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Akita holds off Takamatsu for 11th consecutive victory

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Akita Northern Happinets edged the Takamatsu Five Arrows on Sunday, winning 77-75 to record a two-game series sweep on the road.

The Northern Happinets (28-4) extended their winning streak to 11 games. They sit atop the Eastern Conference standings, fueled by a high-powered offense. But personnel changes may be on the horizon for Akita, The Japan Times has learned.

A team insider told this newspaper that the team’s current roster may undergo changes this week, as early as Tuesday.

Is there internal turmoil on the Happinets? Is change going to happen just for the sake of change?

Those are questions that will probably be answered in the coming days.

Though a skeptic may blurt out this oft-repeated phrase: If it’s not broken, why fix it?

Yuki Togashi, the All-Star Game MVP on Jan. 26 in Akita, led the Happinets with 26 points and nine assists. He made all eight of his free-throw attempts.

Richard Roby scored 15 points for Akita, Chas McFarland had 11 and Ruben Boykin 10.

The Five Arrows took a 26-15 lead into the second quarter. Akita cut the deficit to 42-40 by halftime.

Paul Williams paced Takamatsu (13-17) with 25 points on 11-for-15 shooting, 17 rebounds and four blocks. Dexter Lyons scored 16 points and Andrais Thornton had 12.

The Five Arrows missed 22 of 25 3-point shots.

89ers 75, Susanoo Magic 73 (OT)

In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Wendell White and Travele Jones both had double-doubles to steer Sendai past the hosts in an overtime clash.

White, an UNLV product, scored a game-high 26 points with 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Jones, who attended Texas Southern, had 20 points, 12 boards and four steals. Forward Atsushi Nogami chipped in with nine points for the 89ers (13-15), who earned a series split.

Sendai’s defense set the tone for much of the game, with 15 steals in the books. Shimane had 24 turnovers and collected two steals.

T.J. Cummings was the Magic’s top scorer with 14 points. Three teammates scored in double figures: Adrian Thomas and Koki Yabuuchi (13 points apiece) and Jeral Davis (12 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks).

Shimane slipped to 6-24, the worst record in the Western Conference.

Brave Warriors 70, HeatDevils 67

In Oita, Shinshu made a few more critical plays than the HeatDevils to win for the second time in as many days.

The Brave Warriors (20-8) were not haunted by their 22 turnovers, though the high number of takeaways helped keep the final margin close.

Guard Masamune Tate had a team-high 12 points for Shinshu and Shoji Nakanishi and Xavier Gibson both had 11. Patrick Sanders added 10 points, while Jeff Parmer contributed eight points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. Tate also registered four steals on the afternoon.

For Oita (14-16), Hiroki Oshiro had a season-high 17 points and Gabe McCulley added 14 points and 11 boards. Byron Allen and Taishiro Shimizu both scored 11 points in the loss.

Lakestars 67, Wat’s 65

In Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture, the Lakestars won another down-to-the-wire contest against Aomori to complete a weekend sweep.

The series opener was decided by three points.

All-Star Marshall Brown scored 20 points to lead Shiga (14-16), followed by Dionisio Gomez’s 17 points and 11 rebounds. Brandon Fields and Yutaka Yokoe had eight points apiece for the hosts.

Aomori (12-16), a first-year franchise, dominated on the boards (56-41 edge), but Shiga was awarded 31 free-throw attempts (19 makes) to its 10.

Gordon Klaiber paced the Wat’s with 20 points before fouling out and Anthony Kent had 16 points and 17 rebounds. Guard Yuki Kitamuki was off the mark on 11 of 12 3-point shots in a frustrating seven-point effort.

The Lakestars outscored the visitors 21-6 in the third period.

“At this point of the season, any win that you can get is key,” Gomez told The Japan Times, “especially if you get two in a row. Any team that can go on a run in the second half of the season can easily get themselves in a good position for the playoffs.”

What’s his impression of Aomori, an expansion squad, challenging for a playoff berth?

“As far as Aomori, they are a solid team,” Gomez said. “They have players that had been successful in the league before. They play hard. Never give up. That goes a long way.

“With a couple of years in the league and maybe one or two new additions to the team, they could be a team to keep an eye on.”

Golden Kings 89, Big Bulls 78

In Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, Ryukyu bounced back from a rare loss by beating the Big Bulls and former coach Dai Oketani.

Anthony McHenry, the league’s 2012-13 regular-season MVP, had a game-best 25 points. He made 9 of 14 shots, including both 3-point attempts, with eight rebounds and three steals. Ryuichi Kishimoto poured in 19 points, one shy of his season-high output, draining 5 of 7 3s.

Star guard Draelon Burns added 12 points, six assists and two steals for the Golden Kings (24-4) and Morihisa Yamauchi netted nine points.

It was a stellar offensive performance for Ryukyu, which shot 19-for-21 at the line. The Kings were 12-for-19 from 3-point land and converted 51.5 percent (17-for-33) from inside the arc.

After an OT loss on Saturday, Ryukyu took a 51-41 lead into the third quarter in the rematch.

Lawrence Blackledge had 22 points for Iwate (20-8), Josh Peppers scored 12 and Scootie Randall 11.

