The Ryukyu Golden Kings are gearing up for a run at another title. The Tokyo Cinq Reves are closing out their inaugural season.
Teams with vastly different agendas kept things close for the opening 10 minutes on Sunday in their bj-league series finale at Ota City Gymnasium.
And then the Golden Kings displayed their championship pedigree — relentless defense, a terrific transition offense, pinpoint passes, timely steals — and turned the contest into a laugher, winning 97-60.
Seconds into the second quarter, Ryukyu big man Jeff Newton, a legend in this league, blocked a Ricky Woods shot, and Terrance Woodbury delivered a layup that put the Kings ahead 22-19, and they were off and running.
In the second and third quarters, Ryukyu (40-10) outscored Tokyo 52-20.
After Tokyo pulled within 32-28 on a Woods layup off a nice dish from Cohey Aoki, Ryukyu went on an 11-0 spurt, capped by a nifty Namizato scoop shot, to seize control.
That 11-0 run, in fact, carried over into the third quarter. It was a mesmerizing 25-2 outburst that put Ryukyu ahead 57-30 midway through the third quarter, and the Golden Kings never let up.
The Cinq Reves (17-33) trailed 72-39 entering the fourth quarter, but the gap seemed even larger. Ryukyu out-performed Tokyo in every facet of the game.
As Golden Kings president Tatsuro Kimura calmly watched from the stands, his club put on a clinic at both ends of the floor.
There was Woodbury (29 points, 13-for-18 shooting from inside the arc), getting good looks every time he touched the ball, and making shots in bunches — jumper after jumper, layup after layup.
There was Anthony McHenry (16 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two steals), pushing his teammates in the second quarter after he returned to action following a lengthy stint on the bench after picking up two first-quarter fouls.
There was the flashy, gutsy brilliance of point guard Narito Namizato (14 points, four assists), who sliced and diced the Tokyo defense, sliding between defenders and driving to the lane repeatedly for easy layups.
There was smooth jump shooter Naoto Kosuge (an understated 12 points, including four 3s), who quietly dished out four assists. And he was one of five Golden Kings players with two steals.
There was newcomer and promising rookie Ryuichi Kishimoto (nine points), providing instant offense off the bench.
“We came in with a game plan and tried our best to execute it,” Woodbury stated. “We understand that we’ve already got first place (in the Western Conference) locked up . . . so now it’s more about competing against ourselves and trying to work on the little things, the detail things that are going to matter most come playoff time — boxing out, rebounding, help-side D., all the small things that don’t show up in the stat book. That’s really what we are focusing on. . .”
The Golden Kings hammered the Cinq Reves 86-56 in the series opener on Saturday. A day later, five-time champion Newton gave Ryukyu a key boost in the game-changing second quarter.
Newton, who missed a month due to knee surgery, made his second game back a productive outing. He played all 10 minutes of the period and was effective on defense, pulling down a pair of boards and getting two steals and two blocks, as well as a pair of assists on the other end of the court.
Tokyo trailed 43-29 at halftime.
“We knew they were going to come out a little more aggressive . . . and they did that. They had a great first quarter,” Woodbury said. “Not that we didn’t play good defense (in the first quarter), but they were more confident today than they were yesterday.”
Emotions were riding high for Tokyo in its final home game of its inaugural season. After the game, each player was given the microphone and had a chance to say a few words to the team’s spirited supporters, 1,614 in the crowd for the series finale.
Fan favorite Cohey Aoki thanked the fans for their enthusiasm during a long season. Captain Hirohisa Takada and Chris Sasaki were passionate in their praise for the fans, apologizing for the losing season but reminding the fans their “warm support” helped a lot.
McHenry, though, was the Golden Kings catalyst who turned the tide in the second quarter with a 10-point period.
“We just stuck with it,” was the way Woodbury described his team’s mental focus as the game turned in their favor in a big, big way.
