Quietly, without much fanfare or wide-spread exposure in the nation’s mainstream media, the Toyama Grouses have built a title-contending team.
Head coach Bob Nash, whose basketball roots stretch from his schoolboy standout days in Hartford, Connecticut, to his rise to stardom at the University of Hawaii — plus NBA- and ABA-playing experience — likes to humbly say, “We’re just a basketball team from the countryside.”
Right. But the Grouses have become a very good basketball team, as evidenced by their 13-2 record, including an 84-77 road triumph over the Kyoto Hannaryz on Saturday in the bj-league.
For Toyama, Takeshi Mito, Masashi Joho and Ira Brown all scored 18 points in the series opener. Tatsunori Fujie had 13 points and Josh Benson netted 12. Sam Willard crashed the boards for 12 rebounds in 33-plus, hard-charged minutes.
The Grouses sank 8 of 14 3-point shots.
Toyama outworked Kyoto on the offensive glass with 17 rebounds to the hosts’ 10, and won the overall rebounding battle (44-35). Brown, a Gonzaga University product, had a game-high five offensive boards.
David Palmer paced Kyoto (9-6) with 20 points, canning 6 of 10 3s. Shun Watanuki scored 14 points and Yusuke Masuda had 10. Yu Okada finished with eight points. Forme Washington Wizard Edwin Ubiles was held to a season-low six points on 3-for-11 shooting while playing 15 minutes, his lowest total of the season.
Toyama sealed the win by outscoring Kyoto 23-7 in the final quarter.
Evessa 98, Susanoo Magic 84
In Osaka, six Evessa players scored in double figures and coach Shunsuke Todo’s team snapped an eight-game losing streak by beating Shimane.
Kevin Galloway had a 24-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist performance for Osaka (7-8 overall, 5-0 at home) and Dillion Sneed and Yosuke Sugawara scored 16 points apiece, followed by Marcus Capers and Zach Andrews with 12-point efforts and Naoto Nakamura’s 11. Andrews also corralled 13 rebounds.
Jeral Davis had 16 points and five blocked shots for the Magic (2-13) and Shawn Malloy and Edward Yamamoto both had 14 points. Shimane’s Tatsuhiro Yokoo scored 13 points and Adrian Thomas 10.
89ers 77, Broncos 61
In Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, Travele Jones and Wendell White scored 24 points apiece to lead Sendai past lowly Saitama.
Point guard Takehiko Shimura added seven points, four assists and four steals for the 89ers (6-9 overall, 6-1 at home).
Dzaflo Larkai and Fumiya Sato both scored six points for the hosts.
Larkai returned to the lineup after missing five games due to a knee injury, and he’d only appeared in one of the last eight games — four total minutes — because of knee problems. Larkai played 19 minutes on Saturday, contributing six rebounds and two assists off the bench.
For the Broncos (2-13), newcomer Mark Dawson scored a team-high 13 points with 10 rebounds. Anwar Ferguson added 11 points and John Humphrey and Reina Itakura both scored 10.
Saitama missed 21 of 23 3-point shots.
Phoenix 67, Bambitious 66
In Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, Hamamatsu Higashimikawa found a way to eke out a win over the hosts.
Ray Nixon scored 16 points for the Phoenix (9-6) and Cyrus Tate contributed 12 points and eight rebounds. Jermaine Dixon had 10 points and Atsuya Ota and Aki Chambers each scored eight.
For Nara (3-12), Adrian Moss had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Anthony Brown scored 15 points and swatted four shots. Joe Chapman added 12 points, but was 2-for-12 from beyond the arc. Taishi Kasahara had 11 points and Tatsuya Suzuki scored 10 points and dished out five assists.
Wat’s 67, B-Corsairs 61
In Aomori, Gordon Klaiber scored 16 points and Lamar Roberson had 15 to guide the hosts to a win over Yokohama.
Abdullahi Kuso contributed 16 rebounds along with six blocked shots and six points for Aomori (7-8). Teammates Anthony Kent and Yuki Kitamuki scored eight and seven points, respectively. Daisuke Takaoka also scored seven points, a season-high total for the veteran forward.
The Wat’s buried 13 of 15 foul shots, helping to compensate for poor 3-point shooting (2-for-17).
Marquise Grey paced the defending champion B-Corsairs (7-8) with 22 points and 11 rebounds and Masayuki Kabaya scored 20 points and handed out five assists. Omar Reed added nine points.
Big Bulls 97, Brave Warriors 69
In Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture, the hosts held a 21-rebound advantage over their Eastern Conference rival and scored 31 fourth-quarter points to pick up an impressive victory.
Josh Peppers scored 20 points, Lawrence Blackledge had 18 and Scootie Randall netted 16 with seven assists for Iwate (8-5). Gyno Pomare produced a double-double for the Big Bulls (14 points on 7-for-8 shooting, 12 rebounds) and Kenichi Takahashi scored nine points, while Minoru Kimura finished with seven.
Jeffrey Parmer was Shinshu’s top scorer with 18 points and Patrick Sanders had 17. The Brave Warriors (8-5) were 4-for-25 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Northern Happinets 105, Crane Thunders 84
In Oga, Akita Prefecture, led by 22 points apiece from Yuki Togashi and Richard Roby, the high-octane Akita offense carried the hosts to a runaway win over Gunma.
Togashi, the 20-year-old starting point guard, dished out 11 assists and had just one turnover. Shigehiro Taguchi scored 17 points for the Happinets (15-2) and Ruben Boykin added 16 points and 20 rebounds. Yuto Otsuka sank 4 of 7 3s to account for all of his points.
Akita led 52-38 at halftime and took an 80-54 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Crane Thunders newcomers Carlos Dixon and Sylvester Morgan scored 21 and 14 points, respectively, in their first game for coach Ryan Blackwell’s club. Morgan pulled down a team-best 12 rebounds. Darko Cohadarevic added 21 points and 10 rebounds for Gunma (2-13).
Albirex BB 78, Cinq Reves 64
In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, the hosts held Tokyo to 26-for-65 shooting en route to victory in the series opener.
Patrick Sanders supplied 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks for Niigata (12-5) and Nile Murry added 12 points and six assists. Kimitake Sato scored 11 points and Rodney Webb had 10.
Ricky Woods was Tokyo’s top scorer with 16 points and Edward Morris had 13. Anthony Stover finished with 12 points, 10 boards and five blocks for the Cinq Reves (5-10) and Yuji Ide had a 10-point, five-assist outing.
HeatDevils 93, Five Arrows 65
In Zentsuji, Kagawa Prefecture, playing fast, aggressive, opportunistic defense, Oita collected 13 steals and hammered the hosts.
Taishiro Shimizu and Shuichi Takada each had four steals for the HeatDevils, who improved to 9-6, including 6-1 on the road.
Verdell Jones III paced Oita with 23 points, adding six rebounds and five assists on the night. Devonne Giles had 17 points and 14 boards and Shimizu drained 3 of 4 3s and poured in 15 points. Gabe McCulley and Takada both had 11 points.
Oita shot 10-for-20 from 3-point range and put the game out of reach in the second half, outscoring Takamatsu 48-26.
Hiroyuki Kikuchi was Takamatsu’s high scorer with 13 points and Tsubasa Yonezawa scored 12. Paul Williams added eight points and 11 rebounds. Dexter Lyons and Yukio Kishimoto both had seven points for the Five Arrows (5-8).