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. Former 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.
Phoenix 67, Bambitious 66
In Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, Hamamatsu 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.
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.
Big Bulls 97, 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.
Happinets 105, 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.
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.
Devils 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,.