opener.

The Niigata Albirex BB outscored the Tokyo Apache 24-10 in the final quarter en route to a 75-68 home win.

Tyrone Levett paced the Albirex with 25 points on 9-for-15 shooting. Center Paul Butorac had a double-double (13 points, 13 boards), Akitomo Takeno scored eight and Calvin Chitwood and Antonio Burks had seven apiece as Niigata improved to 11-10.

The Apache, playing their first game since releasing veteran standout Nick Davis, one of the most well-known and top American players since the league was established, shot an abysmal 4-for-14 at the charity stripe and fell to 5-14.

Center Julius Ashby and forward Michael Chappell were Tokyo’s leading scorers with 15 points apiece. Ashby also had seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

Shoji Nakanishi and Rasheed Sparks both scored 12 points for the Apache and Cohey Aoki chipped in with 10, but was 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

The high-flying Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, meanwhile, improved to 18-3 by beating the Shiga Lakestars 97-87.

William Knight led Hamamatsu with 34 points. He shot 11-for-18 from the field and 8-for-11 from the foul line. Wendell White poured in 28 points and collected five steals for the hosts.

For Shiga (12-13), Gary Hamilton had a team-high 24 points and 11 boards. Masashi Joho chipped in with 20 points and Chris Schlatter scored 13.

The Phoenix grabbed momentum in the third quarter, outscoring the Lakestars 29-14 to take a 78-61 lead into the final quarter.

Elsewhere, the Saitama Broncos defeated the host Kyoto Hannaryz 75-63.

Yuki Kitamuki led the Broncos (10-11) with 16 points, Mario Jointer scored 11 and Haruhito Shishito had 10 against former coach David Benoit’s club. Three Broncos added eight points apiece.

Josh Bostic had a team-high 19 points for Kyoto (6-15). John Clifford finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Naoto Takushi scored 11.