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Jets soar in win over Lakestars

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Chiba Jets delivered a vivid definition of their team nickname on Sunday afternoon in the second half of their series finale against the visiting Shiga Lakestars.

Their offense was, well, a sonic boom in a runaway 95-76 triumph at Funabashi Arena before a rowdy crowd of 2,835 spectators.

The Jets (20-18) scored 29 points in both the third and fourth quarters against the short-handed Lakestars, winning the scoring battle in the second half by a margin of 21 points. No complicated code was needed to decipher what they accomplished; simply put, the Jets made their shots with remarkable accuracy, dropping 22 of 33 through the basket after halftime.

As a result, Chiba had six double-digit scorers: Hiroki Sato, Marquis Gray and Joe Werner (16 points apiece, and a sensational crowd-pleasing alley-oop jam by Gray, courtesy of D’Andre Bell), Reina Itakura (14 points), Bell (12) and Marquin Chandler (10).

Against a Shiga defense missing Shinya Ogawa (out for the season with a knee injury) and all-around star Ray Nixon (foot), the Jets found their offensive rhythm and used an effective share-the-ball strategy to shoot 58.7 percent (28-for-57) from inside the 3-point arc and 44.4 percent (8-for-19) from long range. Kensuke Tanaka dished out a team-high eight assists and the Jets had 24 overall assists against 14 turnovers.

Bell called it a “great team effort.”

“It’s great to come out and be able to get the win,” declared Bell.

Sato had a brilliant third quarter as the Jets offense took off. The veteran spark plug sank all five of his shots in the quarter, including a 3-pointer and made a free throw for good measure. His team was equally electrifying in the momentum-changing 10 minutes. The Jets were 12-for-17 from the field in the third, and Werner also had a perfect quarter as a shooter, going 3-for-3.

“Every single shot he took, those are the shots he makes in practice,” Bell said of Sato. “He’s very capable of doing what he did tonight. Earlier in the season, he had a couple 18- or 20-point games, and they’re all mid-range shots. That’s what he does.”

After the game, Sato offered his perspective on the team’s effort, saying, “It came down to executing team offense and team defense. That was really the underlying factor in the win.”

Trailing 39-37 at halftime, Chiba tied it at 39-39 on a Werner layup off a Tanaka feed, and the offense clicked from that moment on. In fact, it was the start of a 16-4 run to start the half that put the Jets ahead 53-43. And they led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Sato, a longtime Oita HeatDevils guard, was one of five players in the game who’ve suited up for bj-league teams since its inception in 2005 (teammate Tomoya “Chomo” Nakamura, an Osaka Evessa forward that first year; and Shiga’s Daiki Terashita, Jumpei Nakama and Takamichi Fujiwara, who were members of the Niigata Albirex BB, Tokyo Apache and Albirex, respectively, that season).

The Jets, who dropped the series opener 77-76, shift their focus to face the Ryukyu Golden Kings next weekend. The series finale win over Shiga gave the Jets positive momentum as they await their next opponent, said Bell.

Sato agreed. “Today’s win gives us a boost, definitely,” he said.

“Okinawa’s a very strong team, we look forward to playing them,” Bell added.

“This past series of games was kind of bittersweet in that their team’s players have been hurt,” he went on, “so it’s kind of hard to judge where we’re at with their style of play. . . . But we feel good about that accomplishment.

“We played very well and made a lot of shots today, played solid defensively and we’re just continuing to grow.”

Compounding the Lakestars’ injury problems, post player Shelton Colwell hobbled off the court in the second half with an ankle injury, leaving only Dionisio Gomez (21 points, 12 rebounds, three steals) and Wayne Arnold (16 points, 4-for-6 on 3s, four steals) as the team’s lone imports.

Chiba took a 66-53 lead into the fourth quarter and controlled the tempo the rest of the way.

Jets coach Shinji Tomiyama praised his players for their energy on defense. He said they gave the same effort in the game that he expects from them in practice.

“We were disappointed to lose . . . but Chiba’s a good team,” Shiga coach Al Westover said, citing injuries as a factor his team confronted. “We were just outmanned today in the second half.

“But I was happy. I thought my team fought hard and tried hard, and as a coach that’s all I can ask for.”

Said Gomez: “I think the energy was there and we were playing well . . . until we went down to two imports. We’ve been dealing with injuries lately and that’s just part of the game. We did a great job, even under the circumstances. . . . I think Chiba came out and played a great game. Give (credit) to them.”

The Lakestars now have a bye week, then return to the court against the visiting Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix on March 23-24.

Regarding the break, “it definitely gives us rest time and also time to work on some things basketball-wise to get better for what’s coming next. The playoffs are near, and we’ve just got to keep getting better,” Gomez said.

Golden Kings 99, Big Bulls 67

In Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, Ryukyu stormed back from a series-opening loss against ex-coach Dai Oketani, and Dillion Sneed missed all 17 of his free-throw attempts — an epic disaster — for the hosts.

Anthony McHenry led the charge for the Golden Kings (29-9), contributing 27 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. The playoff MVP for the title-winning Kings last season, McHenry made 10 of 14 shots from the field, including 3 of 4 3-pointers.

