Suddenly, the Saitama Broncos are one of the hottest clubs in the 21-team bj-league.
The Broncos rattled off their fourth straight victory on Saturday, beating the host Osaka Evessa 98-83.
Saitama raised its record to 8-27, and during its current streak has doubled its victory total for the entire season under first-year coach Tracy Williams.
John “Helicopter” Humphrey, a star for the now-defunct Tokyo Apache during former bench boss Joe Bryant’s time in charge (2005-09), scored a game-high 38 points for the Broncos. He was 3-for-11 on 3-point shots, but converted 13 of 22 3-pointers and went 3-for-3 at the free-throw line, with five rebounds, three assists, one steal and a block. Teammate Nyika Williams had a big game, finishing with 22 points, 22 rebounds and five assists.
“Tonight we just came out and played hard,” Humphrey told The Japan Times after the game. “We finally got the team together, learning each other and playing for each other. It’s what coach (has) been trying to get us to do. We just want to play hard for 40 minutes, and let the scoreboard take care of itself.”
Takuma Yamashiro and Yuki Kitamuki each had 13 points for Saitama, which out-rebounded the hosts 49-46.
The Broncos led 47-44 at halftime, and put 51 points on the board in the second half to secure the win.
“Thank you, Jesus, for another win; thank God for a good win for the Broncos,” were Broncos coach Tracy Williams’ opening remarks in the post-game news conference. “Good win for our organization. Came in here and got a win over a good Osaka team.
“Our team is growing every day, every game you are seeing us just grow before your eyes, getting better and better, starting to really believe in ourselves, so a good, excellent win for our team. “But we’ve got another game tomorrow, and Osaka’s going to come out and play hard. So we are going to have to come and not only match their effort, we are going to have to play beyond it.
“We definitely got our work cut out for us tomorrow.”
After the game, Osaka coach Bill Cartwright expressed disappointment in his team’s effort.
“Whenever we play teams that challenge us one-on-one to guard so far this season, we have not done well,” Cartwright said. “This team tonight is a scoring team, but what happened is we got caught in their tempo,which is not what we want; we want our tempo. So consequently we gave up (too many) points, which can never happen.
“We still had numerous opportunities offensively to score. I can not count how many layups we missed tonight, but there were a lot.
“Giving up 18 offensive rebounds is not good, either, so simply we are going to have to do a better job defensively and guard Humphrey. He did not hurt us from the 3-point line, he hurt us from the 2-point line and the free-throw line, so we are going to have to be able to guard him, and their center (Williams) probably had a career high against ours so it’s not tricky. We simply have to play better defensively.”
Osaka fell to 10-25 overall, 5-6 since Cartwright, the former NBA big man and Chicago Bulls bench boss, took over as coach in late January.
Shun Watanuki paced the Evessa with 18 points and five assists, Rick Rickert had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Mike Bell and Nathan Walkup both scored 12 points.
Golden Kings 77, B-Corsairs 62
In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Anthony McHenry was the catalyst for Ryukyu in a game featuring the first-place clubs in their respective conferences.
McHenry finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocks in an inspiring performance for the reining champions, who improved to 16-3 at home.
Dzaflo Larkai was 7-for-8 from the field in an 18-point effort for the Golden Kings (27-8), Shigeyuki Kinjo had his best all-around game in recent memory (12 points and four steals in 15 minutes), Naoto Kosuge scored 11 and Terrance Woodbury and Narito Namizato each had nine.
Star sixth man Draelon Burns was sidelined with an upper leg contusion for the B-Corsairs (25-10). Thomas Kennedy led Yokohama with 25 points and Masayuki Kabaya scored 19. Pape Faye Mour had 13 rebounds and Shawn Malloy grabbed 11 boards in the loss.
“The guys played with a lot of energy and heart, but didn’t make enough plays throughout the game on either end,” Yokohama coach Reggie Geary said after the game. “Kabaya and Thomas really competed well and did their best to carry the load, but giving up 25 offensive rebounds and committing 17 turnovers as a team was too much to overcome.
“Anthony McHenry was the true difference maker tonight, coming up with timely points and rebounds.”
He added: “Overall Okinawa showed a good quality of play and will be another good challenge tomorrow for our ball club.”
Susanoo Magic 69, Northern Happinets 67
In Noshiro, Akita Prefecture, Shimane edged the hosts to pick up their seventh consecutive victory.
Brandon Freeman scored 19 points, Michael Parker added 12 and Jeral Davis had 11. Parker blocked three shots and Davis swatted two as the Susanoo Magic improved to 26-11. Parker also made four steals and collected nine rebounds in 40 productive minutes. Edward Yamamoto had an eight-point night.
