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Crane Thunders earn first home victory in franchise history

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

You’ve got to start somewhere.

For the expansion Gunma Crane Thunders, it was inevitable: At some point, the team would win its first regular-season home game.

That occurred on Saturday night, an 82-73 victory over the visiting Tokyo Cinq Reves.

The Crane Thunders had lost their previous six home games, but pulled out a victory in the bj-league series opener in Midori, Gunma Prefecture.

Key newcomer Jermaine Dixon, playing his third game for the first-year franchise, paced Gunma (3-16) with 21 points, topping the 20-point plateau for the second straight game. Shingo Okada scored 14 points and former Miyazaki Shining Suns big man Dominique Keller, making his Gunma debut, scored 13 and also collected four steals. Veteran guard Kenya Tomori added 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

“We won our first home game so that was nice for the fans,” Crane Thunders coach Ryan Blackwell told The Japan Times after the game. “The fans seemed extremely happy and appreciative. Jermaine has totally helped add to the dynamic of our team. His energy is constant and his ability to make plays makes everything easier for our team. It was Dominique’s first game but he was a good addition on both ends. He adds athleticism, rebounding, defense, and shooting, which helps open up our offense. He’ll continue to get better and better.

“We need to rebound better against Tokyo because they are a little bigger than us … they beat us on the boards by 17 and had 22 offensive boards.”

The Crane Thunders sank 11 of 13 foul shots, but were out-rebounded 57-40. Jared Carter, a University of Kentucky product had a team-high 10 rebounds for Tokyo.

Jonathan Jones led the Cinq Reves, another first-year club, with 23 points with seven rebounds, but also had committed turnovers. Popular guard Cohey Aoki added 20 points and sank 4 of 8 3s. Tokyo (7-10) shot 15-for-25 at the charity stripe.

“Cohey again made shots and big plays for Tokyo but Jermaine and Shingo (Okada) were the keys for us tonight,” Blackwell said. “Our guards overall did a great job pressuring and not giving Tokyo anything easy.”

Lakestars 70, Hannaryz 68

In Kyoto, Shiga’s Ray Nixon and Dionisio Gomez scored 18 and 17 points, respectively, in a down-to-the-wire victory over the hosts.

The Lakestars (10-9) improved to 2-1 against the Hannaryz this season.

Kyoto fell to 9-10.

Nixon added eight rebounds for Shiga, which led 38-34 at the half.

Shinya Ogawa scored 11 points and Wayne Arnold had nine, while Takamichi Fujiwara contributed six for the Lakestars.

Masaharu Kataoka paced the Hannaryz with 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting and Marcus Cousin had 13 points, seven boards and two blocked shots. Jermaine Boyette had 11 points and David Palmer added nine points and eight rebounds. Yu Okada was held to five points on 2-for-8 shooting, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range.

Susanoo Magic 73, Golden Kings 68

In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, the defending champions lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

Shimane picked up where the Rizing Fukuoka left off last Sunday (an 86-74 Rizing triumph over the Golden Kings), getting a superb game from big man Jeral Davis, who had 22 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

Tatsuhiro Yokoo poured in 15 points and canned 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc for the Susanoo Magic (12-7 overall, 5-4 on the road). Michael Parker scored 12 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out four assists and B.J. Puckett had 10 points. Koki Yabuuchi scored six points in the series opener. Kazuya “J.” Hatano had two points and one rebound in his first game with bench boss Zeljko Pavlicevic’s team after leaving the Oita HeatDevils.

Terrance Woodbury had a game-high 25 points for Ryukyu (15-2), but was 2-for-9 at the line. Dzaflo Larkai scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, while Narito Namizato had 10 points on 4-for-16 shooting and Morihisa Yamauchi scored eight points. Collectively, the Kings were 8-for-18 at the line.

Naoto Kosuge, held scoreless in 20-plus minutes, made five steals for the hosts. He’s averaging 9.9 points per game.

Phoenix 82, Evessa 69

In Hamamatsu, Jeffrey Parmer scored 18 points and Kevin Galloway had a 16-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist, two-steal, two-block outing as the hosts took care of business against Osaka.

