The Akita Northern Happinets became the bj-league’s second Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff spot this season by defeating the visiting Saitama Broncos 97-87 on Sunday.
Kyle Swanston scored a team-high 21 points for Akita (27-17) and Ricky Woods finished with 20 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and three steals.
Happinets coach Kazuo Nakamura’s former team, the two-time defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (29-13), locked up a playoff spot last weekend.
The cellar-dwelling Broncos (11-31), meanwhile, will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. They’ve played 308 regular-season games since the bj-league’s inception, and have exactly 100 more losses than wins — 104 victories and 204 defeats in that span.
Akita, which went 18-32 as an expansion team last season, is now 45-49 overall in franchise history.
In Sunday’s victory, which completed a sweep against Saitama, E.J. Drayton contributed 15 points and Yuki Kikuchi (12 points, 4-for-9 on 3-pointers) and Mychal Kearse (12 points) all made key contributions.
For the Broncos, John Flowers poured in 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds, John “Helicopter” Humphrey had a 16-point effort and Yuki Kitamuki scored 15 points, while Jayme Miller had 11 points and 12 boards. Kenny Satterfield added nine points for Saitama.
Grouses 91, Big Bulls 67
In Ninohe, Iwate Prefecture, the hosts coughed the ball up a whopping 29 times in a lopsided loss to Toyama.
Masashi Joho made a game-high eight steals for the Grouses, who bounced back from a Saturday defeat.
Devin Searcy scored 28 points and raked in 14 rebounds for Toyama (22-20) and Ira Brown had 16 points, while Takeshi Mito and Brian Harper both scored 11 and Joho had 10.
Thomas Kennedy paced Iwate (13-31) with 18 points and Makoto Sawaguchi scored 12, Yoshiaki Yamamoto had 10 and Shawn Malloy and Gordon Klaiber each scored eight. Malloy led the Bulls with 12 rebounds.
Susanoo Magic 87, Hannaryz 83
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Michael Parker scored 20 points and five teammates also reached double figures in scoring as the hosts completed a series sweep over Kyoto.
Tatsuhiro Yokoo drained 3 of 4 3-pointers and finished with 13 points, Jeral Davis had 12 and B.J. Puckett, Jumpei Nakama and Edward Yamamoto all had 11 apiece, with Nakama and Yamamoto sharing the team lead in assists (four).
Shimane, now 13-9 at home, improved to 23-21.
The Hannaryz slipped to 26-16.
Rick Rickert paced Kyoto with 25 points and 15 rebounds. Lee Cummard added 21 points, seven rebounds and five steals and Jermaine Boyette had 18 points.
B-Corsairs 97, Jets 80
In Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Draelon Burns, a DePaul University product, scored a season-high 29 points and the B-Corsairs salvaged a series split against Chiba in a showdown of first-year clubs.
Justin Burrell (27 points, 12 rebounds) and Chas McFarland (14 points, 11 boards) both had double-doubles for Yokohama (23-21). Guard Masayuki Kabaya, the team captain, contributed 15 points and Kenji Yamada handed out five assists for ex-NBA guard Reggie Geary’s club, which sits in sixth place, the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Maurice Hargrow, the league’s No.2 scorer at 21.4 points per game was Chiba’s high scorer with 31 points, including 12-for-16 at the free-throw line, and Takaki Ishida and Jamel Staten had 15 points apiece. Kensuke Tanaka registered seven assists.
“Despite the score, we played well,” Jets coach Eric Gardow said after the game.
“Yokohama is well coached, and having five imports definitely has its advantages in these back-to-back games with foul trouble, fatigue, or when someone is sick. … We played through foul trouble pretty well for the most part. But, it’s hard to keep applying pressure in tightly called games.”
He added: “I’m pleased how we handled their pressure with only five turnovers — only one in the first half — but we could not convert our open looks and we had a lot of them, especially from (3-point range).”
The Jets fell to 15-27.
89ers 66, Brave Warriors 56
In Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture, Sendai was 13-for-13 at the foul line and got another big game from Takuya Komoda, a 17-point performance, in the series finale.
Komoda, a 24-year-old forward, is averaging 12.75 points over the past eight games, including 19, 17 and 17 in the past three (all 89ers wins).
Dan Fitzgerald scored 18 points for Sendai (22-20). He was 1-for-9 from beyond the arc, but sank all nine of his free throws. Johnny Dukes, coming off a triple-double in the series opener, had 10 points and 12 boards, and Rashaad Singleton scored 10 points and blocked four shots. Takehiko “Take” Shimura contributed seven points, seven assists and five steals before fouling out.
“Takuya’s solid play has been a real key lately, and today we also got a solid boost from Hikaru (Kusaka) — three assists, three rebounds and one steal — who had to fill in for Take, who was in foul trouble,” Senadi coach Bob Pierce said.
Tyler Hughes had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Shinshu (15-27) and Edward Morris and Takanori Goya both scored 11 points.
The Warriors committed 22 turnovers; the 89ers had seven.
Shinshu guard Derek Raivio missed his fourth consecutive game due to a groin injury.
Evessa 75, Golden Kings 70
In Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, Osaka outscored Ryukyu 20-8 in the fourth quarter to improve to 29-13, including 17-5 in away games.
The Evessa are 3-1 since star forward Lynn Washington was arrested on March 13 for his alleged role in smuggling marijuana into Japan.
After the game, Osaka coach Ryan Blackwell posted these remarks on Facebook: “Okinawa is a tough team with great fans and this rivalry is great for this league!”
Mike Bell scored 17 points and hauled in 13 rebounds for the Evessa, and Bobby St. Preux scored 15 points, including a trio of 3s, and grabbed eight boards. Cohey Aoki added 13 points and Masashi Obuchi had 12 points and three assists.
For Ryukyu (34-10), Narito Namizato was the leading scorer with 14 points, followed by Anthony McHenry’s 13, Dillion Sneed’s 12 and Dzaflo Larkai’s 10. Jeff Newton had eight points and a game-best 15 rebounds.
The Golden Kings were 3-for-16 on 3-point shots and 7-for-14 at the charity stripe.
HeatDevils 84, Rizing 81
In Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture, poor free throw shooting hurt Fukuoka in a “home” game outside of its home prefecture.
The Rizing shot 17-for-27 at the line and lost the rematch against Oita.
T.J. Cummings had 27 points on 13-for-24 shooting with 10 rebounds for the HeatDevils (18-24) and Wendell White scored 13 points and pulled down 11 boards. Matt Lottich and Naoto Takushi both scored nine points and Taj Finger, Kohei Mitomo and Masahiro Ohara all had eight-point afternoons, helping Oita compensate for its 3-point shooting woes (2-for-15).
Carlos Dixon led Fukuoka (26-16) with 25 points and Kevin Palmer added 21. Gary Hamilton scored 17 points and Akitomo Takeno had nine.
Lakestars 84, Five Arrows 71
In Takamatsu, Yu Okada and Julius Ashby, former Takamatsu teammates, each scored 16 points and Shiga handed the Five Arrows their 15th straight loss.
Okada canned 4 of 7 3s and made five steals for the Lakestars (26-16), and Ashby grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots. Dionisio Gomez added 14 points and 19 rebounds (11 off the offensive glass), Josh Peppers poured in 12 points and Bryant Markson scored 10 for Shiga.
Paul Butorac had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Kevin Smith added 17 points for Takamatsu (2-40).