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Golden Kings finish regular season in style

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Ryukyu Golden Kings shattered their own league record for victories in the regular season, and the Toyama Grouses tied the old mark on an action-packed Sunday, the final day of the bj-league’s ninth season.

Golden Kings 78, Phoenix 72

In Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, Draelon Burns scored 20 points and Kibwe Trim chipped in with 14 and seven rebounds as Ryukyu completed a series sweep against Hamamatsu Higashimikawa.

Under first-year bench boss Tsutomu Isa, the Golden Kings went 43-9. They were 42-10 last season under ex-coach Koto Toyama.

Ryukyu repeated as the Western Conference regular-season champion and secured a bye into the playoff semifinals, with a home series on tap in Okinawa on May 10-11.

Ryuichi Kishimoto supplied 13 points and Kings do-it-all star Anthony McHenry added nine points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks. League legend Jeff Newton finished with four points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The Phoenix fell to 27-25 in Tomoya “Coach Crusher” Higashino’s first full season at the helm. Hamamatsu, the West’s fourth-seeded playoff team, plays host to the fifth-seeded Rizing Fukuoka in an opening round series next Saturday and Sunday.

Jermaine Dixon scored a team-high 25 points and dished out five assists for Hamamatsu, which got 19 points and 11 rebounds from Wisconsin alum Ray Nixon. Cyrus Tate added 11 points and eight rebounds and Atsuya Ota had seven points.

Grouses 106, Cinq Reves 84

In Toyama, Masashi Joho scored 22 points and made three steals and backcourt mate Takeshi Mito poured in 19 points as the Grouses routed Tokyo for their second victory in as many days.

Toyama coach Bob Nash’s teams finished the season at 42-10, securing the No. 1 playoff seed for the Eastern Conference. The Grouses have a bye until their May 10-11 home series against a TBD foe.

Ex-minor league baseball pitcher Ira Brown delivered 17 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block for Toyama before a rowdy home crowd of 4,290, and Sam Willard made his presence felt with 12 points, 16 boards and six assists.

Joho finishes the season as the lone Japanese among the league’s top 10 scorers (No. 8, 17.4 points per game).

Ricky Woods paced Tokyo (13-39) with 34 points and Yuji Ide had 28, including six 3-pointers, with five assists. Big man Anthony Stover grabbed 11 rebounds for the Cinq Reves, who have failed to qualify for the playoffs in each of their first two seasons.

Toyama drained 20 of 25 free throws; Tokyo made 4 of 6.

Big Bulls 99, 89ers 66

In Sendai, Iwate coach Dai Oketani’s club closed out the regular season with its 12th straight victory, routing the hosts and punching a ticket to the playoffs as the East’s No. 2 seed.

The Big Bulls (40-12) earned a bye into the playoff semifinals, with a home series on May 10-11.

Iwate’s Josh Peppers poured in 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting and Scootie Randall had 19 points and nine rebounds. Gyno Pomare added 18 points and seven rebounds and Kenichi Takahashi scored 15 points and chalked up six assists on a day when his team had 30 assists on 41 baskets.

Masato Tsukino scored 14 points for Iwate and Lawrence Blackledge chipped in with seven assists and a pair of blocks.

Dzaflo Larkai had 20 points and 10 rebounds and DeAngelo Hamilton added 16 points and eight boards. Travel Jones provided 15 points and nine rebounds and Takehiko Shimura dished out 12 assists for the 89ers (24-28), who fell short of qualifying for the playoffs for the second straight season, first under sideline supervisor Shuto Kawachi.

Northern Happinets 99, B-Corsairs 72

In Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Shigehiro Taguchi, Richard Roby and Deshawn Stephens lit up the scoreboard for 19 points apiece in a runaway victory over the reigning champions.

Ruben Boykins had a seven-point, 17-rebound, eight-assist effort for Akita (40-12), which will take on the sixth-seeded Aomori Wat’s in a first-round East playoff series next weekend.

Taguchi sank 5 of 6 3-pointers in the rout, while Yuto Otsuka added 15 points and Yuki Togashi scored 13 points and handed out eight assists. Chas McFarland blocked three shots, bringing his total to eight in the past three games.

The 20-year-old Togashi finished the season with 409 assists (a league-high 7.9 per game) and only 132 turnovers.

For Yokohama (24-28), Wayne Marshall was the top scorer with 19 points and Omar Reed scored 16. Masayuki Kabaya added 14 points and six assists and Kenji Yamada handed out a game-high 11 assists.

Albirex BB 112, Broncos 65

In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, led by Patrick Sullivan’s 28-point, 15-rebound, six-assist performance, Niigata overwhelmed the hosts and completed a series sweep.

The Albirex closed out the season with a 31-21 record under first-year coach Fujitaka Hiraoka. Niigata, the fifth seed, travels to face East No. 4 Shinshu next weekend.

Thomas Kennedy buried 6 of 11 3s in a 26-point game for the visitors, who got seven assists from Shuhei Komatsu and five from Takamichi Fujiwara. Nile Murry scored 15 points in the season finale.

The Albirex knocked down 13 of 27 3s and converted 29 of 47 shots from inside the arc.

