YOKOSUKA, KANAGAWA PREF. – In front of his hometown crowd, captain Masayuki Kabaya didn’t celebrate a bounce-back victory on Sunday in the Yokohama B-Corsairs’ series finale against the Rizing Fukuoka.
Yokohama had an opportunity to win the game on its final possession, but guard Draelon Burns’ last-possession, top-of-the-key jumper and Shawn Malloy’s tip-in attempt didn’t produce the intended result as the Rizing escaped with a 67-66 victory and completed a two-game sweep over the B-Corsairs.
“I had a good look,” Burns said. “I just didn’t make it.”
The B-Corsairs (30-14) remain tied with the Niigata Albirex, who were swept by the host Gunma Crane Thunders over the weekend, for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Rizing (30-16), who triumphed 106-97 in overtime on Saturday, have the second-best record in the Western Conference, the same record as the Shimane Susanoo Magic.
After the hard-fought win, Fukuoka veteran center Julius Ashby, who had eight points and eight rebounds, said his team’s primary objective has been to improve its defense in the season’s stretch run before the playoffs.
“We’ve been focusing on defense, because we are one of the better scoring teams in the league,” said Ashby, who had six fourth-quarter points, including two free throws to put Fukuoka ahead 67-64 with 55.7 seconds remaining.
“We feel like we can score with any team in the league, but right now we need to figure out how to stop certain people or limit certain people or just do whatever the game plan is to give ourselves a chance to win.”
“This weekend,” he added, “was the perfect example of how we can perform on defense, and even on the road we are going to win.”
The Rizing are now 17-7 in away games. They held Yokohama to 3-for-25 shooting on 3-pointers, a major component of the B-Corsairs’ up-tempo offense.
Ashby credited his teammates for producing a big stop on Yokohama’s final possession to secure the win.
“There was no way we could stop him (Burns) from getting the ball, so we just had to play straight up,” Ashby said. “And our Japanese guys did a great job on him all weekend.”
Macho forward Reggie Warren led Fukuoka with 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Josh Peppers scored 14 points and Masahiro Kano added 12, the latter having the hot hand in the third quarter (10 points, sinking all four shots he attempted in the 10-minute period).
Burns scored a game-high 24 points on 7-for-20 shooting from the field. He was 8-for-8 at the line, and had 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Shawn Malloy and Faye Pape Mour added nine and eight points, respectively. Kenji Yamada scored seven points and Thomas Kennedy and Kabaya each had six. Kennedy didn’t play in the second half due to back pain sustained in the opening half.
After Ashby’s aforementioned free throws put the Rizing ahead by three points in the final minute, Kabaya nailed a jumper to pull Yokohama within 67-66, with nearly 35 seconds left on the game clock, on its next trip down the floor. Ashby then missed a baseline shot, and Yokohama had the ball in All-Star guard Burns’ hands to create a scoring opportunity on the final possession.
When the game was over, B-Corsairs coach Reggie Geary spoke candidly about missed opportunities that were a factor in his team’s loss.
Asked by a reporter why his team shot so poorly on 3s, a day after making only 6 of 24, Geary responded by saying, “If I knew that, I’d sell it. Guys had good looks, they just didn’t go in. One things I’ll say about our guys, they are very professional. They come in and get their shots in every day. They put a lot of hours into it . . . but (the shots) just didn’t fall in tonight. Sometimes it happens.”
Fukuoka led 19-14 after the opening quarter. Yokohama put 20 points on the board in the second stanza to take a 34-31 advantage into the Yokosuka Arena locker room at halftime.
Making good passes, setting good screens and spacing the floor sensibly, while running their offense efficiently, the B-Corsairs used a 13-3 spurt to open the third quarter capped by a Faye layup to take a 44-37 lead.
Fukuoka stormed back. Warren powered his way inside for a layup and earned a shot at a three-point play, but missed the free throw with 3:49 left in the quarter. But Peppers leaped to grab the offensive board and give his team and extra scoring chance. That led to a Jun Nakanishi 3-pointer that cut it to five. Nakanishi finished with seven points and played a gutsy attack-the-rim game.
Geary called a timeout to urge his players to do a better job rebounding. He later called it a “teachable moment.”
