SAITAMA – The Saitama Broncos were embarrassed on their home court on Saturday, losing by 40 points.
On Sunday, Saitama rediscovered its shooting touch and prevailed 82-69 against the Sendai 89ers in the series finale at Saitama Municipal Gymnasium.
In fact, the Broncos shot a jaw-dropping 63.6 percent from 3-point range (14-for-22) as they improved to 12-32, the worst record in the bj-league’s 10-team Eastern Conference.
“Saitama’s 3-point shooters couldn’t miss,” Sendai coach Bob Pierce said after the game, noting the Broncos’ 81 percent 3-point shooting (8-for-11) in the opening half. “It had to be an April Fools’ joke.”
Forward Jayme Miller scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Broncos, Yasuaki Arai sank 5 of 6 3-point attempts and also scored 15 points, while John Flowers was 3-for-6 from downtown and added 13 points with six steals. Yuki Kitamuki made 3 of 4 3s and added 12 points, as did John “Helicopter” Humphrey, who came off the bench and gave the team a big spark in the second quarter that carried over into the second half. Humphrey, a two-time league scoring champion, missed the series opener as he continued to rest what was reported as an ankle injury on the team’s website.
Broncos point guard Kenny Satterfield, a former NBA player, didn’t practice this week, and he was not on the bench for Sunday’s game. In a Twitter message after Saturday’s game, Satterfield criticized Broncos coach Natalie Nakase for her decision not to play him in their 101-61 loss.
A day later, Nakase dished out praised to her players after a much better performance.
“Great team effort,” were the words Nakase used to describe her team’s performance as she addressed the fans after the game.
Nakase said, “Everybody that played contributed tonight.”
Saitama outplayed Sendai in the second and third quarters, outscoring the out-of-towners 44-28 in that span.
The Broncos led 48-38 at halftime, getting their final points of the half on a Darin Satoshi Maki jumper.
Saitama pulled away in the third quarter as its hot shooters continued to drain shots from all over. Trailing 63-47, the 89ers called a timeout with 4:29 left in the quarter.
The Broncos would push their advantage to 68-47 on a Miller bucket, and extend the lead to 70-47 on a Daiki Terashita layup.
Sendai staged a spirited comeback. Hikaru Kusaka flushed a 3-pointer to make it 70-50, and Johnny Dukes (32 points) scored in the closing seconds of the third quarter, and it was 70-52 entering the fourth quarter.
Dan Fitzgerald canned a 3 in the opening seconds of the fourth, and followed seconds later by hitting a pair of free throws to close it to 72-57.
But Fitzgerald, the 89ers’ leading scorer at 19.0 points per game, hobbled off the court with 7:33 remaining. He returned to the bench with his knee covered by an ice pack. He didn’t return to the court. He finished with 17 points.
“Not having Dan the last 7½ minutes didn’t help,” Pierce admitted. “He got hurt on a drive early in the quarter, after scoring five points to help start the comeback.”
The 89ers used a 22-5 run — led by Dukes and Filip Toncinic — to pull within 75-69, getting a steal and layup from Dukes with 4:33 to cap the spurt. That made it a two-possession game, but Sendai was unable to get any closer the rest of the way. In fact, the 89ers didn’t score again. Their offense went cold at the most inopportune time.
An Arai 3-pointer with 59 seconds remaining that made it 81-69 put an exclamation point on the win for the long-suffering Broncos fans, who have endured seven non-winning seasons, including this one, since the team entered the bj-league in 2005.
Brave Warriors 92, Five Arrows 81
In Nagano, Lee Roberts scored 21 points to lead a well-balanced offensive attack as the hosts handed Takamatsu its 17th straight loss.
Derek Raivio had 18 points and 10 assists for Shinshu (17-27), Edward Morris poured in 15 points and Tyler Hughes scored 13. Takato Saito added 10 points and Takanori Goya had seven points and six assists.
Nyika Williams paced the Five Arrows (2-42) with 25 points and 12 boards.
Phoenix 85, Northern Happinets 71
In Hamamatsu, the two-time defending champions outscored Akita 27-9 in the fourth quarter to secure a victory and a sweep in the weekend’s marquee showdown of Eastern Conference teams.
Jeffrey Parmer scored a team-high 28 points, Jermaine Dixon chipped in with 26, including 12-for-15 at the free-throw line, and Lawrence Blackledge had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Hamamatsu Higashimikawa (31-13).
Ricky Woods finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in the loss. E.J. Drayton had 12 points for the Happinets (27-19).
Lakestars 87, HeatDevils 70
In Oita, Josh Peppers scored a team-best 20 points and Yu Okada and Ray Nixon each had 13 as Shiga completed a series sweep.
The Lakestars improved to 28-16 under first-year coach Alan Westover, and have the same record through Sunday as the Kyoto Hannaryz and Rizing Fukuoka.
For Oita (18-26), Wendell White was the top scorer (19 points) and rebounder (16 boards). Taj Finger had 16 points and Naoto Takushi supplied 14 points and seven assists.
Susanoo Magic 75, Grouses 70
In Toyama, Shimane’s Michael Parker had a game-best 31 points and big man Jeral Davis added 15 points and 20 rebounds in a bounce-back victory over the Grouses.
B.J. Puckett scored 11 points and Jumpei Nakama had 10 for Shimane (24-22) and Edward Yamamoto handed out eight assists.
Toyama’s Devin Searcy registered a double-double (19 points, 23 rebounds) and Ira Brown and Masashi Joho each had 17-point afternoons.
The Grouses fell to 23-21, the same record as the idle Yokohama B-Corsairs and Sendai 89ers.
Rizing 73, Albirex BB 72
In Fukuoka, the hosts got solid production from several key players and defeated a gritty Niigata squad by the slimmest of margins to earn a sweep.
Kevin Palmer led the charge with 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Rizing, while Akitomo Takeno buried 4 of 5 3-pointers and scored 18 points. Carlos Dixon poured in 17 points and Gary Hamilton, who was held to one point, made a big difference in other facets of the game — 13 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
Big man Chris Holm had 15 points and 19 rebounds for Niigata (24-20) and Bennet Davis scored 12 points. Longtime Albirex standout Yuichi Ikeda had nine points. Niigata’s outside shooting woes — 5-for-28 from beyond the arc — were magnified in the loss.
Evessa 93, Shining Suns 90
In Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, Bobby St. Preux scored a game-high 26 points and Osaka finished with a series split.
Mike Bell chipped in with 17 points and 14 boards and Masashi Obuchi scored 14 points. Cohey Aoki added 11 points and Shota Konno scored 10 for the Evessa (30-14).
Shinnosuke Oishi had a banner day for Miyazaki (20-24), scoring 22 points and converting 7 of 11 3-point shots. O’Neal “Trey” Mims had 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Shining Suns.
Hannaryz 79, Golden Kings 75
In Kyoto, the Hannaryz eked out a win over the league’s winningest team a day after picking up a seven-point victory over Ryukyu.
The Golden Kings slipped to 34-12 overall, 17-7 on the road. They shot 8-for-16 at the charity stripe.
Lee Cummard had 16 points and eight rebounds for Kyoto, while Jermaine Boyette scored 15 points. Hannaryz veteran Naoto Nakamura contributed 13 points and was 3-for-5 from 3-point range.
Naoto Kosuge paced Ryukyu with 19 points. Golden Kings frontcourt standouts Dillion Sneed and Anthony McHenry both scored 11 points.