Marshall Brown led Akita (19-16) with 19 points and Mike Anderson had 15, while Shigehiro Taguchi scored nine.
Lakestars 88, Brave Warriors 67
In Okaya, Nagano Prefecture, Dionisio Gomez’s double-double and 17 points apiece from Ray Nixon and Shelton Colwell carried Shiga past Shinshu.
Gomez had a game-high 20 points and 16 rebounds and Yutaka Yokoe added 10 points and five assists for the Lakestars (23-14).
Takanori Goya was the high scorer for the Warriors (16-21) with 17 points. Teammate Edward Morris scored 16.
Cinq Reves 91, Jets 78
In Tokyo, Jonathan Jones scored 29 points, raked in 13 rebounds and the hosts trounced Chiba.
Ricky Woods scored 18 points with 11 rebounds, Cohey Aoki poured in 13 points and Jared Carter had 11 points and 10 boards for Tokyo (13-22).
The expanson Cinq Reves led 42-40 at halftime.
Tokyo had 58 rebounds and held the visitors to 36.
Marquin Chandler scored 27 points for Chiba (18-17) and Joe Werner had 17. Kensuke Tanaka dished out nine assists with zero turnovers.
HeatDevils 86, Albirex BB 78
In Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Taishiro Shimizu canned 6 of 8 3s in a 28-point, eight-assist performance to lead the HeatDevils past Niigata.
Verdell Jones III added 26 points, including 11-for-11 at the foul line, for Oita (12-25).
Yuichi Ikeda scored 22 points, Kimitake Sato had 16 and Chris Holm contributed 11 points and 20 rebounds for the Albirex (26-11)
Big Bulls 92, Five Arrows 89 (OT)
In Takamatsu, Carlos Dixon scored 40 points in his dramatic return to the lineup after a four-game suspension for “unsportsmanlike conduct” against the Chiba Jets, when he untied a nonshooting player’s shoe lace before a free throw, and Iwate edged the pesky Five Arrows.
Dixon sank 3 of 5 3s, made 11 of 15 2-point shots and drained 9 of 11 free throws in a spirited performance off the bench. Iwate improved to 25-12.
Teammate Dillion Sneed pumped in 22 points, but missed 13 of 17 free throws. Sneed had 15 rebounds and two blocks. Iwate’s Reggie Okosa scored 17 points.
For Takamatsu (14-23), Dexter Lyons was the top scorer with 30 points, Paul Williams had 15 points and 18 boards and Masaaki Suzuki scored 12 points.
Both teams were awful at the charity stripe, combining to shoot 29-for-60.
Rizing 88, Crane Thunders 80
In Ota, Gunma Prefecture, macho forward Reggie Warren’s 21-point, 13-rebound effort and Jun Nakanishi’s 20-point night lifted Fukuoka to a rock-solid road victory.
Josh Peppers provided 17 points and rebounds and Julius Ashby scored 13 points. Akitomo Takeno supplied five assists for the Rizing (25-12).
Jermaine Dixon had 19 points for Gunma (9-28).
Grouses 78, Shining Suns 56
In Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture, Angel Garcia scored a game-best 28 points and Toyama dominated on the boards in a lopsided win over the league’s worst team.
The Grouses, who had 56 rebounds, held the Suns to 37 boards. Toyama had an 18-8 edge on the offensive glass.
Ira Brown scored 13 points and Masashi Joho had 11 for Toyama (24-13), and Takeshi Mito handed out seven assists.
Abdullahi Kuso led Miyazaki (5-32) with 15 rebounds.
In the paint: The discussion of current bj-league players’ future was briefly bandied about on Saturday afternoon. This reporter asked a well-connected hoop pundit his thoughts on who among the league’s current Japanese players appeared to have future head coaching aspirations.
The source responded with these comments: “(Iwate guard) Haruyuki Ishibashi, (Akita forward Kazuhiro) Shoji, Yokohama (guard Taketo) Aoki, and (Ryukyu guard) Tsubasa Yonamine come to mind.”
Money issues: Friday’s notebook reported that the Miyazaki Shining Suns have not given former guard Larriques “Rico” Cunningham his prize money for winning the Slam Dunk Contest at the All-Star Game in January at Ariake Colosseum. A Kyushu-based source, however, said late Friday night that the team hasn’t taken the money from Cunningham.
“In truth, the bj-league has not issued the ¥100,000 prize money to Rico yet. Why they need more than six weeks to accomplish that is another story, I imagine, but as of today, they have not issued the prize money,” the source said. Stay tuned…
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