In Saturday’s impressive comeback win, Iwate outscored Ryukyu 30-11 in the fourth quarter. A day later, the Golden Kings put 57 points on the board in the second half and held the Big Bulls to 30.

Narito Namizato scored 18 points and handed out 12 assists for Ryukyu. Morihisa Yamauchi had 12 points and Dzaflo Larkai and Jeff Newton scored 10 apiece. Naoto Kosuge added eight points for the deep, versatile squad.

Carlos Dixon, a former Golden King, paced Iwate (26-14) with 17 points, Sneed scored 16 and hauled in 10 boards. Reggie Okosa chipped in with 10 points and 17 rebounds.

In the past four games, Sneed has missed 40 of 50 shots from the foul line. For the season, he’s 105-for-282 (37.2 percent) while averaging 16.7 points per game.

Evessa 98, Rizing 95 (OT)

In Fukuoka, Osaka overcame a 16-point deficit (65-49) entering the fourth quarter, rallied to force overtime and defeated the Rizing for the second time in less than 24 hours.

The Evessa rang up 34 fourth-quarter points, the Rizing had 18 and the fans were treated to a bonus period as a result.

When it was over, Osaka had earned its eighth win in 14 games since ex-Chicago Bulls coach Bill Cartwright was named the team’s new bench boss on Jan. 20, just days after the All-Star Game. The Evessa won on Saturday in double OT.

Dwayne Lathan scored a team-best 24 points, Nathan Walkup had 19, Mike Bell notched a double-double (16 points, 10 boards), Rick Rickert followed suit with 14 points and 12 rebounds and Shota Konno scored 11 points. Shun Watanuki had eight points, five assists and three steals for the Evessa (13-25).

Reggie Warren had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Rizing (26-14) and Julius Ashby finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Masahiro Kano scored 16 points, Akitomo Takeno netted 13 and Josh Peppers 12.

Cinq Reves 96, Phoenix 92 (2OT)

In Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, Ricky Woods scored 41 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Jonathan Jones had 24 points and 15 boards as Tokyo outlasted Hamamatsu Higashimikawa in double overtime and earned a series split.

Cohey Aoki scored 14 points, Akihito Inoue put eight points on the board for the expansion Cinq Reves (14-24) and University of Kentucky product Jared Carter raked in 14 rebounds and blocked four shots.

Kevin Galloway, coming off a triple-double effort in the opener, finished with 20 points, 12 boards, five assists and four blocks for the Phoenix (24-16), who played the series without injured star and ex-MVP Wendell White (foot). Shoji Nakanishi poured in 18 points and Atsuya Ota had 17 points and 12 rebounds for new coach Tomoya Higashino’s club. Masahiro Oguchi and Elbert Fuqua each had 12 points in the loss.

Susanoo Magic 81, Brave Warriors 73

In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Brandon Freeman led the hosts with 21 points as they beat Shinshu for the second time is as many days.

Jeral Davis added 18 points on 9-for-14 shooting (and three slam dunks) with seven boards and two blocks, and team energizer Michael Parker finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in 40 minutes. Shimane improved to 28-12. Edward Yamamoto added 12 points and four assists and Tatsuhiro Yokoo scored eight points.

For the Brave Warriors (16-24), Michael Fey had team-high totals in points (22) and rebounds (12). Jermaine Green had 17 points and Edward Morris scored 14.

Hannaryz 77, Albirex BB 63

In Ise, Mie Prefecture, Kyoto took extra special care of the basketball — like carrying a baby in one hand and a dozen eggs in the other on a slippery road — and bounced back from a Saturday defeat against Niigata.

Marcus Cousin was the Hannaryz’s top scorer with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Kyoto (20-18) turned the ball over only six times. Gyno Pomare had 14 points, three steals and two blocks, David Palmer scored 11 and Masaharu Kataoka had a 10-point afternoon.

The Albirex (28-12) made 17 turnovers.

Chris Holm had a 23-point, 15-rebound effort in the loss. Rodney Webb scored 11 points and Taj Finger had 10 for Niigata.

Broncos 99, Northern Happinets 98

In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Broncos coach Tracy Williams’ club completed a series sweep, winning for the sixth time in eight games by escaping with a narrow victory over Akita.

John “Helicopter” Humphrey paved the way with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Saitama (10-28) and Wayne Oliver scored 22 points. Yuki Kitamuki pumped in 21 points, Takuma Yamashiro had 13 and Nyika Williams and Yuki Nobuhira each had 10.

Shigehiro Taguchi drained 8 of 12 3s in a 30-point outing for the Happinets (20-18), Marshall Brown scored 20 and Yuki Togashi had 19.

Shining Suns 76, Crane Thunders 65

In Miyakonojo, Miyazaki Prefecture, the Shining Suns picked up consecutive wins for the first time all season, and Gunma, a first-year franchise, fell to 9-31.

Miyazaki has the league’s worst record (7-33).

The Crane Thunders trailed 50-32 at the half.

“Miyazaki wanted the games more than we did,” Gunma coach Ryan Blackwell told The Japan Times on Sunday night. “We were down 18 at halftime today and cut it to one several times but couldn’t get over the hump. They shot the ball well both games. We were terrible from 3-point range today.”