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Niigata’s Sato sinks five 3-pointers in victory over 89ers

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Kimitake Sato lit up the scoreboard for a game-high 32 points, including 5 of 10 3-pointers, to lead the visiting Niigata Albirex BB to an 88-72 victory over the Sendai 89ers on Thursday in the opener of a three-game bj-league series.

The series was originally scheduled to begin on Friday, but Thursday’s contest was a makeup game that was postponed due to a Dec. 7 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku.

Sato also converted 8 of 9 shots from inside the arc for Niigata (19-7), which led 46-30 at halftime. Forward Rodney Webb scored 20 points on 8-for-11 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Nile Murry added 11 points, 10 boards and four assists. Sato and Hirotako Kondo each had five assists, while Yuichi Ikeda dished out four.

Niigata big man Chris Holm raked in 12 rebounds. Reserve forward Taj Finger scored nine points, with three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 20 minutes.

The Albirex had 26 assists and five turnovers.

Forward Takuya Komoda paced the 89ers (8-14) with 16 points and Sam Coleman scored 14. Hikaru Kusaka had 10 points and Kevin Coble finished with nine. Sam Willard added eight points, 17 rebounds and seven assists for Sendai.

The 89ers’ offense was out of sync throughout the game, as they shot 27-for-73 from the field. Forward T.J. Cummings, who has averaged 23.7 points in six games since joining Sendai in mid-December, sat out the game.

“T.J. sprained his ankle near the end of Sunday’s game at Saitama,” 89ers coach Bob Pierce said. “He warmed up with the team today, but by tipoff he still wasn’t comfortable trying to cut or jump, so we decided to let him rest.”

“We got a good performance from Taku (Komoda), who finally looks recovered from his ankle sprain that took place Dec. 24,” Pierce added, “but we really needed a few other guys to step up in the second quarter when Sam Coleman had to sit with foul trouble.

“We made a few runs at them in the first, third, and fourth quarters, but our guys need to be mentally and physically tougher. They also need to understand that they have to make plays at both ends of the floor.”