Ryukyu coach Koto Toyama commended his players for their patience, which he said gave them an edge as the game progressed. He also said a “high level of execution and intensity” carried the Golden Kings to a rout. That energy, Toyama added, is what the team will need to show in the playoffs.
Tokyo coach Motofumi Aoki lamented the one-sided defeat in the team’s final home game of the 2012-13 season, but admitted “Ryukyu is a great, talented team.”
“It’s a pity we lost,” the veteran coach said.
Woods paced Tokyo with 19 points, Jonathan Jones had 10 points and 12 rebounds and Cohey Aoki scored nine. The Cinq Reves failed to consistently make shots over the swarming defenders from Okinawa, making 14-for-39 from 2-point range and 20-for-26 overall.
Albirex BB 79, Evessa 74
In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, the hard-working Albirex won the battle on the boards and completed a two-game sweep over former Chicago Bulls bench boss Bill Cartwright’s Osaka squad.
Veteran guard Nile Murry, a former Evessa star, had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Niigata (34-16), which sits atop the 11-team Eastern Conference standings with one week remaining in the regular season. (See below for a rundown on the three teams one game behind Niigata in the standings.)
Second-year coach Matt Garrison’s triumphant club grabbed 52 rebounds, 13 more than the Evessa, who lost the two weekend games by a combined 14 points.
Shuhei Komatsu scored 15 points and sank 4 of 9 3-pointers for Niigata and teammate Kimitake Sato poured in 13 points. Big man Chris Holm had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Albirex outscored the Evessa 33-17 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
“At the end of the fourth quarter, our offense didn’t work against their zone defense,” Cartwright said after the game.
“We gave up 22 offensive rebounds,” he said. “That’s the reason we lost tonight.”
Mike Bell paced Osaka (22-28) with 22 points and 12 rebounds and Dwayne Lathan scored 19 points. The Evessa, who played without injured guard Shota Konno, shot 4-for-18 on 3-pointers.
B-Corsairs 104, Jets 79
In Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Draelon Burns’ 35-point outburst sparked Yokohama to a bounce-back victory over Chiba.
The B-Corsairs improved to 33-17, the same record as Toyama and Iwate.
Thomas Kennedy scored 18 points and Faye Pape Mour had 14 for Yokohama, which came out flat in the series opener on Saturday and lost by seven points.
Burns drained 6 of 8 3-point shots, and Yokohama raced out to a 29-11 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The B-Corsairs had a terrific game on offense, shooting 14-for-22 from beyond the arc, 23-for-46 on 2s and 16-for-20 at the line.
Marquise Gray paced Chiba (25-25) with 25 points and 15 boards. Marquin Chandler scored 17 points and Reina Itakura 13.
“Tonight game was a marked improvement over last night’s performance,” Yokohama coach Reggie Geary said.
“We came out with great focus and energy in the first half and maintained it for the most of the game. Even when they made a run at us in the third quarter, cutting our lead in half, we regrouped and were able to win going away.”
“This is the type of performance we’ll need to have if we wish to have playoff success,” Geary added.
“Draelon Burns had one of his best games (stats), Thomas Kennedy and Papa Faye Mour also provided good numbers, and we got solid contributions from Minoru Kimura and Satoshi Hisayama.
“Overall, a really good team win.”
Grouses 86, HeatDevils 78
In Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Angel Garcia scored a team-high 18 points with 13 rebounds and four teammates reached double figures in points as Toyama defeated the hosts.
Tatsunori Fujie, Takeshi Mito and Masashi Joho all had 15-point afternoons for the Grouses (33-17) and Ira Brown had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Verdel Jones III led Oita (21-31) with 20 points and eight assists and Taishiro Shimizu had an 18-point effort.
Big Bulls 84, Shining Suns 60
In Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, Dillion Sneed was an unstoppable force in the low post over the weekend as the Big Bulls routed Miyazaki for the second time in as many days.
Sneed had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the series finale, making 7 of 8 shots from the field a day after going 10-for-10. Carlos Dixon sparked the victors with 21 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists and Reggie Okosa had 18 points and 13 boards. Kenichi Takahashi added eight points for Iwate (33-17).
