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Blackwell out at struggling Gunma

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Gunma Crane Thunders opened the season with three victories in their first 19 games. Saturday’s 93-78 loss to the Shinshu Brave Warriors was the final straw for head coach Ryan Blackwell. It cost him his job, bj-league sources told The Japan Times.

Blackwell was not on the bench on Sunday for the series finale against the Brave Warriors in Midori, Gunma Prefecture, and the hosts dropped a 91-83 decision (see below).

Hiroki Fujita is Blackwell’s lone assistant. The 27-year-old is a former Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix and Miyazaki Shining Suns player, and also served as the Miyazaki translator in the 2011-12 season.

An official announcement is imminent.

A former Syracuse University forward, Blackwell coached the Osaka Evessa for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, guiding the Kansai club to back-to-back playoff appearances, including a Final Four trip in his first season at the helm.

Blackwell, 37, played for the Sendai 89ers and Evessa before retiring in 2010.

The Crane Thunders “haven’t been winning, so management isn’t happy,” a league insider told this newspaper.

The timing of Blackwell’s ouster comes less than a month after the team acquired center Sylvester Morgan and forward Carlos Dixon in an effort to bolster the roster with a pair of players with bj-league experience.

“I think it may be a money issue,” the insider said, referring to Blackwell’s departure. If the Crane Thunders “aren’t going to make the playoffs, they’d rather save money as well and cut (Blackwell’s) salary.”

Blackwell was named the franchise’s second head coach after original bench boss Tadashi Hayashi was fired after the team’s 0-8 start last season, including several blowout losses. Gunma finished its inaugural season with a 14-38 record.

Gunma, which is in 10th place in the 11-team Eastern Conference, has a break until after Christmas, taking on the Shiga Lakestars Dec. 28-29.

Grouses rout Cinq Reves

Toyama dominated the second and fourth quarters en route to a 97-60 cakewalk over host Tokyo at Sumida City Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon.

The Grouses (16-4) outscored the Cinq Reves 60-34 in the aforementioned half of the game.

Josh Benson led Toyama with 19 points and Masashi Joho and Josh Gross scored 15 apiece for coach Bob Nash’s squad. Tatsunori Fujie scored 10 points and Takeshi Mito and Ira Brown both had six assists. Brown also contributed 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. Mitsuhiro Kamezaki sank three 3s to account for his scoring output.

For Tokyo (6-14), Anthony Stover finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds and Edward Morris had 14 points. Yuji Ide added 12 points.

Golden Kings 74, Evessa 60

In Osaka, coach Tsutomu Isa’s squad overpowered the Evessa in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 24-5 in the final 10 minutes to extend its winning streak to 12 games.

Ryuichi Kishimoto scored a season-high 20 points for Ryukyu (16-2), Draelon Burns had 17 and Jeff Newton and Anthony McHenry both poured in 10. Shigeyuki Kinjo had eight points and Kibwe Trim added seven points and 14 rebounds.

The Golden Kings sank 18 of 20 free throws. The Evessa were 9-for-24 at the charity stripe.

Naoto Nakamura paced Osaka (8-12) with 16 points and Marcus Capers had 13.

Big Bulls 92, 89ers 69

In Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, Gyno Pomare scored 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting and the Big Bulls ended Sendai’s winning streak at seven games.

Tsubasa Yonamine scored 18 points with five assists for Iwate (11-7), which shot 59.3 percent from 2-point range. Josh Peppers had 17 points and Kenichi Takahashi scored 10.

Wendell White was the 89ers’ leading scorer with 28 points. Takehiko Shimura and James Hughes had 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the 89ers (10-10).

Brave Warriors 91, Crane Thunders 83

In Midori, Gunma Prefecture, Xavier Gibson’s 21-point afternoon and Patrick Sanders’ 19-point effort led Shinshu to its second victory of the weekend over the struggling Crane Thunders.

Emanuel Willis had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Brave Warriors (13-5).

Kenya Tomori paced Gunma with 19 points and Sylvester Morgan supplied 18 points and 13 rebounds. Darko Cohadarevic scored 16 points and Shingo Okada had 14 for the hosts, who shot 13-for-23 on free throws.

Albirex BB 77, Broncos 73 (OT)

In Niigata, Nile Murry delivered a team-best 23-point performance and Patrick Sullivan had 18 points and 13 rebounds as coach Fujitaka Hiraoka’s squad prevailed in overtime and handed Saitama its 14th straight loss.

Yuichi Ikeda and Rodney Webb each scored eight points for Niigata (15-7).

John Humphrey was the top scorer for the Broncos (2-18), putting 23 points on the board. Teammate Mark Dawson added 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Hannaryz 65, Rizing 60

In Kyoto, the hosts emerged victorious in a grind-it-out rematch to complete a series sweep.

Edwin Ubiles and Shun Watanuki both had 11 points for the Hannaryz (13-7). Yu Okada provided nine points and four steals and David Palmer matched Okada’s scoring output. Joe Werner pulled down 12 rebounds for Kyoto.

Reggie Warren scored 14 points for Fukuoka, Cohey Aoki scored 13 and Julius Ashby 11.

Northern Happinets 99, B-Corsairs 80

In Akita, Ruben Boykin’s double-double ignited the high-powered hosts as they salvaged a series split against Yokohama.

Boykin led his team with 25 points and 15 rebounds and Chas McFarland scored 19 points. Yuto Otsuka had 17 points, knocking down 4 of 8 3s, and Richard Roby ended up with 16 points. Yuki Togashi added 12 points and five assists for Akita (18-4).

Marcus Simmons scored 24 points for the B-Corsairs (9-11) and Marquise Grey had 15 points. Omar Reed contributed 14 points and 17 boards and Wayne Marshall scored 10 points.

Akita pulled away in the third quarter and took a 16-point advantage into the final stanza.

Five Arrows 64, Lakestars 58

In Kanonji, Kagawa Prefecture, Paul Williams scored 16 points and hauled in 18 rebounds and Dexter Lyons poured in 15 points as Takamatsu completed a series sweep.

Sean Smith added 11 points and 10 boards for the Five Arrows (8-10).

Dionisio Gomez led Shiga (9-11) with 13 points, Marshall Brown had 10 and Jumpei Nakama nine.

Wat’s 95, Susanoo Magic 63

In Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, Gordon Klaiber and Yuki Kitamuki sank a combined 11 3-pointers and Aomori routed the hosts.

Klaiber was 6-for-8 on 3s in a 24-point game and Kitamuki made 5 of 10 and finished with 23 points, six assists and three steals. Teammate Stanley Ocitti had 20 points and Makoto Sawaguchi scored nine for the Wat’s (9-11).

Jeral Davis led Shimane (5-15) with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

Jets drop 20th straight

The Chiba Jets, who defected from the bj-league after the 2012-13 season, lost their 20th consecutive game on Sunday, falling 79-71 to NBL foe Hyogo Storks at Funabashi Arena.

Chiba (4-20) opened the season with four consecutive wins under new coach Reggie Geary, who guided Yokohama to the bj-league title as a second-year franchise in May.

The Jets’ leading scorer is Alan Wiggins Jr., who’s averaging 16.1 points per game.