The Ryukyu Golden Kings dropped their first home game of the season on Oct. 12. What followed was an epic winning streak in Okinawa.
The Golden Kings’ 22-game home winning streak ended on Sunday as the Oita HeatDevils topped the Western Conference powerhouse 81-69 in their bj-league series finale.
Ryukyu (37-7 overall) trailed 30-15 after one quarter. Its comeback attempt came up short in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.
The Golden Kings, now 22-2 at home, got 21 points from Draelon Burns and 14 from Kibwe Trim. Naoto Kosuge scored 10 points and Jeff Newton and Morihisa Yamauchi had seven apiece. Newton grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds and Trim hauled in 10 boards.
Guard Narito Namizato had six points and five assists for the Kings.
Oita (19-25) shot 60.5 percent (26-for-43) from inside the 3-point arc. Gabe McCulley led the HeatDevils with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Taishiro Shimizu scored 16 points and Verdell Jones III had 12. Devonne Giles chipped in with 10 points and eight assists.
The HeatDevils held a 9-3 advantage in steals en route to earning a series split.
Grouses 91, Crane Thunders 69
In Toyama, the dramatic rise of second-year bench boss Bob Nash’s club from one of the league’s average teams to one of its elite franchises has been one of the top stories these past two seasons.
Sunday’s game is a major part of that story.
Here’s why: Toyama’s lopsided win over Gunma moved the team into a first-place tie with Akita atop the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams are 36-10.
The Grouses, meanwhile, are 16-6 at home, and had never before been in first place at this stage of any season. (The franchise began play in the fall of 2006.)
Guard Masashi Joho energized Toyama with 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists and Josh Gross scored 15 points. Ira Brown added 13 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, while Sam Willard had 12 points and nine rebounds and Djibril Thiam had 10 points in 13-plus minutes.
Gunma (12-32) shot 32.7 percent from 2-point range. Carlos Dixon led the Crane Thunders with 18 points and James Hughes had 16 points with 11 rebounds. Jermaine Green scored 14 points and Shingo Okada had 10.
89ers 112, Northern Happinets 91
In Sendai, Wendell White buried five 3-pointers and scored 27 points as the hot-shooting hosts routed Akita.
Sendai made 13 of 26 3s and shot a scorching 62.5 percent (30-for-48) from inside the arc. DeAngelo Hamilton notched a triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) for the 89ers (22-22) and Travele Jones and Yasuhiko Wada each had 16-point performances. Dzaflo Larkai scored nine points and point guard Takehiko Shimura delivered seven points and five assists off the bench.
The visitors trailed 69-46 after two quarters.
Richard Roby paced Akita (36-10) with 23 points and Deshawn Stephens had 21. Yuki Togashi finished with 16 points and 11 assists and Ruben Boykin had 16 points and 17 rebounds.
Rizing 80, Five Arrows 67
In Fukuoka, the Rizing dominated in the second half and topped Takamatsu for the second time in as many days.
Eight-time All-Star guard Cohey Aoki paced Fukuoka (23-21 overall, 15-9 at home) with 15 points and Julius Ashby and David Palmer scored 10 apiece.
Palmer added 15 rebounds and four steals. Ashby contributed five boards, five assists and a block a day after he swatted six shots.
Ashby’s across-the-board contributions in this series appears to be a good omen for last season’s championship runnerup squad, which now sits in fourth place in the West.
“I feel like I’m playing a lot better now at this point of the season,” Ashby told The Japan Times. “(Under new coach James Duncan) we are structured and, yeah, it does give me confidence knowing what I have to come out and do in order for us to be successful in our games…”
The Rizing’s Masahiro Kano scored nine points, Seth Tarver and Akitomo Takeno had eight apiece and Reggie Warren finished with seven points and 10 rebounds.
Fukuoka out-rebounded Takamatsu 48-31 on Sunday, a statistic that did not go unnoticed.
