The Osaka Evessa began the weekend in third place in the bj-league’s Western Conference, trailing the second-place Rizing Fukuoka and the defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings.
With seven straight victories and a pair of weekend wins, including Sunday’s 91-81 triumph over the visiting Rizing, the Evessa have climbed into first place.
Osaka (26-16) has a slightly higher winning percentage (.619) than Ryukyu (.614).
Lynn Washington scored a game-best 27 points for Osaka, which also received a strong showing from Nile Murry (26 points, five rebounds, eight assists). David Palmer added 16 points, Ryan Blackwell scored 10 and Hirohisa Takada had eight.
Michael Parker had 26 points for Fukuoka (26-18), which is winless in four games against the Evessa. Thiago Cordeiro chipped with 23 points and Marlyn Bryant poured in 16.
Also Sunday, the Shiga Lakestars emerged victorious in a hard-nosed 62-58 decision over the Golden Kings.
Mikey Marshall scored the game-winning basket with 37 seconds left, breaking a 56-56 deadlock. He finished with a game-high 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists as the Lakestars earned a weekend sweep.
Gary Hamilton added seven points and 15 rebounds and four assists, while Ray Schafer scored 14 and hauled in 10 boards. Masashi Joho and Chris Schlatter also scored seven apiece for second-year coach Bob Pierce’s squad.
Shiga (24-20) took a 40-35 advantage into the fourth quarter — Ryukyu outscored the hosts 8-5 in the third quarter — in a game Pierce called “one of the most physical games I’ve ever been a part of.”
For Ryukyu (27-17), George Leach had 11 points and nine rebounds and Yosuke Sugawara scored 10.
Shooting guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who turned 41 in March, scored a season-high 31 points and John Clifford (20 points, 21 rebounds) and Reda Rhalimi (16 points, 15 boards) each had double-doubles in the Kyoto Hannaryz’ 98-82 win over the Takamatsu Five Arrows.
It was Kyoto’s first win under new head coach Kazuto Aono, who replaced David Benoit on Friday.
Kyosuke Setoyama also had a strong effort in the win, finishing with 12 points and five assists for the expansion club.
The Hannaryz (15-27) snapped a six-game losing streak.
Yu Okada matched a season-high output with 31 points, including a 7-for-13 effort from 3-point range, for the Five Arrows (12-32).
Paul Butorac scored 21 points, Tyrone Levett poured in 15 and Antonio Burks added 13 in the Niigata Albirex’s 83-59 series-split salvaging triumph over the visiting Toyama Grouses.
Uche Echefu added nine points 10 rebounds and Naoto Kosuge scored eight points for Niigata (21-21).
Takeshi Mito paced the Grouses (15-27) with 13 points.
Michael Chappell put 20 points on the board on the same weekend that both of his former colleges — Michigan State and Duke — played in the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis to lead the Tokyo Apache to an 89-76 triumph over the host Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix.
Julius Ashby (18 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), Jerrell Smith (16 points), Cohey Aoki (14 points) and Jumpei Nakama (nine points) also played pivotal roles for the Apache, who improved to 16-26.
William Knight paced the Phoenix (33-9) with 23 points, Dzaflo Larkai scored 18 and Wendell White had 17.
Chris Holm and Gyno Pomare combined for 39 points and 27 rebounds in the Sendai 89ers’ 82-67 home win over the Saitama Broncos.
Holm paced the 89ers (29-13) with 20 points and 19 boards, while Nick DeWitz added 14 points and Josh Peppers contributed 11 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Peppers was one of eight Sendai players with two or more assists.
For the Broncos (13-29), Terrence Roberts scored a team-high 25 points.