This season Rizing Fukuoka head coach Atsushi Kanazawa’s message to his players has been consistent.
“Don’t back down,” or some similar expression has been the message, according to Rizing power forward Reggie Warren.
And Warren was reminded of that during the hard-fought third quarter against the host Tokyo Cinq Reves on Sunday afternoon.
Tokyo big man Jared Carter had five of his six blocked shots in the third quarter, but the Rizing never lost their focus and weren’t intimidated on offense as they kept their composure and held off the hosts 67-60.
“You’ve got to forget about it,” Warren said, referring to the disappointment of missed shots. “If he blocks it, he blocks it. But you’ve got to continue to go attack, and that’s what I told Julius (Ashby) and myself. Whatever’s available, we’re going to take it.”
Easier said than done, especially against the 216-cm Carter, a University of Kentucky product whose long arms never seem to end.
“And if he gets it (a block), he gets it. He’s 7-foot-1. You can’t teach height. You can’t teach that.”
The Rizing improved to 19-11, including 9-7 on the road by completing the series sweep at Musashino Municipal Gymnasium. Tokyo, a first-year franchise, slipped to 11-19.
Cinq Reves coach Motofumi Aoki said Fukuoka played a strong game and did a good job on defense, noting his team’s poor shooting numbers (18-for-43 on 2-pointers and 5-for-16 on 3s). He called Tokyo’s scoring output inadequate during a chat with reporters after the game.
Kanazawa noted his team’s patient yet deliberate offense worked well and cited that as a key to victory. “Our game plan revolved around Reggie and Ashby on offense,” he said.
But there were other big options for the Rizing, too.
Well-traveled forward Josh Peppers had an explosive performance, picking his spots to score points and getting his teammates involved with pinpoint passes.
In a game that was tied 57-57 after Tokyo guard Hirohisa Takada’s layup near the midway point of the fourth quarter, Peppers sprung to life moments later. He drove baseline, jumped and threw down a vicious slam dunk to put his team in front by two.
I think that play right there definitely gave us momentum,” said Warren. “It gave us the edge, I think, in that game. I’d seen him streaking down the middle and attack the rim hard. That was a big play for us. We needed that. . . . Yeah, it changed the game down the stretch.”
“They fought hard, real hard today,” Warren said of Tokyo. “I take my hat off to them.”
With 2:21 left, the University of Central Florida product converted a three-point play — a nifty layup-and-one combination — to make it 63-57. Tokyo star Cohey Aoki cut it to 63-60 on a baseline 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining, but that was as close as the Cinq Reves would get.
Guard Akitomo Takeno, who had a quiet four-point outing in the series opener (a 28-point win for the Rizing), sank a running jumper in the lane to increase the Fukuoka lead to 65-60, and added a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to seal the victory.
Peppers, who came off the bench, was the Rizing’s top scorer with 17 points along with eight rebounds and four assists. Center Julius Ashby added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and was one of four Fukuoka players with two steals (the others were Jun Nakanishi, Warren and Masahiro Kano). Warren scored 11 points with nine rebounds and Takeno added 13 points and three assists.
In a low-scoring game, the Rizing’s ability to set up shop in their halfcourt offense proved pivotal as the ball moved effectively around the perimeter and into the paint with crisp, efficient passes and dribble-drive penetration. And that’s by design, of course.
Said Warren: “That just comes from me and Julius, we’ve played together before (as Takamatsu teammates), so we’ve got that chemistry right there and it’s getting better. We know where each other like the ball and so that’s a key. . . . Coach always talks about inside-out and let’s play high-low.”
After the game, Warren congratulated Aoki for his scoring prowess, telling him “Good game, boy. But you need to stop shooting so good.” A playful exchange between rivals that fans could clearly hear before leaving the gym.
Carter finished with five points, eight rebounds and a hint of satisfaction despite the loss as he grows more comfortable with the team’s system as a first-year player in the bj-league.
“I feel good. I feel like that’s why coach mostly puts me in is rebounds and defense and just altering shots, even if I don’t get the block, you know just altering shots. And if I do get the block, it brings energy to the team, and even though we did lose, I look to that as encouragement that I am making a presence on the inside and to do it the next game.”
Tokyo trailed 37-35 at halftime and 51-48 entering the final stanza.
Cohey Aoki led Tokyo with 20 points, including 3 of 4 on 3s and Jonathan Jones scored nine points.