Wendell White contributed 14 points, seven boards and five assists as the Phoenix chalked up their 14th win in 21 games. Shoji Nakanishi added eight points, as did Shinnosuke Oishi.

Taizo Kawabe was the top Evessa scorer with 17 points and Rick Rickert and Nathan Walkup each had 11. Mike Bell finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.

Osaka fell to 2-13.

Rizing 101, HeatDevils 73

In Hita, Oita Prefecture, Reggie Warren had 21 points and 10 rebounds and four teammates scored in double figures as Fukuoka hammered the hosts.

Josh Peppers finished with 17 points and eight assists, Junya Masumoto poured in a season-best 14 points, Julius Ashby had 13 and Akitomo Takeno added 12 and handed out six assists for the Rizing (12-7).

Ashby also had eight boards and three blocks.

The HeatDevils (9-10) lost their sixth straight game — by a combined 187 points, or by an average margin of more than 31 points. They dressed seven players, and only six had significant playing time.

Andre Coimbra led Oita with 23 points and 15 rebounds and Taishiro Simizu had 17 points, 11 boards and eight assists.

Northern Happinets 80, Brave Warriors 70

In Chikuma, Nagano Prefecture, balanced scoring carried Akita past the hosts in a showdown of Eastern Conference playoff contenders.

Anthony Kent scored 18 points to lead the Happinets attack, chipping in with 14 rebounds, three steals and two assists in a game-high 39:17 of playing time. Dion Harris had 16 points and six assists for Akita (11-6) and Yuki Kikuchi and Dan Fitzgerald each scored 13, the former making 3 of 7 3s and the latter draining 3 of 14.

Jermaine Green scored 20 points for Shinshu (12-7) and Wayne Marshall scored 16 and hauled in eight rebounds. Edward Morris added 10 points and 10 rebounds and Takato Saito scored nine.

The teams shot 65 3s in a fast-paced game.

Albirex BB 83, Jets 62

In Niigata, Taj Finger had eight points, four blocks, three steals and two assists in his Albirex debut, helping the hosts rout Chiba.

Finger was recently let go by cash-strapped Oita as the team slashed its budget and also parted ways with standouts Matt Lottich, White, Cyrus Tate, Hatano and Naoto Takushi. The big man came off the bench and put his stamp on the game in 20 productive minutes.

The Albirex improved to 12-6, including 7-4 at home.

Nile Murry scored 23 points for Niigata, Yuichi Ikeda had 16 and Shuhei Komatsu sank 3 of 4 3s in a 15-point performance. Center Chris Holm did a little bit of everything — four points, eight boards, three assists, three steals and two blocks.

Joe Werner made 8 of 12 field goals en route to 16 points with eight rebounds for the Jets (8-9) and D’Andre Bell scored 15 points. Marquis Grey, who began the season with the Albirex, finished with 10 points and six rebounds off the bench for his new club. Kensuke Tanaka had eight assists along with five turnovers.

Grouses 94, Broncos 86

In Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, the Grouses controlled the boards and got across-the-board production from their entire roster in a well-rounded win over Saitama.

Eight Toyama players scored seven or more points, including Angel Garcia’s 18, Jeremy Jacob’s 16 and Masashi Joho’s 14.

The Grouses (13-8) held a 26-rebound advantage and raked in 23 offensive boards.

Toyama shot 35 free throws (23 makes), and four Saitama players fouled out.

Dameion Baker had 19 points to lead the Broncos (2-13) and Takuma Yamashiro scored 16.

Saitama’s John “Helicopter” Humphrey, the team’s leading scorer, missed his third straight games due to a back injury. He’s been sidelined for five of the past six contests.

Five Arrows 102, Shining Suns 84

In Takamatsu, Paul Williams scored 22 points on 11-for-14 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds as the hosts cruised past Miyazaki.

Brandon Penn had 20 points, converting 5 of 6 3s, and Robert Johnson had 10 points and 14 rebounds. Dexter Lyons supplied 14 points, five assists and four steals for Takamatsu (7-10).

Ricky Woods paced the Shining Suns (2-17) with 31 points.