Yuto Otsuka scored 15 points for the Shining Suns, who ended their third season with a league-worst 9-43 record.
Brave Warriors 83, 89ers 80
In Chikuma, Nagano Prefecture, Michael Fey scored 22 points and Jermaine Green had 16 as the hosts salvaged a series split.
Yosuke Saito chipped in with 15 points for Shinshu (17-33).
For Sendai (20-30), Sam Coleman finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, T.J. Cummings scored 16 points and Sam Willard notched a double-double (15 points and 14 boards).
Crane Thunders 76, Phoenix 73
In Shinto, Gunma Prefecture, Dominique Keller had 23 points and Jermaine Dixon scored 17 to steer the hosts to a down-to-the-wire win over Hamamatsu Higashimikawa.
Shingo Okada scored 11 points for the Crane Thunders (13-37), a first-year franchise.
Elbert Fuqua had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Phoenix (27-23), Atsuya Ota scored 14 and Kevin Galloway and Jeffrey Parmer each had 13. Galloway grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out eight assists.
“We played well both games but Saturday we couldn’t get enough stops during the end of the game,” Gunma coach Ryan Blackwell said on Sunday night. “Hammamatsu hit 14 3s and it’s tough to beat a good team when they are shooting like that, but our effort was better down the stretch on defense today. Dominique was great offensively both days.
“Jermaine made several great plays in the fourth quarter for us to seal the game.
“(On Sunday), Shingo (Okada) and Kenya (Tomori) had good all-around games for us and provided great energy against their former team.”
Susanoo Magic 117, Broncos 95
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, despite Saitama star John Humphrey’s 46-point performance, the hosts picked up a lopsided victory.
Brandon Freeman sank 8 of 13 3-pointers and finished with 28 points for Shimane (32-18), Michael Parker contributed 25 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks and the Susanoo Magic earned a series split.
Edward Yamamoto canned 6 of 8 3s a day after draining 7 of 12 in an exciting 26-point Sunday. Big man Jeral Davis added 22 points, 17 rebounds and five blocked shots for Shimane.
Humphrey, known affectionately as “Helicopter” for his above-the-ground antics on the court, made 8 of 13 3s and had 14 rebounds and five assists for the Broncos (15-35), and Wayne Oliver poured in 16 points.
“It was two spectacular games, thanks to Saitama,” Shimane coach Zeljko Pavlicevic told The Japan Times, citing the high-scoring series and the quality scoring that highlighted play for both clubs.
Hannaryz 86, Five Arrows 70
In Takamatsu, Jermaine Boyette’s 22-point outing and Gyno Pomare’s 17-point, 13-rebound workload lifted Kyoto to a win over the Five Arrows.
The Hannaryz (28-22) have won twice as many games as they’ve lost since an 0-8 start this season.
Former NBA center Marcus Cousin finished with 16 points and Hayato Kantake and Masaharu Kataoka both had nine points for Kyoto, which made 24 of 31 free throws.
For Takamatsu (20-32, an 18-win improvement over last season), Brandon Penn had a team-best 23 points and Dexter Lyons scored 18. Paul Williams added 10 for the Five Arrows, who lost 50 games last season.
Northern Happinets 92, Lakestars 88
In Yasu, Shiga Prefecture, Marshall Brown’s all-around excellence carried Akita to a narrow triumph over the hosts.
With 34 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, Brown energized his teammates, including Dion Harris (31 points, 8-for-14 3s). The Northern Happinets (25-25) were blessed with the hot hand from beyond the arc, where they sank 13 of 27 shots.
Shelton Colwell paced Shiga with 27 points and 10 rebounds and Wayne Arnold scored 23. Yutaka Yokoe had another solid game in his breakout season in the bj-league, scoring 13 points with five assists for the Lakestars (31-19), and Jumpei Nakama contributed seven points and seven assists.