/

Akita rolls to ninth straight victory

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The All-Star spotlight will shine on Akita next Sunday.

On Sunday, the Akita Northern Happinets also made sure there were plenty of highlights to talk about in the buildup to the bj-league’s eighth annual All-Star Game.

Mission accomplished.

There was sharpshooter Shigehiro Taguchi knocking down 6 of 8 3-pointers en route to a game-high 26 points.

There was point guard Yuki Togashi, his backcourt mate, with 15 points and 11 assists on the afternoon, and there were several teammates making sizable contribution.

Coach Kazuo Nakamura’s club defeated the host Sendai 89ers 102-90 to complete a series sweep, improving to 26-4, the best record in the 10-team Eastern Conference. It was the Happinets’ ninth straight win.

Center Chas McFarland had 13 points and forward Richard Roby scored 13 for the Happinets, while Yuto Otsuka drained 3 of 5 3s in a 10-point effort. Ruben Boykin, a bruising power forward, had 12 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, providing several key passes that helped his team shoot 14-for-28 from 3-point range.

Akita sealed the victory at the free-throw line (88 percent, 22-for-25). The 89ers were 8-for-17 at the line.

And now Akita’s fans can look forward to watching guards Togashi and Taguchi and forwards Boykin and Roby suit up as All-Star starters on Jan. 26. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:10 p.m., and the game will be televised by BS Fuji.

“It was two great wins against a pretty good Sendai team that plays hard,” said one Akita player who requested anonymity in a post-game interview with The Japan Times. “Their Japanese players play very physical and it was a great challenge for us. We have had a good first half of the season and now we just need to stay focused for the second half.”

Asked what are the keys to a successful second half of the team as the team’s championship quest continues, he responded by saying, “Lock in and keep working hard for the playoffs, and I believe this is a very special team.”

Wendell White scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Sendai (12-14). Travele Jones had 15 points and Takehiko Shimura, James Hughes and Fumiya Sato all scored 12. Shimura had 15 assists, finishing one shy of the league’s all-time record (set by Hamamatsu’s Kevin Galloway on Nov. 4, 2012, against Miyazaki).

Golden Kings 87, B-Corsairs 81 (2OT)

In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Ryukyu picked up a double-overtime victory over defending champion Yokohama to extends its winning streak to seven games.

The Golden Kings (23-3 overall, 15-1 at home, tied with Akita for the best home record in the league) had five double-digit scorers: Anthony McHenry (22 points), Kibwe Trim (16), Draelon Burns (13), Ryuichi Kishimoto (11) and Jeff Newton (10). Trim had team-high totals in rebounds (nine) and steals (four), and shared the team lead in blocks (four) with McHenry, the 2012-13 regular-season league MVP.

Masayuki Kabaya paced the B-Corsairs with 18 points and Marquise Gray, who was left off the East’s All-Star squad despite being fourth overall in scoring (19.8 points per game) and fourth in rebounds (11.8), had 15 points and 17 rebounds. Wayne Marshall poured in 16 points, raked in seven rebounds and blocked four shots.

Omar Reed had 11 points and 11 boards for Yokohama (13-13 under first-year head coach Michael Katsuhisa). Kenji Yamada added nine points.

In a fiercely contested game on the inside, the B-Corsairs collected 59 rebounds (20 offensive), while Ryukyu had 53 (17).

Albirex BB 76, Evessa 54

In Osaka, former Evessa star Nile Murry had 20 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and four steals as Niigata bounced back from a series-opening defeat.

Big man Patrick Sullivan, who served a one-game ban on Saturday, the result of a Dec. 31 scuffle against Takamatsu’s Andrais Thornton, added 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting, with eight rebounds and three steals. Shuhei Komatsu scored 14 points, including 4-for-7 on 3s. Kimitake Sato had 10 points for the Albirex (19-9).

Osaka was held to 22-for-62 shooting from the field. Dillion Sneed led the Evessa (11-17) with 15 points and Kevin Galloway scored 11 points.

Wat’s 84, Rizing 80 (2OT)

In Aomori, Yuki Kitamuki and Abdullahi Kuso scored 22 points apiece and the expansion Wat’s outlasted Fukuoka in double overtime to earn a series sweep.

