Masashi Joho’s arrival in Toyama before the start of the 2011-12 season was a clear sign that the Grouses had decided to raise the stakes for a franchise that had struggled to win games since its inception in 2006. Clearly, this signing signaled the following: The Grouses wanted and valued title-winning players to strengthen the nucleus of their team.
The Grouses are now on track for an increase in regular-season wins for the third straight season — after 25 in 2011-12 and 35 last season — during Joho’s time with the club.
On Sunday, the veteran guard buried 5 of 10 3-point attempts and scored a game-high 27 points as Toyama defeated the visiting Osaka Evessa 80-75 to salvage a series split.
Joho, the highest-scoring Japanese player (17.3 points per game, No. 8 overall) in the 21-team circuit, was 1-for-6 from 3-point range in the series opener, which Osaka won in overtime on Saturday. A day later, his long-range shooting success was a key factor for the Grouses, and of the bj-league’s original Japanese standouts shined on Sunday against his former club, which he helped win back-to-back championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
Tatsunori Fujie added 19 points and Josh Gross and Ira Brown both scored 12 points for Toyama (32-10). Takeshi Mito had seven points and three steals, with Gross and Willard grabbing 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively.
The Grouses pulled within a game of the first-place Akita Northern Happinets (33-9) in the Eastern Conference standings.
Naoto Nakamura and D’Andre Bell paced Osaka (18-24) with 14 points apiece, Takanori Goya scored 11 and first-year pro Takuya Soma added 10.
Crane Thunders 94, Northern Happinets 89
In Shibukawa, Gunma Prefecture, coach Hiroki Fujita’s team dished out 26 assists and turned the ball over nine times as its offense clicked with precision against short-handed Akita.
Big man Dillion Sneed scored 21 points on 10-for-14 shooting and pulled down nine rebounds for the Crane Thunders (11-29). Carlos Dixon had a 17-point afternoon, Jermaine Green scored 14 points and Shingo Okada added 12 points and eight assists. Masashi Obuchi chipped in with seven assists as Gunma earned a series split.
Akita, playing without injured big man Chas McFarland (broken nose), who will sport a face mask upon his return to the court, and injured leading scorer Richard Roby (19.7 ppg, No. 3 in league), fell to 33-9. Ruben Boykin led the team with 28 points and Deshawn Stephens had 25. Yuki Togashi put 13 points on the board and handed out 13 assists while playing all 40 minutes, and backcourt mate Shigehiro Taguchi had 12 points.
Brave Warriors 98, Big Bulls 96 (OT)
In Chikuma, Nagano Prefecture, Xavier Gibson’s 27-point effort and Patrick Sanders’ 25 points helped push the hosts past Iwate in overtime.
The Brave Warriors (26-14) canned 13 of 25 3s and completed a series sweep. Gibson went 4-for-5 from beyond the arc and Sanders also made four 3s.
Jeff Parmer scored 21 points for Shinshu. Sanders grabbed 10 rebounds. Gibson, a Florida State product, had six rebounds and five assists.
Josh Peppers scored 28 points for the Big Bulls (28-12), draining 6 of 10 3s. Gyno Pomare added 25 points and 11 boards, Kenichi Takahashi had 14 points and Masato Tsukino provided 10 points and six assists.
89ers 105, Broncos 85
In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Wendell White had 24 points and Travel Jones poured in 19 as Sendai handed the Broncos their ninth straight loss.
The 89ers, meanwhile, evened their record at 20-20 on a day when Dzaflo Larkai had 18 points on 7-for-10, DeAngelo Hamilton had a double-double (16 points, 15 rebounds) and Yasuhiko Wada also scored 16 points.
John “Helicopter” Humphrey led Saitama (4-36) with 24 points.
Albirex BB 86, Cinq Reves 71
In Hachioji, Tokyo Prefecture, Nile Murry and Thomas Kennedy combined for 45 points to lead Niigata past the hosts and win for the second time in as many days.
Murry finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds and Kennedy had a 22-point effort for the Albirex (26-16). Patrick Sullivan scored 13 points, Kimitake Sato added nine and Takamichi Fujiwara had seven.
Tokyo’s Ricky Woods, who was 11-for-11 at the free-throw line, scored 36 points. Edward Morris had 16 points and Yuji Ide scored 11 for the Cinq Reves (10-30).
Phoenix 89, Hannaryz 72
In Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, as the jockeying for playoff seeds heats up, Hamamatsu Higashimikawa trounced Western Conference rival Kyoto, bouncing back from a Saturday loss.
For the Phoenix (25-15), Jermaine Dixon finished with 20 points and eight assists and Ray Nixon had 19 points and five assists, with Dior Lowhorn scoring 17.
Hamamatsu sank 12 of 23 3s. Atsuya Ota scored 10 points, Aki Chambers netted eight and Masahiro Oguchi contributed six points, seven rebounds and four steals.
David Palmer paced the Hannaryz (27-17) with 22 points and Edwin Ubiles had 21. Shun Watanuki added 14 points and Chris Holm hauled in 12 rebounds.
Wat’s 87, B-Corsairs 62
In Yokohama, Aomori guard Yuki Kitamuki and forward Gordon Klaiber thrived as perimeter shooters in the series finale, with each knocking down four 3s and finishing with 27 and 26 points, respectively.
The Wat’s (20-20) were held to 53 points in a series-opening loss, but found their offensive rhythm in the rematch. This included a 10-for-19 effort on 3s.
Aomori big man Abdullahi Kuso chipped in with nine points, 12 rebounds and five assists and Stanley Ocitti scored nine points, with Makoto Sawaguchi adding seven points, seven boards and four assists.
Yokohama (18-22) missed 19 of its 20 3-point shots. Marcus Simmons paced the B-Corsairs with 17 points and Marquise Gray scored 11. Wayne Marshall had 10 points for the reigning champions, Omar Reed scored nine and Kenji Yamada seven.
Five Arrows 72, Susanoo Magic 61
In Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, high-energy floor leader Dexter Lyons filled the stat sheet with 23 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a block as Takamatsu defeated the hosts and completed a series sweep.
Center Paul Williams had 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks for the Five Arrows (17-23), who are 6-14 in road games. Hiroyuki Kikuchi and Masaaki Suzuki both scored eight points.
T.J. Cummings had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Shimane (7-33) and Edward Yamamoto scored 12 points with five assists.
The Susanoo Magic shot 22-for-61 from the field.
Bambitious 103, Lakestars 88
In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Joe Chapman’s 29-point, six-assist performance and rookie guard Tatsuya Suzuki’s 26 points and eight assists guided Nara past the Lakestars.
Suzuki drained five 3-pointers in a banner performance as the first-year franchise raised its record to 13-27. Adrian Moss added 22 points on 10-for-13 shooting with nine rebounds and two blocks and Anthony Brown had 16 points for Nara, which dropped the series opener.
Brandon Fields had 19 points for Shiga (22-20), Shelton Colwell scored 16 points, Marshall Brown added 15 and Dionisio Gomez had 13 and Jumpei Nakama 10.