The scintillating hunt for the top spot in the bj-league’s Eastern Conference is still, technically, up for grabs. Though it doesn’t look like the reigning champs have any intention of relinquishing their hold on the top spot.
Shoji Nakanishi buried three 3-pointers in a memorable 16-point effort and Wayne Arnold had a 15-point performance in the two-time defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix’s 92-81 victory over the Akita Northern Happinets on Saturday night.
The East-leading Phoenix (30-13) improved to 3-0 against former coach Kazuo Nakamura’s club.
Akita slipped to 27-18. Ricky Woods had a team-best 19 points for the Happinets, Kazuhiro Shoji scored 16, Yuki Kikuchi added 11 and Kyle Swanston had 10.
Big Bulls 85, Jets 78
In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Iwate scored 28 fourth-quarter points to defeat the hosts and salvage a series split.
Thomas Kennedy had 26 points and 11 rebounds for the Big Bulls (14-22), Makoto Sawaguchi scored 17 points and Yoshiaki Yamamoto and Shawn Malloy scored 11 points apiece.
For Chiba (16-28), Maurice Hargrow led the squad with 29 points, Jamel Staten had 22 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and Takaki Ishida scored 10 points.
89ers 101, Broncos 61
In Saitama, Sendai trounced the hosts, who were without veteran standouts Kenny Satterfield and John Humphrey.
Saitama (11-32) trailed 50-25 at halftime.
Dan Fitzgerald had a team-high 27 points for the 89ers (23-20) and Rashaad Singleton scored 20, Johnny Dukes had 16 and Takuya Komoda poured in 14.
John Flowers paced the Eastern Conference cellar-dwelling Broncos with 24 points, Jayme Miller had 16 and Yasuaki Arai scored 11.
“Two things stood out today,” 89ers coach Bob Pierce told The Japan Times. “We had 28 assists as a team and eight — of our nine available — players had five rebounds or more.”
Brave Warriors 94, Five Arrows 86
In Nagano, Lee Roberts had 24 points and 17 boards and Edward Morris scored 22 points as Shinshu handed Takamatsu its 16th straight defeat.
Derek Raivio returned to the Warriors lineup after a four-game absence due to a groin injury and had 21 points and five assists. Shinshu (16-27) also snapped a four-game losing streak.
For the Five Arrows (2-41), Nyika Williams had 32 points and 15 boards and Paul Butorac scored 20 points.
Shining Suns 83, Evessa 61
In Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, Darryl Dora’s double-double (22 points, 16 boards) and O’Neal “Trey” Mims’ 14 points carried the hosts to a lopsided win over short-handed Osaka.
Three Shining Suns also pumped in 10 points apiece as the second-year franchise improved to 20-23.
The Evessa (29-14), without center Wayne Marshall (hand injury) and frontcourt star Lynn Washington (released from Osaka Prefectural Police custody on Friday after drug charges were dropped; he was arrested on March 13), were led by Mike Bell (15 points, 15 boards) and Bobby St. Preux (11 points) and Kevin Tyner (seven assists).
Hannaryz 83, Golden Kings 76
In Kyoto, Lee Cummard and Rick Rickert each had 18 points and Kysouke Setoyama poured in 13 as the Hannaryz topped Western Conference-leading Ryukyu.
Taizo Kawabe chipped in with 10 points for Kyoto (27-16).
Anthony McHenry, Dzaflo Larkai and Narito Namizato each had 13 points for the Golden Kings (34-11) and Jeff Newton had 10.
Grouses 72, Susanoo Magic 61
In Toyama, Masashi Joho scored 26 points and frontcourt stalwarts Devin Searcy and Ira Brown both had 18-point outings in a win over Shimane.
Searcy also hauled in 12 rebounds for the Grouses (23-20).
Jeral Davis led the Magic (23-22) with 16 points, while Michael Parker and Reggie Golson each scored 10.
Lakestars 82, HeatDevils 80
In Oita, Shiga’s Dionisio Gomez converted a game-winning basket with 1 second left against the HeatDevils.
Julius Ashby had 18 points to lead the Lakestars (27-16), Ray Nixon pumped in 13, Yu Okada had 12 and Shinya Ogawa 11.
For Oita (18-25), T.J. Cummings had 24 points and Kohei Mitomo, Naoto Takushi and Wendell White all put 13 points on the board, with White grabbing 13 boards and Takushi dishing out nine assists.
Rizing 97, Albirex BB 94
In Fukuoka, Niigata had no answer for Rizing star Kevin Palmer, who had 30 points, as the visitors dropped the series opener.
Palmer was 12-for-12 at the foul line for Fukuoka (27-16), while Jermaine Dearman scored 19 points and Carlos Dixon had 18. Jun Nakanishi added 14 points for the hosts.
Chris Holm had 16 points and 17 rebounds for the Albirex (24-19) and Dwight Gordon and Yuichi Ikeda both scored 14 points for Niigata.