Big Bulls big man Gyno Pomare, who finished with 33 points and 21 boards in the series opener, was held to nine points and nine rebounds on Sunday.

Asked what it was like for Randall to be facing his former team, which also happens to be the team that Oketani guided to two championships, he summed it up this way: “It was a emotional game for both teams, but at the end of the day we are all pro basketball players and have a job to do, so we had to put that past us.”

McHenry’s effort impressed Randall.

“He was very focused, very aggressive from the (opening) jump and was trying to make plays for his team, as he should,” Randall told The Japan Times.

Blackledge considered the big series against the Golden Kings a good measuring stick for his club.

“It was a very fun weekend of basketball,” Blackledge told The Japan Times. “I always love playing against one of the best teams in the league. (It was) exciting for the players and the fans. Two intense games (that) had playoffs-type feeling and atmosphere.”

Evessa 74, B-Corsairs 58

In Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, energized by a strong first quarter, Osaka hammered the hosts to finish off a weekend sweep.

Newcomer Darko Cohadarevic scored 14 points for the Evessa (13-17), who have the same record as West rivals Takamatsu and Fukuoka. Another newcomer, D’Andre Bell, also playing in his first series in an Evessa uniform, added 13 points and two blocks. Kevin Galloway chipped in with a 12-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist, three-steal performance and Takanori Goya and Zach Andrews each had eight points.

Osaka out-rebounded Yokohama 52-37.

Omar Reed finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists for the reigning champion B-Corsairs (13-15). Marcus Simmons scored 17 points and Marquise Gray had 16. Guard Masayuki Kabaya, the Final Four MVP last season, missed his second straight game with a right calf injury, and is expected to be sidelined for up to month, a team spokesman informed The Japan Times on Sunday night.

From inside the arc, Yokohama was held to 34.1 percent shooting.

Cinq Reves 91, Bambitious 75

In Tokyo, high-flying Ricky Woods scored 21 points and Kenji Kanai poured in a season-high 19 in the hosts’ triumph over Nara.

Edward Morris supplied 17 points and nine rebounds for Tokyo (7-21), which snapped a 10-game losing streak. Teammate Yuji Ide added 16 points, four assists and four steals and Akihito Inoue had eight points.

For the Bambitious (9-21), Joe Chapman scored 19 points and Anthony Brown had 16 points with nine rebounds. Floor leader Tatsuya Suzuki added 11 points and six assists, while Adrian Moss had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Rizing 72, Broncos 64

In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Reggie Warren and Cohey Aoki had 19 points apiece and Fukuoka improved to 2-0 under new coach James Duncan.

Warren grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds to complete the double-double. Aoki went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, and leads the league in 3-point shooting accuracy (48.2 percent). Julius Ashby chipped in with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for the Rizing (13-17).

Saitama (3-27) shot 22-for-67 in the loss.

John “Helicopter” Humphrey had 23 points on 8-for-25 shooting for the Broncos. Michael Joiner scored 14 points and Mark Dawson had 13.

After the game, Warren provided some insight on how the team has responded to playing under new Canadian coach as it tries to improve its playoff chances.

“At this point every game means a lot, it’s almost like playoff games right now,” Warren told this newspaper. “After we dropped two games up in Aomori (Jan. 18-19), that we should have won, every game is crucial now.

“If we would have picked up those games, we could have been in fourth (place), I think. But hey, we can’t get them back. So we got to keep pushing forward and play each game like it’s a playoff game because the West is so close, fourth to eighth positions.

“So we got to build from this weekend and pick up Coach Duncan’s systems quickly and get better every day.”

Indeed, the West is packed tightly in the race for playoff position. The Nos. 4-8 teams — Oita, Shiga, Takamatsu, Fukuoka and Osaka — all have either 13-17 or 14-16 records.

Phoenix 86, Crane Thunders 83

In Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture, Cyrus Tate scored 25 points and Jermaine Dixon had 16 as Hamamatsu Higashimikawa defeated the hosts.

The Phoenix improved to 19-11. The Crane Thunders slipped to 6-24.

Ray Nixon added 13 points and Shinnosuke Oishi scored 11 for Hamamatsu, while savvy veteran guard Masahiro Oguchi had four steals.

Hirohisa Takada led Gunma with 20 points, Kenya Tomori poured in 16 and Jermaine Green 15. Dillion Sneed added 14 points in his second game for the Crane Thunders and Carlos Dixon finished with 13.

Hannaryz 90, Albirex BB 70

In Niigata, David Palmer buried all five of his 3-point shots in an eye-popping 25-point afternoon and Chris Holm scored 18 points and hauled in 13 rebounds for Kyoto.

The Hannaryz (20-12) earned a series split on a day when they had 22 assists and 11 turnovers. Former Washington Wizard Edwin Ubiles chipped in with 17 points and a team-best five assists. Four teammates also had three or more assists: Palmer (four) and Yu Okada, Shun Watanuki and Hikaru Kusaka (three apiece).

Rodney Webb scored 17 points to top the scoring chart for Niigata (20-10). Nile Murry scored 15 points and Albirex teammates Kimitake Sato and Patrick Sullivan had 11 and 10 points, respectively.