Masashi Joho was the best scorer in the bj-league on Sunday.
For years, he’s also been one of the most electrifying, hard-working, make-it-happen players in the fledgling circuit.
Joho’s 34-point, six-rebound, five-assist, one-steal effort was the deciding factor in the Toyama Grouses’ 80-75 victory over the visiting Sendai 89ers in Shinminato, Toyama Prefecture.
Toyama improved to 12-12 and climbed into fourth place in the 10-team Eastern Conference. Sendai (12-14) fell to fifth place. Six teams will represent the East in the playoffs.
Joho, a standout for the Osaka Evessa, Tokyo Apache and Shiga Lakestars in past seasons, had a quiet eight-point performance on 3-for-15 shooting in the series opener, which the Grouses won. A day later, he made big shot after big shot to will his team to victory, finishing 13-for-24 from the field (10-for-16 from inside the arc) and 5-for-5 at the free-throw line.
“If Joho doesn’t get selected Best Five after this season, that award doesn’t mean much,” 89ers coach Bob Pierce said after the game, referring to the league’s annual Best Five Team. “Thirty-four points, and there were stretches he scored or had the assist on every possession.”
Devin Searcy added 17 points and Haakim Johnson finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals for the much-improved Toyama squad under bench boss Kazuaki Shimoji.
Dan Fitzgerald paced the 89ers with 22 points with 10 rebounds, Rashaad Singleton had 12 points, Takuya Komoda 11 and Johnny Dukes 10.
In a tight contest, Toyama’s 44-36 rebounding edge, including 16-8 on the offensive glass, was significant.
“It was a great game for the fans,” Pierce said. “Takuya Komoda had a great run in the second quarter, scoring on two straight 3-pointers as we grabbed a 35-34 lead going into the break.
“We had good performances from several players, but again turnovers (19) and getting out-rebounded stopped us from ever taking control of the game. That and too much No. 31 (Joho).”
HeatDevils 63, Evessa 62
In Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, T.J. Cummings scored 15 points and Taj Finger’s double-double guided Oita to a victory and a surprise sweep over the title-contending Evessa.
Naoto Takushi had his second strong game since the All-Streak break, finishing with 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals and Finger scored 10 points with 11 boards. Kohei Mitomo supplied 11 points for the HeatDevils (7-19). Former MVP Wendell White was held to six points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Lynn Washington was Osaka’s only double-digit scorer (23 points). Wayne Marshall and Mike Bell each scored nine. The Evessa (17-7) had a poor shooting game (22-for-62) from the field.
Hannaryz 77, Five Arrows 52
In Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, the Hannaryz completed a series sweep by routing the league’s worst team.
Lance Allred (16 points, 10 rebounds), Jermaine Boyette and Rick Rickert (13 points each), Lee Cummard (12) and Taizo Kawabe (nine) carried the offense for coach Honoo Hamaguchi’s club, now 18-6 and sitting in second place in the Western Conference after Osaka’s back-to-back defeats.
Paul Butorac led Takamatsu (1-25) with 14 points. The Five Arrows had a dreadful shooting game, going 0-for-8 from 3-point range, 19-for-54 on 2-point shots and 14-for-23 at the foul line.
Lakestars 84, Golden Kings 81
In Yasu, Shiga Prefecture, the hosts edged Western Conference-leading Ryukyu and ended the visitors’ seven-game winning streak.
Ray Nixon paced the Lakestars (17-9) with 18 points and eight boards. Julius Ashby added 16 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots, Shinya Ogawa scored 11 points and Yu Okada had 10.
For the Golden Kings (20-6 overall, 13-3 on the road), Naoto Kosuge made 5 of 10 3s and scored a game-best 23 points, Anthony McHenry added 16, Jeff Newton scored 12 and David Palmer had 11. Narito Namizato finished with eight points.
Phoenix 80, Big Bulls 69
In Hamamatsu, the Phoenix improved to 2-0 since ex-Evessa standout Lawrence Blackledge joined the two-time defending champions and swept Iwate.
Jermaine Dixon scored 17 points and dished out eight assists for Hamamatsu Higashimikawa (16-10), Blackledge put 16 points on the board. Jeffrey Parmer had 15 points, Shoji Nakanishi scored 11 and backup center Atsuya Ota chipped in with 15 rebounds, two steals and a block in almost 28 minutes of court time.
Gordon Klaiber led Iwate (7-21) with 24 points and 14 rebounds and Thomas Kennedy scored 15 points. The Big Bulls fell to 0-2 under acting head coach Shinji Tomiyama, who took over for Vlasios Vlaikidis this week. Vlaikidis stepped down to return to his native Greece, where his 81-year-old father has been battling a serious illness.
B-Corsairs 95, Albirex BB 75
In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, Justin Burrell energized Yokohama with a 27-point, 12-rebound, three steal effort as the first-year franchise bounced back from a Saturday loss.
Masayuki Kabaya scored 21 points and Kenji Yamada poured in 19 for the B-Corsairs (12-14), who outscored the hosts 46-28 in the second and third quarters.
After a 14-point, nine-assist performance on Saturday, Niigata guard Nile Murry was effectively neutralized in the rematch. He was held to eight points and five rebounds, but no assists and four turnovers as well.
Chris Holm was the top scorer (18 points) for the Albirex, followed by Yuichi Ikeda (16), Shuhei Komatsu (13) and Erron Maxey (11).
Yokohama won the battle on the boards, hauling in 53 rebounds to Niigata’s 33.
Rizing 93, Shining Suns 91
In Fukuoka, balanced scoring carried the Rizing to a win as coach Tadaharu Ogawa’s club salvaged a series split.
Kevin Palmer had a major impact on the game, ending it with 23 points, seven boards, four steals and three assists. Carlos Dixon scored 18 points, Jun Nakanishi and Jermaine Dearman each had 16 and Akitomo Takeno supplied 12 for Fukuoka (17-9).
O’Neal Mims led Miyazaki (12-16) with 23 points and Taishiro Shimizu and Darryl Dora contributed 20 apiece.
Susanoo Magic 81, Brave Warriors 80
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Michael Parker was nearly unstoppable — 10-for-14 from the field — and scored 31 points as the hosts edged Shinshu.
Parker collected 11 rebounds and three steals for the Susanoo Magic (15-11). Jeral Davis made his mark with six blocks along with 12 points and six boards, Jumpei Nakama hit three big 3s and scored 15 points and Reggie Golson had seven points and 12 boards.
Derek Raivio had a team-high 24 points for the Brave Warriors (11-15), Lee Roberts and Tyler Hughes scored 12 points apiece and Takato Saito made five steals.