As Kano heated up in the third quarter, his teammates finding him open on the perimeter, the Rizing took momentum away from the B-Corsairs. Two quick 3s by Kano in a short span, sandwiched around an Akitomo Takeno free throw, put the visitors in front 51-49.
Malloy tied it at 51-51 with 28.5 seconds left in the third quarter. And that score remained unchanged the rest of the quarter.
Kennedy, averaging 18.5 points per game (No. 2 on the B-Corsairs) was missed in the second half, but Geary’s squad worked to overcome his absence.
“He wanted to give it a go, but we wanted to just settle him down and think the long term here,” Geary said of Kennedy. “In terms of the nature of the game, we had to make some adjustments but nothing that I was uncomfortable with. . . . I gave some opportunities for some other guys to step up, and when thinks like that happen, we just readjust and keep going.”
Both Geary and his coaching counterpart, Fukuoka’s Atsushi Kanazawa, praised the quality of their foe after the series finale. Kanazawa said it was a strong playoff-like test for his team and he was especially pleased with the way his team played defense.
Evessa 91, Shining Suns 69
In Miyazaki, Osaka coach Bill Cartwright’s reclamation project has produced impressive results: nine straight victories and 14 wins in 20 games since he took over as bench boss on Jan. 21.
Balanced scoring lifted the Evessa (19-25) to another lopsided win in the series finale.
Osaka big man Rick Rickert had 15 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Shun Watanuki and Nathan Walkup both scored 14 points apiece, Shota Konno poured in 13, Dwayne Lathan added 12 points and four assists and Mike Bell had eight points, nine boards and three steals.
The Evessa clobbered the Shining Suns 94-62 on Saturday.
After the game, Cartwright, a former Chicago Bulls head coach (2001-03), said good defense was the key to victory for his team.
“Especially, we were able to put pressure on their imports,” Cartwright told reporters. “Same as last night, we scouted them well and we were prepared so those (factors) led us to a win.”
Miyazaki trailed 50-27 at halftime on Sunday.
Abdullahi Kuso paced the Shining Suns with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Yuta Kojima scored 11 and Thomas Fairley had 10 points and 10 boards.
Miyazaki (9-37) was held to 25-for-79 shooting in the loss.
Crane Thunders 88, Albirex BB 80
In Tomioka, Gunma Prefecture, Jermaine Dixon had 33 points for the second straight day and the hosts completed an impressive weekend sweep over Niigata.
The expansion Crane Thunders improved to 12-32.
Dominique Keller scored 15 points, Lewis Witcher had 12 and Shingo Okada and Randy Orr eight apiece. Kenya Tomori had a six-point game and collected three steals. Okada had two steals.
Gunma coach Ryan Blackwell, who was handed his first-ever ejection, is excited about his team’s improved play.
It was, Blackwell said, “a great weekend for us.”
“It’s not easy to beat anybody twice in a series in this league, especially one as good as Niigata,” he said. “We’re playing our best basketball now and hopefully we can continue to play well the rest of the way.”
Kimitake Sato drained 5 of 10 3s and scored 25 points for Niigata. Chris Holm added 22 points and 17 rebounds and Nile Murry scored 20.
Golden Kings 90, Susanoo Magic 76
In Okinawa City, the reigning champions picked up their 21st victory in 24 home games to complete a series sweep over Shimane.
Anthony McHenry had a game-best 25 points for Ryukyu (35-9) with nine rebounds and four assists. Dzaflo Larkai scored 23 points and Terrance Woodbury went 11-for-11 at the charity stripe in a 22-point effort. Rookie guard Ryuichi Kishimoto, a 22-year-old playing his 13th game in a Golden Kings uniform, scored a season-high nine points. Two-time All-Star guard Narito Namizato struggled with his shot (1-for-14 from the field, two points), but managed to hand out eight assists and grab six rebounds.
For the Susanoo Magic (30-16), B.J. Puckett had 19 points, Tatsuhiro Yokoo scored 16, Michael Parker had 15 and Kazuya Hatano 12.
89ers 94, Northern Happinets 71
In Sendai, the 89ers destroyed the visitors in the rebounding department for the second time in as many days en route to a series sweep.
Sendai (18-26) moved within four games of sixth-place Akita, which sits in the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot through Sunday.