The Broncos fell to 5-47, and head coach Takatoshi “Big Bashi” Ishibashi is not expected to be brought back for a second season.

Saitama has never qualified for the bj-league playoffs despite being one of the league’s original two breakaway franchises from the JBL for the 2005-06 campaign, which featured six teams. The Broncos have never finished above .500, either, with a revolving door policy of changing coaches on an annual basis.

How bad were things this season? Saitama went 1-25 in road games. They lost nine straight to close out the season and never won back-to-back games.

Before the game, a longtime Saitama booster, who is simply known as Broncos Masked Man in Japan basketball circles, held up a sign to protest the team’s woeful record under longtime president Toshihiko Narita.

The message?

It’s time for Narita to resign, the sign stated.

“There was no reaction from the team,” a league observer, who was at the gym, told The Japan Times.

Mark Dawson paced Saitama with 16 points and Michael Joiner had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Masahide Haraguchi scored 11 points. Broncos veteran John Humphrey, who didn’t play, won the scoring title with 23.9 points per game

Brave Warriors 105, Crane Thunders 91

In Nagano, Xavier Gibson and Patrick Sanders scored 23 points apiece and Shoji Nakanishi had 14 as Shinshu wrapped up a series sweep against Gunma.

Shinshu (33-19) is headed to the playoffs for the first time in the three-year franchise’s history.

First-year bench boss Ryuji Kawai orchestrated his team’s solid turnaround: a 16-win improvement.

Gibson’s productive afternoon included 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks, while Sanders dished out six assists. Yosuke Saito scored 12 points.

Shinshu outscored Gunma 31-17 in the third quarter to seize control of the game.

Carlos Dixon led the Crane Thunders (13-39) with 34 points on 11-for-20 shooting. Dillion Sneed had 18 points and 16 rebounds, Masashi Obuchi scored 13 points and Kenya Tomori and Jermaine Green both had 10.

Gunma was 18-for-31 at the free-throw line.

Evessa 83, Susanoo Magic 72

In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, D’Andre Bell scored 25 points and Naoto Nakamura delivered a vintage 20 point effort, draining 5 of 6 3-pointers that reminds one of the Osaka dynasty days, as the Evessa defeated the hosts.

Osaka (24-28) made 20 of 23 free throws, and Darko Cohadarevic scored 10 points, with Yosuke Sugawara adding nine.

The Evessa, the West’s No. 6 seed, travel to face the third-seeded Shiga Lakestars next weekend in the playoffs’ first round.

Shimane (11-41) will miss the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. (Ex-coach Zeljko Pavlicevic guided the team to 33 wins last season, the franchise’s third campaign.)

T.J. Cummings had 21 points and three blocks for the Magic. Edward Yamamoto added 19 points and six assists, while Tatsuhiro Yokoo had 13 points.

Wat’s 68, Hannaryz 66

In Aomori, Gordon Klaiber notched a double-double and Yuki Kitamuki had the hot hand from 3-point land as the Wat’s bounced back from a Saturday loss against Kyoto.

Aomori, under first-year coach Koju Munakata, went 27-25 in its inaugural season.

Klaiber had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Kitamuji drained 5 of 7 3-point shots in a 19-point afternoon. Daisuke Takaoka chipped in with 10 points and Stanley Ocitti had seven.

Big man Chris Holm led Kyoto (34-18) with 15 points and 12 rebounds. David Palmer scored 11 points, Shun Watanuki netted nine and Joe Werner and Edwin Ubiles had eight apiece.

Ubiles, a former Washington Wizards player, shot 4-for-16 in the game. He led the Hannaryz with 15.8 points per game.

Kyoto, the West’s No. 2 seed, earned a bye into the playoff semifinals and secured a home series on May 10-11 against a TBD opponent.

Lakestars 91, Rizing 86

In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Marshall Brown sparked the hosts with 22 points, nine assists and four steals in their second win of the weekend over Fukuoka.

Brandon Fields (16 points, five assists) and Shelton Colwell (16 points, three steals) also had stellar outings, as did Yutaka Yokoe, who poured in 15 points and made all five of his field-goal attempts. The Lakestars completed a 27-25 campaign under first-year coach Chris Boettcher.

The Rizing (26-26) were 7-for-16 at the free-throw line. Seth Tarver had a team-best 21 points and Reggie Warren added 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Cohey Aoki and Julius Ashby scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

“We had a disappointing last two games of the games,” Ashby told The Japan Times, “but now we are just gonna focus on these playoff games.”

Five Arrows 81, HeatDevils 63

In Beppu, Oita Prefecture, balanced scoring lifted Takamatsu to a rout over the hosts in the teams’ last game.

The Five Arrows (23-29) outscored the HeatDevils 41-21 in the middle two quarters.

Takamatsu’s Andrais Thornton and Paul Williams both had 15 points and Dexter Lyons and Tsubasa Yonezawa had 13 and 11, respectively.

Williams led the visitors with 12 rebounds and Thornton raked in eight boards.

Devonne Giles scored 17 points and hauled in eight rebounds for Oita (20-32). Verdell Jones III added 15 points and Byron Allen scored 10.

Neither team has advanced to the playoffs since Takamatsu fell to Osaka in the 2008-09 postseason.