TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – John “Helicopter” Humphrey had carried his team for most of the game.
He had made 14 field goals to put his team in a position to win on a day when that seemed improbable, and had a chance to make a game-winning shot at the buzzer. But his final long-range shot was off the mark in the Saitama Broncos’ 85-83 loss to the visiting Ryukyu Golden Kings on Sunday at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium.
Humphrey, a two-time bj-league scoring champion (2005-06 and 2006-07) with the Tokyo Apache, finished with a jaw-dropping 40 points, including 7-for-12 from 3-point range, on an afternoon when his teammates needed him to shoulder the offensive load.
The Broncos fell to 3-5, while the Golden Kings, the 2008-09 champion, improved to 6-2, including 5-1 on the road.
“Okinawa, they just made one more shot than us at the end of the game,” Saitama coach Dean Murray said. “They deserved to win it, but our guys fought all the way until the end.”
Humphrey, the former Apache star, who returned to the league after a two-year absence, scored 18 fourth-quarter points. Rookie forward John Flowers, who had a 26-point game, added nine points in the final stanza.
It appeared as though Humphrey and Flowers were feeding off each other, knowing when to get the ball to the each other and getting their teammates to look for them within the flow of the offense.
“It’s just playing the game within the game,” Humphrey said.
“I don’t believe in moral victories,” Humphrey added, “but in a sense it lets our team know that when we play together, we can play with anybody.
“If one shot goes in, or one rebound goes the other way, we win the game. We’ve just got to play together like that every game. We can’t pick and choose . . . and that’s one thing, the team is young and they just don’t understand yet. But we’re coming together and we’ll get it right.”
Ryukyu led 21-20 after the first quarter. Saitama took a 41-40 lead into the locker room at halftime as Humphrey drained a 3-pointer to put his team ahead in the closing seconds of the half.
In a sign of things to come, Humphrey and Flowers were the two main scorers for the Broncos, combining for 29 of Saitama’s first-half points.
That was partly due to this development: Saitama’s Kenny Satterfield, a former NBA point guard, played only 6 minutes, 55 seconds in the series opener on Saturday due chronic ankle pain. The Broncos lost that game, falling 96-75 to the Golden Kings. And Satterfield, who has been called the best guard in league history by Osaka’s Lynn Washington, didn’t play on Sunday, though he did participate in pregame warmup drills.
Much of the Broncos’ offense ran through Humphrey, who had a team-high four assists, rookie forward John Flowers and forward Daiki Terashita (two assists).
“I needed to score more today, so I needed to be more aggressive,” Humphrey said. “I looked for my shot more, and a couple went in and I got rolling so I might as well keep playing.”
“First of all, John is the best leader we have on our team,” Murray said. “He always comes to play hard every day, and it carries over. He has a great work ethic by himself. Even this week, he got hurt in practice on Tuesday and didn’t practice for a few days. . . . He knew he had to fight for the team this weekend, so he fought all the way to the end. I didn’t even know he had 40 but it’s no surprising. From the tipoff to the last second, John always plays hard.”
Jeff Newton led the Golden Kings with 20 points and 10 rebounds, Reggie Okosa had 13 points, Yasufumi Takushi had three big 3-pointers and 11 points, Dzaflo Larkai scored 10 and Narito Namizato and Naoto Kosuge each had nine.
As part of a 7-2 run to close out the third quarter, Takushi drained a corner 3 to give Ryukyu a 63-54 advantage entering the final period.
Larkai made a strong move in the lane and hit a shot in traffic as the Golden Kings stretched the lead to 68-58 early in the fourth.
Saitama pulled within 72-69 on a Flowers basket with 5:55 remaining, but he missed a chance at a three-point play on the subsequent free throw. Namizato then sank two free throws to stretch the lead back to five, the newcomer making all five of his fourth-quarter free-throw attempts and scoring a team-high seven points total in the decisive quarter.
The Broncos led for short stretches (78-77 and 81-80) before the Golden Kings pulled ahead for good down the stretch.
Namizato’s jumper made it 82-81 and, after Flowers lost the handle while dribbling, Namizato got the ball back, was fouled and sank two free throws to make it a three-point game.
Flowers was fouled shooting a 3-pointer with 7.8 seconds left and went to the line for three shots. He made the first two but missed the last one, making it 84-83 in Ryukyu’s favor. After the miss, Newton grabbed the defensive rebound and was sent to the line, where he made the second of two shots to account for the final margin, but not before Humphrey’s miss to end the game.
Ryukyu coach Dai Oketani said his team played a good game, but at the end it was a little too close for comfort. As the season progresses, newcomers Okosa and Larkai are growing more comfortable with the team’s system, he said, adding that in the fourth quarter, he has “confidence in Namizato to take the ball inside and execute the offense.”