“It was another tough game with Takamatsu, but we did a lot better job of controlling the glass and defending throughout the game,” Rizing coach James Duncan told The Japan Times. “Again, different guys stepped up for us tonight which was good to see going forward. I thought we really took a step forward after many days of practice, an extra week gave us time to fix many things and also get better at what we already do.
“Next week things become even more difficult with road games coming up. The process continues.”
Andrais Thornton paced the Five Arrows (18-26) with 17 points. Dexter Lyons and Paul Williams had 16 and 14, respectively.
After the game, Warren told this newspaper, “It was very important to get these two (wins) and finish this month of March strong. We were 6-1 for the month with a loss to Okinawa (80-74 on March 14) that we should have won.
“With the way these playoffs are set up in this league, it comes down to who is playing the best basketball at the end of the season and home-court advantage is big. So we are making a push to get the best position possible for the playoffs, so we still got a lot of work to do in April.”
The Five Arrows are three wins behind Osaka in the battle for the final playoff position, but the team is determined to challenge for a postseason berth.
“We know every game is important to us,” Williams admitted in a Sunday interview with The Japan Times. “Of course this weekend was a disappointment because we felt we could get two or at least one win this weekend. But this doesn’t mean it’s over for us. We need to continue to stay focused and positive each and every day. We will not give up.”
Big Bulls 87, Phoenix 75
In Hamamatsu, Iwate whipped the hosts in the fourth quarter, scoring 31 points and holding the Phoenix to 14 and completing a weekend sweep.
Iwate improved to 31-12. Hamamatsu slipped to 25-19.
The Big Bulls made 28 of 44 shots from 2-point range.
Temple University product Scootie Randall had a team-high 19 points for Iwate, followed by Josh Peppers’ 16 and Lawrence Blackledge’s 12. Gyno Pomare scored 11 points and Masato Tsukino added 10. Tsubasa Yonamine had seven points and Kenichi Takahashi scored six.
Pomare and Randall each handed out five assists, with Pomare also picking up a game-best four steals.
Jermaine Dixon was the Phoenix’s high scorer with 29 points. Cyrus Tate added 12 and Masahiro Oguchi had 11.
“Today was a hard-fought game,” Blackledge told The Japan Times. “The Phoenix have a good combo attack of speed and size with Dixon and Tate. We just played Big Bulls basketball — well-balanced offensive attack and team defense clogging up the paint.”
Asked about the race for the East title heating up, with Toyama now tied with Akita for first, Blackledge noted, “It just goes to show you how tough the Eastern Conference is this year. Any night vs. any given team you could lose. You have to bring your ‘A’ game every weekend in the East.”
Cinq Reves 74, Broncos 67
In Saitama, in a game marked by poor shooting, Tokyo bounced back to salvage a series split.
The teams shot a combined 48-for-149 from the field. They also struggled at the free-throw line — Saitama was 8-for-18; Tokyo 25-for-40.
Scoring 32 second-quarter points provided vital for the Cinq Reves (12-32), who loss the series opener 101-66.
Tokyo’s Ricky Woods had 26 points, going 10-for-10 at the line, and 12 rebounds. Yuji Ide scored 14 points, but was 1-for-10 on 3s and 3-for-18 overall. Edward Morris finished with 12 points and 11 boards for the second-year franchise, Takuro Ito scored nine points and center Anthony Stover had seven points and 23 rebounds (nine offensive) on a busy afternoon on the court.
Mark Dawson had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Saitama (5-39).
John “Helicopter” Humphrey, who scored 46 in the series opener, was held to 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting and Junya Masumoto scored 11. A day after dropping 30 points on the Cinq Reves, Michael Joiner had three points on 1-for-8 shooting.
“(We) really just wanted to play for our pride,” Morris told The Japan Times, referring to Sunday’s rematch. “Losing like that isn’t acceptable. But with that being said, Helicopter and Michael Joiner played their butts off (on Saturday).
“But today we focused on shutting down their two primary resources of scoring and stuck to the game plan. And the end result was a win.”
Evessa 72, Bambitious 62
In Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture, three Osaka players finished with double-doubles in a win over the hosts.
