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Veterans carry Evessa past Brave Warriors in series-opening triumph

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

Mike Bell scored 17 points and Lynn Washington and Wayne Marshall added 14 each as the Osaka Evessa notched their third straight victory with an 80-73 triumph over the Shinshu Brave Warriors on Saturday night.

Bell, who only joined Osaka last month, added a game-high 12 rebounds in the win.

The Evessa outlasted the upstart Nagano club with a combination of tough defense and experience.

The Brave Warriors, a first-year franchise, shot just 38 percent (29-for-76) in the loss.

Lee Roberts led Shinshu with a game-high 23 points and 10 boards, while Derek Raivio chipped in with 18 at Sumiyoshi Sports Center.

“As long as we keep winning games I’m feeling good,” Bell said. “We have the potential to be a really good team. We have a lot of work to do, but I think we are on the right path.”

“We played with a lot of aggression and physicality,” Evessa coach Ryan Blackwell said after the victory.

“They missed a lot of shots tonight. They won’t do that tomorrow. We will have to come out focused, pass the ball and rotate on defense.”

Blackwell cited the contributions of recent signings Bell and Bobby St. Preux (nine points) as key on this night.

“Mike and Bobby give us firepower, experience and guys who know how to win,” he noted.

Osaka jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter before Shinshu finally got on the board at the five-minute mark on a bucket by Roberts

The Brave Warriors came back to cut the deficit to 17-13 at the end of the quarter.

The Nagano squad pulled within three points at 32-29 on a 3-pointer by Takato Saito with 4:25 left in the second quarter.

A 3-pointer by Tadashi Utsunomiya tied it 34-34 at the 3:10 mark.

Roberts dropped in a jump hook in the lane to put Shinshu up 36-34 at 2:10, but Osaka responded with seven straight points to go up 41-36.

Yosuke Saito canned a 3-pointer for the Brave Warriors just ahead of the halftime horn and the Evessa led 41-39 at the intermission.

Roberts had 15 points at the half, while Bell led Osaka with nine.

Cohey Aoki, who had an eight-point game, hit a three-pointer and then drove the lane for a layup to make it 48-39 for the Evessa early in the third quarter.

Shinshu fought back to pull within 57-52 with 2:30 left in the third on a lob from Raivio to Roberts.

St. Preux hit a baseline jumper to give Osaka a 60-54 lead heading into the final quarter.

Consecutive hoops by Raivio drew the Brave Warriors within two at 62-60 early in the fourth. But Washington’s conventional 3-point play moved the Evessa out in front by eight at 75-67 with 4:35 left and they never looked back.

Osaka (21-8) entered the contest tied for second place in the Western Conference with Kyoto, three games behind Ryukyu.

Shinshu (12-19) was in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, three games out of a playoff spot.

The teams will square off again on Sunday. Tipoff is 2 p.m.

Elsewhere in the bj-league on Saturday, the visiting Ryukyu Golden Kings edged the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix 80-78, winning on ex-Osaka star and former league MVP David Palmer’s 3-pointer with 6 seconds left. It was a rematch of last May’s championship game, which Hamamatsu won 82-68.

Also, it was Miyazaki 91, Saitama 72; Oita 104, Chiba 80; Iwate 65, Niigata 57; Sendai 81, Akita 67; Yokohama 84, Shimane 71 (a two-game sweep for the B-Corsairs; the day’s other games were all series openers); Fukuoka 88, Toyama 78 (a victory for Atsushi Kanazawa in his Rizing head coaching debut); and Kyoto 84, Shiga 63.

Note: For a recap of Saturday’s other bj-league games, visit The Japan Times’ website to read staff writer Ed Odeven’s report.