YOKOHAMA – Verdell Jones III scored a game-high 21 points as the struggling Oita HeatDevils scored a surprise 73-67 victory over the powerhouse Yokohama B-Corsairs at Yokohama International Pool on Sunday afternoon.
Taishiro Shimizu added 17 points for Oita, which improved to 13-27 with the win.
Yokohama fell to 26-12 on the season with the loss and is one game behind Eastern-Conference leading Niigata (28-12) with 14 games remaining in the regular season.
The B-Corsairs, who were swept last weekend by the defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings in Okinawa, posted an 80-62 win in the opening game of the series on Saturday night behind Thomas Kennedy’s 32 points and 11 rebounds.
Yokohama, which had a nine-game winning streak earlier this season, was seeking its 10th sweep of the campaign. They played without star Draelon Burns, who missed both games of the series due to a bruised right leg.
Kennedy was saddled with foul trouble for much of the game on Sunday and was not a factor. He played just 16 minutes and scored five points in the defeat.
“It was an all-around rough one for us,” said Kennedy. “We made some mistakes and it cost us.”
Poor free throw shooting, untimely turnovers and a lack of firepower did the B-Corsairs in on this day. They shot just 10-23 at the charity stripe in the loss.
Seiji Kouno and Shawn Molloy had 13 points apiece for Yokohama in the setback.
It was a gutty performance by the HeatDevils, who have been beset with financial and roster problems this season.
“The players showed great pride today after losing last night,” said HeatDevils coach Yukinori Suzuki. “We had strong inside play today for 40 minutes. With Kennedy in foul trouble, we were able to double team a lot.”
“It was a great team effort,” stated Jones. “Getting Kennedy in foul trouble made the difference. We were able to create the tempo and pound it inside to our bigs.”
It looked good for the B-Corsairs at the outset, as they jumped out to an 11-2 lead just four minutes into the contest, but could not contain the momentum.
Jones completed a rare 4-point play with 4:18 left in the first quarter after being fouled as he hit a jumper from downtown.
Yokohama led by just one point, 33-32, at halftime. It could have had a larger margin at the break, but shot just 5-14 from the free-throw line in the first half.
Faye Pape Mour opened the second half with a traditional 3-pointer for the home team, driving the lane for a sweet shot off the glass and then making the free throw to put the B-Corsairs up 36-32.
Oita pulled ahead for the first time, 39-38, on a putback by Thomas Granado with 5:40 left in the third quarter.
A goaltending call on Molloy and a jumper by Manabu Umemiya put the HeatDevils up 46-39 with 2:51 left in the third.
Two straight baskets by Kouno pulled Yokohama even at 48-48 as the third quarter ended.
The lead changed hands several times in the fourth quarter, with Oita going ahead 65-61 on a 3-pointer by Jones with 3:07 left.
Pape Mour’s driving layup cut the deficit to 67-63 with 1:15 to go, but Kennedy could only make one of two from the line after being fouled with 47 seconds left, and Shimizu then put the game away with a layup for the HeatDevils.
“It’s a bad loss. There is no other way to look at it,” said B-Corsairs coach Reggie Geary. “Poor free-throw shooting and foul trouble contributed to it.”
Geary praised the play of his bench, but said his team “didn’t do enough to win.”
Yokohama is hoping to have Burns back for its home series against Hamamatsu on March 19-20.
Oita, one of the bj-league’s original six teams, nearly folded due to financial problems earlier in the season. They dressed just nine players for Sunday’s game.