Golden Kings 62, Evessa 60
In Okinawa, reigning champion Ryukyu held off Osaka, handing new Evessa coach Bill Cartwright an 0-2 record in his first road trip as a bj-league boss.
Anthony McHenry, the playoff MVP last spring, played a smart, aggressive game for the Golden Kings (22-6), finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Dzaflo Larkai added 15 points and 10 boards and Jeff Newton had eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks before fouling out.
Dwayne Lathan was the top Osaka scorer with 18 points, though he lamented the fact that he wasn’t as aggressive as he could’ve been in postgame comments posted on Twitter.
“Disappointed in myself for passing up last shot tonight,” Lathan tweeted. “. . . Now I know how LeBron (James feels).”
The Evessa fell to 7-21.
Rick Rickert had a 14-point, 16, rebound effort for Osaka and Nathan Walkup added 12 points with eight rebounds. Forward Mike Bell was held in check by the Golden Kings, putting two points on the board on 1-for-10 shooting.
“To be honest, I thought we could have won today,” Cartwright said “We just missed some chances and timing on offense and also missed some rebounds. All the players really fought hard today, but still we really had to fight for getting rebounds and play tight defense.”
Ryukyu held a 50-49 edge in rebounds.
Cartwright viewed the two weekend losses as a learning experiences.
“I found two assignments for (the team) next week: 1. To improve individual skills; (and) 2. To decide who to play in critical situations,” the former Chicago Bulls head coach said.
“I have to get to know all the players more. . . . Even though Okinawa is the No. 1 team right now, I don’t think we are behind them. I will get this team better.”
“On defense, we got a lot better than yesterday,” he added. I (will) just improve this team.”
Big Bulls 89, 89ers 67
In Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture, All-Star center Dillion Sneed scored 22 points and Kenichi Takahashi buried 5 of 7 3-pointers in a 21-point performance as the Big Bulls bounced back from a series-opening loss to earn a split against Sendai.
Reggie Okosa had 16 points and 11 boards for Iwate (21-9). Carlos Dixon chipped in with 15 points and five steals and Lawrence Blackledge stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
For the 89ers (11-17), T.J. Cummings and Maurice Hargrow each scored 17 points.
Sendai was unable to overcome captain Takehiko Shimura’s absence early on.
89ers coach Bob Pierce said, “Take took an elbow to the nose that kept him out for 6 minutes in the first quarter. He came back with a mask, but we never recovered.”
Jets 87, Shining Suns 83
In Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, Chiba extended its winning streak to eight games, completing a sweep over the hosts.
The Jets (16-12) are unbeaten since the calendar flipped to 2013.
Frontcourt mates Marquin Chandler and Joe Werner scored 26 and 24 points, respectively, for Chiba. Chandler drained 5 of 10 3-point attempts. Ex-Georgia Tech standout D’Andre Bell added 13 points, seven boards and five assists and point guard Kensuke Tanaka had seven points and six helpers for the victors.
Chiba secured the win at the free-throw line, where it knocked down 17 of 18 shots.
Abdullahi Kuso paced Miyazaki (4-26) with 16 points and four teammates also scored in double figures.
HeatDevils 70, Lakestars 67
In Kitsuki, Oita Prefecture, Taishiro Shimizu scored 26 points and P.J. Alawoya added 19 as the HeatDevils salvaged a series split.
Oita improved to 11-19. The fading HeatDevils are 2-15 in their last 17 games.
The Lakestars’ Dionisio Gomez had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Yutaka Yokoe scored 14. Wayne Arnold had an 11-point afternoon and Daiki Terashita finished with 10 points for Shiga (18-12).
Grouses 86, Northern Happinets 78
In Toyama, Masashi Joho’s all-around effort and energy sparked the hosts as they defeated Akita to earn a split.
Joho finished with 28 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals for the Grouses (19-11 overall, 12-6 at home).
Toyama’s Brandon Cole notched a double-double (16 points, 12 boards), as did Jeremy Jacob (14 and 12), while Angel Garcia had 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Marshall Brown paced the Northern Happinets (16-12) with 20 points and Dion Harris scored 15, while Dan Fitzgerald and Shigehiro Taguchi both had 10. Newcomer Yuki Togashi, meanwhile, had his second stellar strong outing in as many days in his debut weekend in the bj-league.
The 19-year Togashi, a point guard, finished with 13 points, nine assists and two steals and played 40 minutes for the second straight day. He averaged 14.0 points per game over the weekend with 20 assists against two turnovers and five steals.