D’Andre Bell supplied 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Evessa (21-25), Kevin Galloway added 12 and 10 and Zach Andrews had 11 and 14 as Osaka recorded a series split.
Rookie guard Takuya Soma, playing his 18th game in the bj-league, reached double digits in points for the fifth time, draining four 3s in a 15-point effort. Takanori Goya added eight points. Naoto Nakamura, the latest Lawson/Ponta Weekly MVP, was 0-for-11 from the field in a zero-point afternoon.
“The victory was definitely an important one because there is a race for these final playoff spots. For all of us battling to solidify a spot, the playoffs starts now,” Bell told The Japan Times. “Not much room for error and it is a different kind of fight that comes out of you when your season is on the line. All is intensified, playoffs start now.”
The Bambitious (14-30) had a subpar shooting day: 6-for-24 on 3s, 13-for-42 inside the arc and 18-for-26 at the charity stripe.
Post player Adrian Moss, a member of the University of Florida’s 2005-06 NCAA championship team, had 14 points and Nara teammates Anthony Brown and Joe Chapman scored 11 apiece. Jamar Abrams chipped in with nine points and 13 rebounds. Point guard Tatsuya Suzuki dished out eight assists with no turnovers.
“In yesterday’s game, we played well offensively, making 15 3s,” Chapman told The Japan Times after the series finale. “That helped us break open the game. In today’s loss, both teams played hard defense, but they executed better in the last five minutes. They are veteran players who played great today.”
Lakestars 66, Susanoo Magic 64
In Yasu, Shiga Prefecture, the Lakestars held off Shimane in a down-to-the-wire contest, winning for the second straight time after a three-game slide.
Dionisio Gomez scored 12 points for Shiga (24-22), which led 35-32 at halftime. Brandon Fields and Marshall Brown both had 11 points and Shelton Colwell (nine points, eight rebounds, two blocks) and Jumpei Nakama (nine points, nine boards, four assists, two steals) also made key contributions.
T.J. Cummings scored 16 points with nine rebounds for Shimane (7-37) and Edward Yamamoto had 13 points and six assists. Koki Yabuuchi put 12 points on the board for the Magic, and Shawn Malloy had nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
“We came back and played well today,” Shimane coach Reggie Hanson told The Japan Times. “We had a shot at the buzzer to send it to OT but missed. We were up late in the fourth, but had some costly turnovers.
“With the limited roster we have, I was proud of our guys’ fight, focus and effort.”
B-Corsairs 95, Albirex BB 89 (OT)
In Yokohama, Marquise Gray’s 27-point, 12-rebound performance and 20 points apiece from Omar Reed and Kenji Yamada guided the B-Corsairs to an overtime win over Niigata.
Yokohama (19-25) halted its four-game losing streak, and Marcus Simmons and Wayne Marshall each scored 11 points in the victory.
Reed and Simmons both had three steals for coach Michael Katsuhisa’s team. Masayuki Kabaya passed out six assists for the hosts.
Former B-Corsairs star Thomas Kennedy and Nile Murry were joint top scorers with 20 points for the Albirex (27-19 overall, 10-14 in away games). Patrick Sullivan poured in 14 points and Shuhei Komatsu and Yuichi Ikeda both had 11.
Wat’s 82, Brave Warriors 78
In Kuroishi, Aomori Prefecture, the hosts led by 19 points at halftime and held on in crunch time to defeat Shinshu.
Aomori (23-21) has won two in a row and four of its last five games.
Gordon Klaiber led the first-year franchise with 24 points and Makoto Sawaguchi scored 12. Yuki Kitamuki added 11 points and seven assists, while Abdullahi Kuso had nine points and 10 boards.
The Wat’s out-rebounded the Warriors 58-41.
Patrick Sanders scored 21 points for Shinshu (27-17) and Yosuke Saito had 16 on 7-for-8 shooting before fouling out. Xavier Gibson scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
The Warriors were held to 16-for-49 shooting from inside the arc.