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Ashby leads Apache past Broncos

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Julius Ashby carried the Tokyo Apache on his big, broad shoulders on Thursday night, leading them to a series sweep against the struggling Saitama Broncos.

Ashby had 26 points and eight rebounds in Tokyo’s 80-78 win over Saitama at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2. The starting center was 8-for-8 from the field in the fourth quarter and scored 16 of Tokyo’s 24 fourth-quarter points.

“We’re happy to get this win. . . . This is a team win,” he declared with a big smile.

Cohey Aoki added 13 points and Michael Chappell scored 10 for Tokyo (14-24). Terrence Roberts led Saitama (13-25, including 13 single-digit losses) with 23 points, Terrence Woodyard scored 17 and Taishiro Shimizu had 15.

Ashby’s pristine spot-up shooting and strong putback moves keyed Tokyo’s revival in the fourth quarter. He scored 12 of the team’s first 14 fourth-quarter points, helping the hosts pull within 71-70.

“Ashby was very strong in the fourth quarter,” Saitama coach Masato Fukushima said.

Shimizu’s 3-pointer gave the Broncos a 78-75 lead with 2:30 remaining.

Tokyo forward Jerrell Smith’s free throw made it 78-78, the first tie of the fourth quarter with 1:12 left. After a timeout, his second foul shot was off the mark.

Saitama turned it over on its next possession, a long pass to Andrew Arnold under the basket sailed out of bounds. On the other end of the court Ashby’s soft shooting touch produced — you guessed it — a successful shot and an 80-78 lead.

Roberts clanked a pair of free throws with 21.6 seconds left, and Woodyard’s 3-pointer missed its target.