The Osaka Evessa returned to the court on Saturday and did what comes natural to them: win.
Led by Lawrence Blackledge’s 19-point, 10-rebound, three-assist, two-steal, two-block performance and Kevin Tyner’s 14 points, five assists and four steals and Wayne Marshall’s 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting, the Evessa defeated the visiting Shiga Lakestars 88-80.
The Evessa (25-14) led 65-51 entering the fourth quarter.
It was the teams’ first game since last week’s massive earthquake and tsunami ravaged Tohoku. It also served as a fundraising event for victims of the natural disasters.
“The mood and spirit of the players and fans was great,” Evessa coach Ryan Blackwell said in a post-game interview. “As an athlete and competitor, you usually forget about everything else and focus on the game and that’s what happened tonight.
“Both teams played hard and with purpose. I think it helps hearing there will be some type of playoff format at the end. More motivation for the players.”
Billy Knight scored 10, Two-time MVP Lynn Washington added nine points for Osaka. Tseng Wen-ting also scored added nine, Hirohisa Takada scored six and made both of his 3-point attempts and Shota Konno had five points in the series opener in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture.
“Honestly, the turn out as far as the fans was great,” Washington said. “Almost sold out. However, it was a little weird in the first quarter. Fans were chanting Sendai, Tokyo and Nihon (Japan) chants in the first quarter. However, from the second quarter on the drama of the game took over and it was business as usual.”
Like many folks in Japan’s basketball community, Washington believes Saturday’s Osaka-Shiga game and the bj-league’s other three contests provided a valuable service to the nation.
To raise people’s spirits, he said, “is the main reason why our players wanted to stay (in Japan). . . .
The games can help “put a smile on the faces of those affected by the recent catastrophe,” Washington added.
For Shiga (22-17), Mikey Marshall had a team-high 15 points along with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals and Josh Peppers scored 14 points. Lamar Rice added 13 points, while Masashi Joho and Ray Schafer each scored 10, while Takamichi Fujiwara and Ryuichi Horikawa contributed seven apiece. Versatile forward Gary Hamilton chipped in with eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in the loss.
Susanoo Magic 85, Golden Kings 82 (OT)
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, veteran coach Zeljko Pavlicevic’s club used a 9-0 run to end overtime and grab a hard-earned victory.
After Naoto Kosuge’s basket gave Ryukyu (24-15, a game behind Osaka in the Western Conference standings) an 82-76 lead with 3:53 to play in overtime, the Susanoo Magic rallied back, scoring the next nine points. Will Caudle got the game-deciding spurt started with a basket at the 3:38 mark, courtesy of an assist from Takumi Ishizaki.
Reggie Golson paced Shimane (18-21) with 19 points, while Jeral Davis (14 points, 15 boards, six blocked shots) and Caudle (14 points, eight rebounds) made big contributions in the frontcourt.
Ishizaki, a heady point guard, finished his work day with 12 points, six boards, four assists and four steals and Edward Yamamoto had 11 points, including a pair of free throws to tie the game at 76-76 and sent it into overtime. Forrest Ray Fisher III scored nine for the Magic, who had only six turnovers.
Carlos Dixon led the Golden Kings with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Kosuge scored 13 points, Anthony McHenry added 13 points and eight rebounds, Anthony McHenry had 11 points and eight boards and David Palmer also scored 11. Jeff Newton chipped in with 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Guard Tsubasa Yonamine contributed five points, five rebounds and five assists.
Hannaryz 102, Shining Suns 84
In Kyoto, Taizo Kawabe scored 16 points to lead six players in double figures in a one-sided win over Miyazaki.
Sunao Murakami had 15 points, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Michael Fey each scored 14, Yusuke Inoue poured in 13 and Reggie Warren notched a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds). Big man Kibwe Trim added eight points and 14 rebounds and swingman Kyosuke Setoyama handed out eight assists for the Hannaryz, who improved to 21-18.
Kyoto made 19 of 22 free throws and outrebounded the visitors 53-29.
Forward Brandon Cole, who finished with a team-best 24 points, was the lone import player to suit up for Miyazaki. Shinnosuke Oishi and Masashi Takahashi added 15 points apiece and Taishiro Shimizu dished out six assists.
The Shining Suns fell to 12-27 in their inaugural season.
Rizing 112, HeatDevils 94
In Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Michael Parker scored 38 points on 17-for-22 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds and Nile Murry had a 24-point effort to lead Fukuoka to a victory over the undermanned hosts.
Jun Nakanishi added 17 points and 12 assists and Akitomo Takeno and Masahiro Kano each scored nine points for the Rizing (22-17). Abdullahi Kuso chipped in with eight points and 14 rebounds.
For Oita, playing its first game since coach L.J. Hepp was fired (see related story on The Japan Times’ website), Matt Lottich and Damian Johnson each scored 27 points and Kimitake Sato had 26. Tony Hanson, Hepp’s assistant, served as the HeatDevils’ bench boss for the first time.
Lottich’s effective game included 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Johnson raked in 14 rebounds and collective five steals for the HeatDevils (16-23). Guard Hiroki Sato had a nine-point game.
Showing respect: A moment of silence was observed before all bj-league games on Saturday in remembrance of the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku.