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Hot-shooting Kitamuki torches 89ers, leads Broncos to rare sweep

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Saitama Broncos guard Yuki Kitamuki drained 8 of 12 3-pointers en route to a game-best 30 points and dished out nine assists in an 89-84 victory over the Sendai 89ers on Friday, and Saitama completed a two-game sweep.

John “Helicopter” Humphrey had 18 points despite shooting 0-for-8 from 3-point land and eight assists. Wayne Oliver delivered an 11-point effort off the bench. Masahide Haraguchi and Yuki Nobuhira each scored eight points, and Saitama extended its winning streak to three, giving coach Tracy Williams’ squad its best stretch of a disappointing season.

The Broncos improved to 7-27 overall, 3-15 on the road.

Saitama registered 24 assists and turned the ball over only six times.

Sendai led 40-39 at the half.

The 89ers yielded 50 second-half points and fell to 13-21 on the season, including 5-11 at home.

Sam Willard paced Sendai with 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. T.J. Cummings had 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Takehiko Shimura scored 13 points and made 10 assists and Atsushi Nogami also scored 13 points, while Maurice Hargrow had 10.
“We missed key free throws down the stretch in a game that could have been won,” Sendai coach Bob Pierce said. “The one bright spot is that Spike (Nogami) had another another outstanding effort filling in for Taku (Takuya Komoada), and that will be a big plus over the remaining games.”

On Thursday, the Broncos topped the 89ers 97-87.

Humphrey paced the out-of-towners with 30 points and drained 4 of 9 3s, adding seven rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block in 37 pulsating minutes. Oliver and Nobuhira each had 16 points for Saitama and Nyika Williams scored 11. Yuki Kitamuki finished with nine points and seven assists.

Saitama made 14 steals.

For Sendai, Cummings was the leading scorer with 26 points, Hargrow had 21 and Shimura contributed 14 points and eight assists.

All-Star forward Takuya Komoda went down with an ankle injury 2 minutes into the second quarter and never returned. He also missed the series finale.

Komoda “already had six points and four rebounds, things we can’t replace when he’s out. Doubtful for tonight,” Pierce said Friday afternoon.

Tyler update: The Thursday trade that sent former Tokyo Apache post player Jeremy Tyler to the Atlanta Hawks was a salary-dumping move. It sends the 21-year-old from the Western Conference’s sixth-place team to the Eastern Conference’s sixth-place squad.

Tyler’s immediate future with the Hawks (29-23) is uncertain.
Will he receive decent playing time from Atlanta coach Larry Drew after getting limited minutes with the Warriors?

“The Warriors have made very nice progress with their entire organization this season,” Bob Hill, Tyler’s former Tokyo coach, told The Japan Times on Friday. “It appears they have a definite plan and Jeremy wasn’t a part of it. We will have to see if Atlanta has plans for him or they will let him go to create cap space.

“Jeremy needs a coaching staff that’s dedicated to his development and makes him accountable for his play,” the former NBA bench boss added. “Only time will tell now. I wish him luck.”

Other moves: The Phoenix Suns released rookie big man Luke Zeller on Thursday after acquiring power forward Marcus Morris and center Hamed Haddadi from Houston and Toronto, respectively. Zeller, a former Shiga Lakestars player, averaged 3.6 minutes and 1.2 points in 16 games for the Suns.