The Aomori Wat’s didn’t rely on gimmicks or flashy showmanship against the Saitama Broncos on Saturday night. That wasn’t necessary.
The first-year franchise used balanced scoring and persistent defense in a methodical, 90-77 victory over the Broncos in the bj-league series opener.
Aomori (18-19) had seven double-digit scorers: Abdullahi Kuso (16 points, 11 rebounds), ex-Bronco Yuki Kitamuki (14 points, six assists, three steals), Anthony Kent (13 points), ex-Bronco Gordon Klaiber and Makoto Sawaguchi (11 points apiece) and Stanley Ocitti and Daisuke Takaoka (10 apiece).
Saitama (4-33) trailed 74-57 entering the fourth quarter.
“Today was based on team play on both ends, offense and defense, for the entire game,” Klaiber told The Japan Times.
“We played hard and we won.”
John “Helicopter” Humphrey led the Broncos with 29 points and Michael Joiner had 19.
HeatDevils 68, Evessa 61
In Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, floor leader Verdell Jones III returned to the Oita lineup after missing eight games with a knee injury and guided the HeatDevils to a series-opening victory.
Jones, an Indiana University product, played 25-plus minutes and finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. He had six turnovers.
On a bright note for the HeatDevils (16-23), Jones was effective in drawing fouls, as evidenced by his 9-for-10 effort at the line.
Jones, who’s averaging 16.7 points per game, last played on Feb. 2 against Shinshu. He left the game after 5 minutes due to the aforementioned injury. Including that game, Oita went 1-8 with Jones hurt, and coach Yukinori Suzuki’s club snapped a five-game slide on Saturday.
Gabe McCulley had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Manabu Umemiya added 14 points for Oita. Veteran big man Byron Allen had 12 points and 12 boards.
Oita led 28-27 at halftime.
Evessa rookie guard Takuya Soma scored a team-best 14 points, while Takanori Goya had 11 and D’Andre Bell and Naoto Nakamura contributed nine apiece.
Grouses 78, B-Corsairs 69
In Yokohama, in key stretches of the game, Toyama’s offense clicked like a fine-tuned automobile en route to victory.
The Grouses dished out 22 assists for their 29 field goals, with star guard Masashi Joho leading the effort with six helpers.
Sam Willard (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Ira Brown (16 points, 12 boards) spearheaded the Grouses’ strong inside effort, and Josh Gross had a 12-point performance for Toyama (30-9).
Joho, a fan favorite since the league’s inception in 2005, played his 400th regular-season game. He won a pair of titles with the Osaka Evessa (2005-06 and 2006-07), and appeared in the playoffs in each of the next six campaigns — two apiece with the now-defunct Tokyo Apache (back-to-back championship runnerup spots), Shiga Lakestars and Toyama. The Hokkaido native had nine points and a steal.
Omar Reed had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the B-Corsairs (17-20) and Wayne Marshall added 10 points. Kenji Yamada scored 10 and Marcus Simmons and Marquise Gray both had eight.
Northern Happinets 106, Albirex BB 90
In Akita, tempers flared and three players were ejected. When the dust settled, the Northern Happinets had posted their ninth 100-point game of the season in a rout over heated rival Niigata.
Akita’s Chas McFarland and Niigata’s Rodney Webb and Patrick Sullivan were booted from the game after picking up technicals.
The bigger story, though, was Akita’s high-otane offense putting up points in a hurry over the final three quarters, including 34 in the third stanza to take command of the game.
Akita’s Richard Roby scored 23 points and Ruben Boykin had 22 points, 12 boards and six assists. Shigehiro Taguchi buried 5 of 8 3s and scored 19 points before fouling out, while backcourt mate Yuki Togashi had 18 points and six assists. Yuto Otsuka added 16 points.
Thomas Kennedy was the high scorer for the Albirex (24-15), finishing with 24 points. Nile Murry scored 23 points, Yuichi Ikeda had 16 and Kimitake Sato 10.
Big Bulls 92, Cinq Reves 66
In Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, the Big Bulls converted 66.7 percent of their shots from inside the 3-point arc in a lopsided triumph over Tokyo.