The 89ers hauled in 60 rebounds in the series finale — Sam Willard had a game-high 20 — and held the guests to 40. For the series, Sendai had 60 more rebounds than Akita. (The Saturday rebounding edge was 76-36 for the 89ers.)
T.J. Cummings scored a team-high 26 points for the hosts, Maurice Hargrow had 14, Sam Coleman poured in 10 and floor leader Takehiko Shimura contributed 10 points and 12 assists.
Shimura finished with 23 assists and three turnovers over the weekend. He now has 271 assists and 51 turnovers this season.
Akita (22-22) trailed 32-15 after one quarter at Xebio Arena before a festive crowd of 3,405 spectators.
Yuki Togashi had 19 points on 7-for-20 shooting and eight assists for the Happinets and ex-Michigan Wolverine Dion Harris scored 17.
Five Arrows 92, Brave Warriors 85
In Nagano, Dexter Lyons had 30 points and nine rebounds and Paul Williams finished with 20 and 10 as Takamatsu topped Shinshu for the second straight day.
Daisuke Tamura and Masaaki Suzuki both had 12 points for the Five Arrows (18-28) and Robert Johnson chipped in with six points, four rebounds and two blocks.
Michael Fey paced the Brave Warriors (16-30) with 25 points and 16 rebounds and Edward Morris had 19 points. Takato Saito added 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists
Hannaryz 80, Jets 73
In Kyoto, former Utah Jazz center Marcus Cousin notched his fifth straight double-double (25 points, 12 rebounds) to lead the Hannaryz to a series split against Chiba.
David Palmer chipped in with 18 points and nine boards for Kyoto (24-20), Yu Okada provided nine points and Gyno Pomare eight.
The Hannaryz sealed the victory at the free-throw line, making 25 of 32 shots when the game clock was stopped.
Marquise Gray led Chiba (23-21) with 19 points and 16 rebounds, Marquin Chandler scored 16 points and D’Andre Bell also had 16.
Grouses 62, Lakestars 60
In Toyama, key contributions from several players guided the hosts to a narrow victory over Shiga.
Ira Brown (16 points, seven rebounds), Takeshi Mito (11 points, three steals) and Angel Garcia (10 points, 13 boards) had notable performances and Brandon Cole, Jeremy Jacob and Tatsunori Fujie all had six points for the Grouses (29-15).
It was a tough outing for Toyama All-Star guard Masashi Joho, who was 1-for-8 from the field and 0-for-2 at the line in a two-point afternoon with six turnovers, but contributed six assists and five rebounds.
The Lakestars missed 16 of 19 shots from beyond the arc in their second loss in as many days.
Shelton Colwell had 18 points for Shiga (26-18), and Dionisio Gomez scored 14 points and hauled in 13 rebounds. The two frontcourt players also combined for 13 of the Lakestars’ 17 turnovers.
Guard Wayne Arnold added 12 points for Shiga.
Big Bulls 89, Cinq Reves 83 (OT)
In Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture, despite Ricky Woods’ 37-point, 18-rebound, seven-assist outing, Tokyo found itself on the losing side of the scoreboard.
Dillion Sneed and Carlos Dixon each had 24 points for Iwate (28-16), the latter also pulling down 15 rebounds.
Sneed made 11 of 14 shots from the field, but was 2-for-11 at the line. Masato Tsukino contributed 16 points and three steals for the hosts. Reggie Okosa had 14 points, 10 boards and five assists.
Jonathan Jones scored 23 points for Tokyo (15-29) and Hirohisa Takada scored 10. The first-year franchise was 4-for-18 on 3s, and Cohey Aoki, who’s averaging 14.1 points per game, was held to nine points over the weekend. Aoki was 3-for-16 in the two games in 75 minutes.
HeatDevils 100, Broncos 98 (OT)
In Saitama, Manabu Umemiya scored 23 points a day after torching the Broncos for a season-high 28, and Taishiro Shimizu added 19 points and eight assists as Oita beat the hosts in overtime.
Verdell Jones III added 14 points and nine assists and P.J. Alawoya had 21 points and 13 rebounds for the HeatDevils (18-28).
John “Helicopter” Humphrey scored 41 points for Saitama (11-33). He was 7-for-21 on 3s, 5-for-12 on 2s and 10-for-13 at the line. Nyika Williams had 17 points and 24 boards in the loss.