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Gunma thumps Nara in series opener

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Friday’s series opener against the visiting Gunma Crane Thunders started off well, but finished poorly for the Bambitious Nara.

Nara, a first-year bj-league franchise, led 22-10 entering the second quarter. Gunma controlled the action in the second half en route to an 84-67 victory.

The Crane Thunders (9-28) outscored the hosts 52-29 over the final two quarters.

Gunma’s Jermaine Green scored a team-high 20 points on 6-for-10 shooting and Carlos Dixon had 17 points. Masashi Obuchi poured in 13 points. Five Crane Thunders players had three or more assists, including Dixon’s four.

Anthony Brown led Nara (12-25) with 19 points and 14 rebounds and Joe Chapman had a 16-point game. Jumpei Honda scored 10 points. Tatsuya Suzuki dished out nine assists.

Also Friday, the Rizing Fukuoka completed a series sweep, beating the visiting Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix 92-78.

Fukuoka (20-20) has won four straight games as it continues its second-half resurgence under new coach James Duncan. The Canadian mentor is 9-3 since replacing Kimitoshi Sano.

Reggie Warren’s 25-point, 16-rebound, four-assist effort led the Rizing, who had three other double-digit scorers: Akitomo Takeno and Seth Tarver (14 points apiece) and Julius Ashby (13).

Fukuoka converted 59.5 percent of its shots from inside the arc.

The Rizing won the rebounding battle (52-37), including a 24-16 advantage on the offensive glass.

Hamamatsu trailed 42-37 at halftime, and the deficit increased during the second half.

For the Phoenix (24-14), Jermaine Dixon had 16 points and seven rebounds and Cyrus Tate scored 15 points. Ray Nixon had 13 points, Dior Lowhorn scored 12 and Aki Chambers 10, while Masahiro Oguchi netted nine.

After the game, Duncan offered a brief analysis of his team’s performance.

“We were able to control the defensive glass tonight and our defense held strong in the critical third quarter,” Duncan told The Japan Times. “We collectively played well on offense. We missed a lot of open looks, but made big plays when we needed it the most.”

Duncan called it a “very good win for the guys, against a strong team, we really had to earn the win. The process continues and we try to get better next week.”

Note: Both games were marred by poor attendance. An announced crowd of 524 was on hand for the Nara-Gunma game; 556 spectators saw Fukuoka vs. Hamamatsu.