Temple University alum and rookie guard Scootie Randall, who was 7-for-9 on 2-point attempts, had a team-high 19 points for Iwate (27-10). Lawrence Blackledge, who made 8 of 11 shots, added 16 points, and Gyno Pomare and Josh Peppers both pumped in 12. Kenichi Takahashi had 11 points.
Iwate racked up 22 assists against six turnovers, numbers that impressed Blackledge.
“Any time you get 20-plus assists, that means the ball is moving well in the triangle offense,” he told The Japan Times.
Ricky Woods led Tokyo (10-27) with 16 points, Yuji Ide scored 14 and Kenji Kanai had nine.
Golden Kings 81, Lakestars 74
In Okinawa City, rising star Ryuichi Kishimoto drained six 3-pointers, the shiny evidence of a game-high 22-point outburst, as Western Conference-leading Ryukyu prevailed against Shiga.
The Golden Kings (32-5) improved to 20-1 at home.
Shiga’s four-game winning streak ended. The Lakestars (21-18) had won nine of their previous 10, too.
Ryukyu center Kibwe Trim supplied 17 points and 12 rebounds and Anthony McHenry scored 15 points and distributed seven assists with zero turnovers. Draelon Burns added 11 points and Naoto Kosuge scored nine.
Marshall Brown had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakestars, followed by Brandon Fields’ 14 points, Shelton Colwell’s 12 and Dionisio Gomez’s 11.
Crane Thunders 81, Bambitious 76
In Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture, big man Dillion Sneed scored a team-high 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting and Shingo Okada and Carlos Dixon had 16 apiece as Gunma earned its first series sweep of the season.
Saturday’s win also gave the Crane Thunders (10-28) their first back-to-back wins of the season.
Gunma hauled in 44 rebounds and held the hosts to 28.
For Nara (12-26), Anthony Brown scored 29 points, including 10-for-11 inside the arc. Jumpei Honda and Joe Chapman added 10 points apiece. Jamar Abrams finished with nine points and Tatsuya Suzuki had eight points and seven assists.
“It felt good to put together a good weekend,” Dixon told The Japan Times. “We thought we had a sweep last weekend (again Sendai) but fell short at the buzzer (on Sunday in an 86-84 loss). We are still fighting hard and it’s not going to be easy against us.”
Hannaryz 66, Susanoo Magic 57
In Ise, Mie Prefecture, David Palmer and Edwin Ubiles teamed up to lead Kyoto on offense in a victory over Shimane.
David Palmer sank four 3-pointers in a 16-point performance and Edwin Ubiles, a former Washington Wizards player, had 13 points for the Hannaryz (25-16). Chris Holm scored nine points and blocked four shots. Reserve forward Hayato Kantake added eight points.
Edward Yamamoto and T.J. Cummings had 17 points apiece for Shimane (7-30) and Shawn Malloy and Koki Yabuuchi both scored eight. Malloy grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
After the game, Shimane coach Reggie Hanson analyzed what occurred, telling The Japan Times, “(Though) we lost today by eight points … the game was much closer than that. We have to rebound and take care of the ball better.”
Brave Warriors 89, 89ers 86
In Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture, Shinshu outplayed Sendai in the pivotal fourth quarter to pick up a win.
Xavier Gibson paced the Brave Warriors (24-13) with 20 points, adding seven boards and three blocked shots for good measure. Patrick Sanders and Yosuke Saito each canned four 3s and scored 19 and 18 points, respectively. Jeff Parmer added 13 points.
Shinshu made 18 of 21 free-throw attempts. Sendai was 26-for-29.
Wendell White had a team-high 17 points for the 89ers (17-20) and Fumiya Sato poured in 15. Dzaflo Larkai scored 13 points, Travele Jones had 12 and DeAngelo Hamilton netted 11 and raked in 11 rebounds.
“To be honest, neither team played well on the defensive side of the ball,” Parmer told The Japan Times.
But down-the-stretch execution was key for Shinshu.
“In the fourth quarter, we just made more plays than Sendai did,” said Parmer. “Tonight we made shots. Outscoring them in the fourth quarter (26-15) was huge for us as a team.”