Toyama out-rebounded Akita 52-39.
Hannaryz 78, Susanoo Magic 73
In Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, former Utah Jazz center Marcus Cousin had 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Hannaryz to a bounce-back victory over Shimane.
Yu Okada scored 15 points and sank four 3s for Kyoto (16-14), David Palmer had 12 points and four assists and Gyno Pomare contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.
Michael Parker had a team-high 25 points with nine rebounds for the Susanoo Magic (19-11), B.J. Puckett scored 12 points, Brandon Freeman had 11 and Edward Yamamoto handed out six assists.
Phoenix 91, Five Arrows 78
In Takamatsu, Jeffrey Parmer’s game-best 24 points lifted Hamamatsu Higashimikawa to a victory over the Five Arrows.
Kevin Galloway had a major impact on the game for the Phoenix (21-11) with 17 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Wendell White poured in 12 points and Shinnosuke Oishi had nine.
Hamamatsu held the hosts to 34 second-half points.
Masaaki Suzuki led Takamatsu (12-18) with 17 points and Dexter Lyons added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
B-Corsairs 86, Broncos 82
In Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, All-Star floor leader Draelon Burns scored 23 points and dished out six assists and Thomas Kennedy made 9 of 13 shots from inside the arc en route to 21 points as Yokohama beat Saitama for the second straight day.
The B-Corsairs (22-8) are tied for first place in the 11-team Eastern Conference with the idle Niigata Albirex BB, who have the same won-loss record.
Yokohama captain Masayuki Kabaya added 15 points and six assists, big man Shawn Malloy contributed 12 points, while Kenji Yamada supplied five assists and two steals for the winning cause.
John “Helicopter” Humphrey scored 37 points and canned 6 of 10 3s for the Broncos (3-25). Yuki Kitamuki and Dameion Baker each had 15 points.
“We were able to get another hard-fought win tonight,” said Yokohama sideline supervisor Reggie Geary, the 2011-12 bj-league Coach of the Year. “After a pretty good first two quarters, we had a 15-point lead midway through the third quarter, but Saitama wouldn’t go away and continued to fight hard.
“John Humphrey got hot and was pretty unstoppable in the second half for the Broncos. Kabaya, Draelon, and Thomas Kennedy came through with timeline baskets late, and Pape (Faye) Mour had the play of the night with a Tayshaun Prince-like block from behind to save the game from potentially going into overtime.
“We’re obviously happy to get the weekend sweep and to be tied for first place in Eastern Conference at this point in the season, but realize we need to player smarter going forward.”
Crane Thunders 88, Brave Warriors 77
In Saku, Nagano Prefecture, poor long-range shooting spelled trouble for Shinshu as Gunma picked up a victory in the series finale.
The Brave Warriors missed 20 of their 24 shots from beyond the arc and fell to 14-16 on the season.
Dominique Keller had 18 points and 12 rebounds and Jermaine Dixon provided 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals for Gunma (6-24). Lewis Witcher had 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, Shingo Okada scored 14 points and Kenya Tomori had 13 points and six assists in one of the first-year club’s best efforts of the season.
For Shinshu, Jermaine Green led the way with 19 points, Edward Morris scored 15, Yosuke Saito had 12 and Takanori Goya 10. Newcomer Michael Fey, a former UCLA center, added eight points and 16 boards for the Nagano squad.
After the game, Gunma coach Ryan Blackwell said, “We played well on both ends. Our rotations on defense were as good as they’ve been all year. Our Japanese players really stepped up and played with a lot of energy. Jermaine scored all of his 17 points in the first half and he did a great job facilitating and getting his teammates more involved on offense in the second half. Dominique made some big plays for us offensively in the second half and rebounded well for us. Lewis Witcher was also very solid all-around. Hopefully, as always we hope we can be consistent next weekend.”
In the paint: Cartwright was inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, though he was half a world away leading the Evessa against the Golden Kings. The inaugural five-member class also included Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the longtime NBA guard, MLB player-turned skipper Dusty Baker, boxer Tony “The Tiger” Lopez and Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders. Festivities were held at Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, California. . . . Flashback to Saturday’s Takamatsu-Hamamatsu overtime game: The Five Arrows’ 81-80 victory saw Dexter Lyons pace the hosts with 20 points. Robert Johnson and Hiroyuki Kikuchi added 15 and 14 points, respectively. Wendell White was Hamamatsu’s high scorer with 19 points and Jeffrey Parmer had 14 points and 14 rebounds.