TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – Momentum shifts from time to time during an ordinary basketball game, and there are several big scoring spurts to witness.
Nothing unusual about that, and this is what happened on Sunday: A 19-point third-quarter lead had vanished to a meager four points for the Toyama Grouses.
No problem. They got the ball in 209-cm Puerto Rico native Angel Garcia’s hands, and he delivered against the Saitama Broncos.
In the fourth quarter, the big fellow scored three 3-pointers during a game-changing 12-2 spurt that put Toyama back in the driver’s set.
Garcia had a game-high 39 points, including 6-for-9 from 3-point range (4-for-5 from beyond the arc in a 12-point fourth quarter) in the Grouses’ 89-77 triumph over the struggling Broncos on Sunday at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium.
A University of Memphis alum, Garcia also converted 7 of 10 2-point shots and 7 of 10 from the foul line, with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks. Frontcourt mate Ira Brown added 17 points and 11 rebounds. He shot 7-for-10 from the field, including a trio of dunks. Brandon Cole scored 13 points for Toyama and veteran point guard Takeshi Mito had eight points and 11 assists with no turnovers in an inspiring performance.
“Angel is a great outside shooter,” Toyama coach Bob Nash told reporters after the game. “Tonight, he had it going. Last night we didn’t shoot the ball very well. He felt bad missing some free throws (on Saturday), so he wanted to redeem himself and I thought he played well all night long, not just his shooting, but playing solid defense. He rebounded well for us and he shared the ball with his teammates.”
Responding to a question about the stellar leadership role Mito has provided for the Grouses all season, Nash, a former NBA forward and ex-Saitama coach, had this to say: “Our season goes as Mito goes. He’s a great leader for us. He sets the table for us, and tonight he had 11 assists, but I look at the team and we had 22 assists. I’m always about team goals.”
“Angel got 39 points,” the coach added, “but his teammates looked for him to get him the ball. So it was a good team effort. Mito is playing extremely well for us, and I hope that it continues.”
Trailing 70-52 with just over 2 minutes to play in the third quarter, the Broncos mounted a comeback. Saitama got back into the game with an electrifying 14-0 spurt, including buckets from newcomers Randy Orr, Yuki Nobuhira and Antwan Scott and mainstay Yuki Kitamuki, that extended into the fourth quarter. The Broncos moved the ball effectively, made good passes and took quality shots. Though Saitama excited its fans during this well-staged run, the offense’s effectiveness was not steady or consistent for the entire contest.
And that gave Garcia a golden opportunity to put his stamp on the game in the decisive fourth quarter, when his 3-pointers sailed toward the basket with rainbow-like arcs.
After the final buzzer sounded, Garcia described what he had just accomplished as the game’s top scorer.
“I feel great, really, shooting. That’s what I practice every day. I had some open looks and the ball went in,” Garcia said. “When you have the feeling that the ball’s going in, you should continue shooting no matter what happens.”
Kitamuki paced Saitama with 18 points, draining 4 of 9 3s and collecting three steals. Orr scored 17 points, Nobuhira had 12 and Scott and Dameion Baker each supplied 10 points. Guard Takuma Yamashiro handed out 11 assists to go along with eight points.
Saitama was limited to two free-throw attempts (one make); Toyama finished 15-for-22.
While registering 22 assists, the Grouses (9-6) kept their turnover total low (nine).
Toyama held a 43-33 edge in rebound and converted 29 of 57 shots from inside the 3-point arc.
“We got beat on the boards again tonight, got out-rebounded, and it’s hard to win any time when you get out-rebounded,” Saitama coach Tracy Williams said. “Good thing was we fought back in the fourth quarter and got it down to four. We played really good defense, made some really good stops (in that stretch).”
Garcia’s dominance proved too much for Saitama to overcome.
“We’ve got to recognize who our shooters are,” Williams said, commenting on Garcia’s play and the challenges his defenders must face every game.
“We’re learning, we’re learning. We’ve got to learn to be able to keep working hard through those situations, even when we get it down from a big lead to six or four, we’ve got to learn to finish it,” the first-year Broncos coach said.
“We did it yesterday. Don’t quite know what happened between yesterday and today, but we’ve got two weeks off. We’re going to be working extremely hard, I promise you. . .”
The Broncos took a 22-18 advantage into the second stanza. Kitamuki and Baker each scored eight points in the first quarter, with the latter knocking down 4 of 5 shots from the field. Kitamuki canned a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, his second of the game, to close out the period and was 3-for-3 in the opening 10 minutes.
The Toyama lead stretched to 43-30 on a Brown free throw with 1:47 remaining in second quarter.
The Broncos (2-8) trailed 45-36 at halftime.
Saitama’s defense was ineffective for large stretches of the first half. The Broncos failed to make quick defensive rotations, had poor weak-side help defense and did not protect the basket. Case in point: Brown had three first-half dunks and he and his Grouses teammates were given an easy path to the basket on several layup attempts.
As a result, Toyama shot 16-for-21 from 2-point range before intermission. Brown had 15 points in the opening half on 6-for-8 shooting, frontcourt mate Garcia scored 12 points and Mito had eight.
The Grouses made 10 of 14 free throws in the half (Saitama attempted none), a day after converting 9 of 17 at the charity stripe in an 82-81 loss.
Orr had 11 first-half points, while Baker scored 10.
Saitama standout John “Helicopter” Humphrey, the bj-league’s leading scorer (25.0 points per game) missed his fourth straight game due to a herniated lumbar disc. Humphrey’s former Tokyo Apache teammate Masashi Joho, a fan favorite throughout Japan, also was sidelined due to an undisclosed injury.