Shining Suns 100, Five Arrows 77
In Takamatsu, Dexter Lyons scored 23 points and Lewis Witcher had 22to lead Miyazaki to a series sweep over the winless hosts.
Taishiro Shimizu added six assists for the Shining Suns (2-6).
Nyika Williams paced the Five Arrows (0-8) with 18 points.
Miyazaki took control of the game after halftime, outscoring Takamatsu 35-14 in the third quarter.
Lakestars 83, Susanoo Magic 69
In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Josh Peppers finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and three steals and Julius Ashby had a 26-point, 13-rebound, two-block afternoon as the hosts earned a series split.
Ray Nixon scored 12 points and Shinya Ogawa had 11 and made 3 of 4 3-point shots as Shiga improved to 6-2.
Michael Parker paced Shimane (5-3) with 24 points and Tatsuhiro Yokoo scored 11. The Magic struggled at the charity stripe (14-for-29).
Phoenix 74, B-Corsairs 72
In Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, Jermaine Dixon scored 19 points, Jeffrey Parmer contributed 17 and Hamamatsu Higashimikawa earned a series sweep over Yokohama.
Shoji Nakanishi, a former Tokyo and Shimane player, added 16 points and Atsuya Ota had 12 for the Phoenix (4-4).
For the B-Corsairs (4-6), who played their fourth game in five days, Justin Burrell was the leading scorer with 18 points and Kenji Yamada had 16. Marcus Simmons and Chas McFarland each had 12 points for the first-year club.
Grouses 98, Big Bulls 88
In Kamiichimachi, Toyama Prefecture, Devin Searcy and Brian Harper scored 20 points apiece and the Grouses improved to 4-4 with their second win in as many days.
Masashi Joho and Ira Brown both poured in 15 points for Toyama, which sank 15 of 17 free throws. Searcy grabbed 13 rebounds.
For Iwate (1-7), Yoshiaki Yamamoto scored a game-best 29 points, Makoto Sawaguchi had 18 and Thomas Kennedy 15.
Evessa 78, Hannaryz 62
In Kyoto, Osaka made 17 of 20 free throws, including Cohey Aoki’s 6-for-6 en route to a well-rounded victory.
Aoki had a team-high 21 points and drained 3 of 6 3-pointers. The Evessa improved to 7-1, the best record in the nine-team Western Conference. Lynn Washington added 16 points, 11 boards and six assists, while Daisuke Tamura scored 10.
For Kyoto (3-5), Rick Rickert notched a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Lance Allred scored 14. The Hannaryz were 1-for-14 from beyond the 3-point arc.
89ers 88, Brave Warriors 72
In Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Dan Fitzgerald scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter to lead Sendai to a sweep over Shinshu.
The 89ers’ O’Neal Mims added 26 points and made 12 of 16 shots from the field. Sendai captain Takehiko Shimura had 15 points and four assists and Johnny Dukes dished out eight assists as the 89ers improved to 5-3.
Tyler Hughes and Derek Raivio finished with 17 points apiece for the Brave Warriors (4-4) and Takato Saito handed out seven assists.
After the victory, Sendai coach Bob Pierce said, “(Small forward Yoshihiro) Tachibana was the unsung hero of this one, playing aggressive defense on Raivio in the second half.”
Pierce added: “Dan took over scoring honors . . . as we fought hard to get that second win in a row on the road. Great team effort.”
Jets 65, Northern Happinets 54
In Akita, Marcus Hargrow had 22 points, Jamel Staten supplied 17 points and 10 boards and Chiba’s defense clamped down on the high-scoring hosts to salvage a series split.
Akita guard Michael Gardener was held to five points on 2-for-11 shooting. E.J. Drayton led the Happinets (6-2) with 20 points.
The Jets’ Gaston Moliva had a productive afternoon (eight points, eight rebounds, four steals and two blocks), Tomoya Nakamura hauled in six rebounds in 10:15 playing time and Reina Itakura scored 12 as Chiba (6-2) remains tied with Akita for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
“One of the greatest parts of the game of basketball is when you can play team defense with energy and intensity for all four quarters,” Jets coach Eric Gardow told The Japan Times. “It only takes one or two players to be a part of a made basket on offense,
“It takes all five guys on the floor to commit to stopping an opponent from scoring. And that is special. Great win and a long bus ride just got a little shorter. Back home and back to work.”
Rizing 92, HeatDevils 79
In Oita, Kevin Palmer’s 29 points and six steals and Carlos Dixon’s 21-point performance sparked Fukuoka to a win over the hosts.
Akitomo Takeno made seven assists as the Rizing improved to 4-4.
For Oita (3-5, Wendell White had 25 points and 10 boards and T.J. Cummings scored 20 points.