Kitamuki sank 5 of 10 3-point shots, compensating for his struggles from inside the arc (3-for-12). Kuso was a powerful presence around the rim, collecting nine offensive rebounds and 20 in total in the series finale.

Gordon Klaiber scored 13 points for Aomori (12-14), while Makoto Sawaguchi and Stanley Ocitti each had seven.

Veteran guard Cohey Aoki had a team-high 17 points for Fukuoka. He’ll be an All-Star starter for a league-record eighth time in Akita.

Reggie Warren and Seth Tarver each had 16 points and Akitomo Takeno scored nine for the Rizing (11-17). Warren also had 15 rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

Fukuoka topped Aomori by the slimmest of margins (55-54) in the rebounding battle.

Big Bulls 68, HeatDevils 58

In Kitsuki, Oita Prefecture, Iwate continued its winning ways in the series finale, picking up its ninth straight victory by beating the hosts.

The Big Bulls (19-7 overall, 10-2 in away games) limited Oita to 22-for-68 shooting. Six-time All-Star guard Taishiro Shimizu was held to two points on 1-for-10 shooting.

Iwate’s active defense collected 11 steals and forced 17 turnovers. Masato Tsukino, Lawrence Blackledge, Josh Peppers and Gyno Pomare all had two steals.

Blackledge scored a team-best 15 points, Tsubasa Yonamine added 13 and five assists, Kenichi Takahashi poured in 12 points with five assists and Pomare added nine points and 13 rebounds.

For Oita (14-14), Verdell Jones III was the team’s top scorer with 14 points. Gabe McCulley added 12 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

Said Blackledge: “Oita was a very tough opponent for us. Their size made it a tough matchup for us down low. We had to counter that by using our speed in transition. (We) played two very tough games versus a well-coached Oita team. Like I said last weekend, we are taking one game at a time and staying focused on the small details.”

What are the keys to a successful second half of the season?

“Staying humble and hungry. Trying to get better with each practice and game,” he said.

Crane Thunders 112, Hannaryz 108 (2OT)

In Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, Gunma salvaged a series split the hard way, winning a game that featured 105 total 2-point shots and 38 3s, plus 70 free throws, 86 rebounds and 48 personal fouls.

It also included a 39-point outburst by Gunma’s Carlos Dixon, who was 14-for-15 at the charity stripe. Shingo Okada poured in 24 points, Darko Cohaderevic had 17 on 8-for-11 shooting and swingman Jermaine Green scored 13 in his second game with the Crane Thunders (6-22) this season. Green replaced forward Trey Britton, whose contract was terminated on Jan. 14. Britton averaged 6.5 points in 26 games.

Edwin Ubiles led Kyoto (19-11) with 30 points, David Palmer scored 26 and Yu Okada had 18. Shun Watanuki and Chris Holm each had 12.

Brave Warriors 98, Five Arrows 64

In Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, Shinshu outscored Takamatsu 34-13 in the decisive third quarter and won for the second time in as many days.

Shooting guard Yosuke Saito scored a season-high 20 points, including 5-for-5 from inside the arc, for the Brave Warriors (18-8), while Patrick Sanders netted 19 points and Shota Konno had 19. Florida State product Xavier Gibon’s productive afternoon included 15 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. Shoji Nakanishi added nine points off the bench.

Dexter Lyons finished with 25 points for the Five Arrows (13-15), while Andrais Thornton scored 13 and Paul Williams 10.

Takamatsu converted 24 of 66 shots in a losing effort.

Grouses 78, Susanoo Magic 71

In Toyama, Masashi Joho’s 19 points and five assists and Takeshi Mito’s 18 points helped guide the hosts to a victory over Shimane.

The Susanoo Magic, playing their second game under new coach Reggie Hanson, lost for the ninth straight time and fell to 5-23, the worst record in the 10-team West.

Power forward Ira Brown contributed 15 points, 12 rebounds, three assist, two steals and a block for the Grouses (23-7 overall, 11-3 at home).

The Grouses spent far more time at the free-throw line (24-for-31) than the Magic (6-for-12).

Koki Yabuuchi had 18 points and five assists for Shimane and Adrian Thomas hit four 3s en route to 16 points. T.J Cummings scored 14 points and Jeral Davis had 13 for the visitors.