Toyama faces the visiting Niigata Albirex BB next weekend, while Saitama, looking to turn things around after a bad start this season, meets the host Tokyo Cinq Reves on Dec. 1-2.
Coming off a one-point loss on Saturday, the Grouses were determined to earn a victory in the series finale. Which, in turn, would put them in a good mood for the long journey back to Toyama.
“It feels great to have at least a win,” Garcia admitted. “The way coach has us set up to play is to go game by game. If we can win once, make sure we win the second one. Yesterday’s game, I wasn’t shooting very good at the free-throw line (1-for-5), so that’s one of the reasons why we lost the game.”
Golden Kings 98, HeatDevils 78
In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Ryukyu outclassed Oita, sweeping its Western Conference rival and improving to 10-0 in the process. Call it a perfect Sunday for coach Koto Toyama’s club.
Star Anthony McHenry ignited the hosts with 28 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, while Terrance Woodbury scored 22 points. Narito Namizato had a 17-point game and Naoto Kosuge scored 11.
Defensively, Ryukyu was stingy and dominant, holding the HeatDevils to 18-for-58 shooting from inside the 3-point arc.
Taj Finger and Cyrus Tate each scored 21 points for Oita (8-4, the same record as Rizing Fukuoka).
The Golden Kings held Oita forward Wendell White, the league’s top rebounder (13.3 per game), to a season-low four boards.
B-Corsairs 95, 89ers 78
In Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Draelon Burns had a season-high 37-point outburst to lead Yokohama to a bounce-back victory over Sendai in the series finale.
Burns, a DePaul University product, flushed 6 of 7 3s, with six rebounds, five assists and three steals in a banner performance. He also made 5 of 6 2-point shots and 9-for-10 at the line.
The B-Corsairs improved to 6-4, including 5-3 on the road.
Thomas Kennedy, an Iwate Big Bulls player last season, scored 19 points with five rebounds for Yokohama and Paul Butorac added 17 and seven. The B-Corsairs shot 12-for-19 from 3-point range.
“(We) had a good second game in Sendai to earn the split on the road,” B-Corsairs coach Reggie Geary said, noting Burns’ play, as well as the effort from Kennedy and Butorac.
“Good bench contributions from (Minoru) Kimura and Seiji Kono,” the coach added.
Sam Willard notched a double-double (22 points, 17 rebounds) for the 89ers (3-7) and Takuya Komoda and Kevin Coble had 12 apiece, while captain Takehiko Shimura scored 11 with eight assists and three steals.
Rizing 81, Evessa 65
In Saga, Reggie Warren and Julius Ashby were a potent one-two punch for Fukuoka in an out-of-prefecture home victory over Osaka to complete a series sweep.
Warren (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Ashby (21 points, eight rebounds, two blocks) helped the Rizing improve to 8-4).
Josh Peppers scored 12 points, Jun Nakanishi had nine and Akitomo Takeno put eight on the board in a well-rounded victory for coach Atsushi Kanazawa’s team.
Fukuoka converted 23 of 38 shots from inside the arc.
Nathan Walkup was Osaka’s leading scorer with 15 points and Shota Konno had 12. Satoshi Takeda and Rick Rickert each had 10-point games
for the Evessa (1-7).
Northern Happinets 75, Brave Warriors 68
In Odate, Akita Prefecture, Dion Harris scored 19 points, T.J. Cummings poured in 16 and coach Kazuo Nakamura’s club ended the weekend on a high note by beating Shinshu.
Kazuhiro Shoji added 15 points for Akita (8-2).
Jermaine Green, Edward Morris and Yosuke Saito had 12 points apiece for the Brave Warriors (7-5) and Wayne Marshall added 11 points and 10 boards for bench boss Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi’s squad.
Albirex BB 89, Jets 75
In Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, Yuichi Ikeda scored 20 points and Rodney Webb had 16 as Niigata salvaged a series split against the hosts.
Nile Murry contributed 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Hirotaka Kondo scored 14 for the Albirex (8-4 under second-year coach Matt Garrison). Niigata drained 12 of 20 3-point shots.
Marquin Chandler paced the Jets (4-6) with 30 points and Joe Werner had 22 points and 11 boards.
Lakestars 75, Susanoo Magic 65
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Ray Nixon buried 6 of 11 3s en route to 23 points and the Lakestars made 14 of 16 3s to complete a series sweep over the hosts.
Dionisio Gomez scored 16 points and Shinya Ogawa and Wayne Arnold each had 11 for Shiga (6-6).
Edward Yamamoto had a team-best 16 points for Shimane (7-5), Michael Parker added 13 and Jeral Davis and B.J. Puckett both had 12.
Hannaryz 101, Shining Suns 87
In Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, despite Dominique Keller’s 40-point effort, the hosts suffered their 11th straight loss.
Keller was 9-for-10 on 3s and 6-for-13 from inside the arc for Miyazaki, and Yuto Otsuka scored 11 points.
Kyoto (4-8), which lost eight consecutive games to start the season, extended its winning streak to four.
The Hannaryz offense clicked. Kyoto dished out 18 assists and turned the ball over only seven times. What’s more, the visitors shot 10-for-14 on 3s.
Big men Marcus Cousin and Gyno Pomare scored 21 and 20 points, respectively. Both men grabbed 11 rebounds. Yu Okada finished with 19 points, David Palmer had 15 and Jermaine Boyette 12.