Arnold ignites to lead Albirex past B-Corsairs


Staff Writer

The Yokohama B-Corsairs matched the visiting Niigata Albirex’s intensity for the opening quarter on Sunday.

After that, things fell apart for the B-Corsairs.

Hot-shooting Niigata erupted for 29 second-quarter points and seized control of the game in a runaway 104-83 victory at Hiratsuka Gymnasium.

Veteran sharpshooter Wayne Arnold, who joined the team this week after an eight-game stint with the Shiga Lakestars, scored a game-high 41 points in the rout.

It was an electrifying, remarkable performance. Arnold canned 9 of 10 3-pointers, many of the picture-perfect variety that would have grabbed Stephen Curry’s attention. He added eight rebounds, five assists and two steals to complete a game he’ll never forget.

In the momentum-changing second quarter, Arnold scored 14 points, knocking down three 3s, in a hurry, in under seven minutes.

And once Arnold, a Tennessee State alum, heated up, Niigata’s offense climbed to another level that Yokohama failed to contain.

Ryan Reid added 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks for Niigata, while Kimitake Sato poured in 15 points.

Just under a minute into the second quarter, though, the contest looked like a tight duel. Yokohama big man Carl Hall made the second of two free throws to knot the score at 25-25.

Then Arnold missed a straight-away jumper.

But seconds later, Reid drained a laser-like 3 that put the visitors ahead. At that point Reid had scored 11 straight points for his team, and the Albirex would never trail again.

Arnold’s own one-man scoring binges in both the second and third quarters proved too much for Yokohama to overcome.

Leading 33-27, Niigata climbed closer to a double-digit advantage when Arnold quickly curled off a screen and buried a 3 from the right side. He was just heating up at that point, which was the Albirex’s biggest lead at that point. Shortly thereafter, he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback. Then Sato sank a 3, and Arnold duplicated Sato’s feat as the visitors’ 16-1 run put them firmly in control, 44-28.

A sign of things to come in the third quarter, with a few seconds left in the opening half, big man Faye Pape Mour corralled two offensive rebounds after consecutive missed shots in a fast-paced sequence. The ball then wound up in Arnold’s hands and he knocked down a fadeaway 3-pointer from the left side, putting his team in front 54-36.

Arnold owned the third quarter, and Niigata pulled away from the hosts, and his teammates recognized he was in a zone. Converting 3s and jumpers and putbacks, Arnold scored 13 straight points for his club in the third and early seconds of the fourth, the last of which — a 3-pointer, of course — put his club ahead 83-58.

The Albirex led 26 points near the midway point of the fourth.

The Albirex owned 3-point territory in this game, sinking 16 of 27 shots against an ineffective B-Corsairs perimeter defense.

Yokohama (16-18) dropped its fourth straight game.

Standing on the court after the game, B-Corsairs head coach Taketo Aoki addressed the team’s fans and the media. He said it’s “time to step up” in the team’s final 18 regular-season games.

The Albirex, meanwhile, improved to 22-10, putting them in a three-way tie for the second-best record in the 12-team Eastern Conference, joining the Toyama Grouses and Akita Northern Happinets.

Niigata is an impressive 12-4 in road games, including a 29-point victory in Saturday’s series opener here.

The Albirex extended their win streak to five on a day when the impact of post player Faye was on display from start to finish. A native of Senegal, the former B-Corsairs player was an imposing, energetic figure in the staring lineup for Niigata, and barely stepped off the floor. He logged 38 minutes, 53 seconds of court time.

He is the lone naturalized Japanese in the 24-team league, and the Albirex have capitalized on his rising star and exploited mismatches under first-year bench boss Kazuo Nakamura.

On Sunday, Faye was everywhere, hustling, diving for the ball, crashing the boards with reckless abandon, attacking the rim, setting picks, inspiring his team with infectious energy — you name it, he did it.

Faye’s line in the box score read this way: 12 points, 13 rebounds (seven offensive), six assists and a block. He also picked up four fouls, indicative of his defensive effort.

Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Hall each had 22 points for Yokohama and Cory Johnson poured in 18. Veteran point guard Kenji Yamada finished with 11 points and nine assists.

Hall echoed Aoki’s sentiments that the team remains committed to end the season a strong note.

“It’s been a long season and it means a lot to the team and the organization to have your support,” Hall told the crowd.

He added: “We’ll keep playing hard and leave it all on the floor.”

After the game, Nakamura was asked to reveal his game plan. He admitted that one key tactic was to limit B-Corsairs shooting guard Masayuki Kabaya’s scoring. (The Kanagawa Prefecture native is averaging 8.5 points per game and was an instrumental figure in helping the club capture the bj-league title in the 2012-13 season.)

The plan paid off.

Kabaya was shut out. He was 0-for-7 from the field and didn’t attempt a free throw. He had struggled in the series opener, too, scoring five points on 2-for-9 shooting.

Reid, meanwhile, carried the Niigata offense in the first period with 17 of the team’s 25 points on 8-for-8 shooting.

That helped the visitors take a three-point lead into the second quarter.

Nakamura praised Reid for his fighting spirit and energy in a post-game interview with The Japan Times. “He’s really an excellent player,” the veteran coach added. He said Reid helped set the tone for the team, while noting that Sato and Shuhei Komatsu (six points) command attention because of their perimeter shooting skills.

Another focal point of Nakamura’s game plan — rebounding — turned out as he had hoped. The visitors grabbed 48 boards and held Yokohama to 42.

What’s more, the ball moved with precision and purpose for 40 minutes on the Albirex end of the court, leading to repeated good looks, especially beyond the arc (16-for-27 overall), and few mistakes (26 assists, six turnovers).

What also worked well for Niigata was a steady, fast-paced tempo and quick shooting.

As a result, Yokohama never found its defensive rhythm for long.

Big Bulls 87, Broncos 65

In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Tatsunori Fujie had a team-high 21 points, Patrick Sanders poured in 17 and Iwate triumphed over the hosts for the second straight day.

Alandise Harris added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Big Bulls (17-15) and Kaito Ishikawa dished out six assists and made four steals.

Newcomer Edward Morris led Saitama (3-29) with 18 points and Evan Harris scored 16.

89ers 83, Cinq Reves 65

In Inagi, Wendell White delivered a 30-point, 12-rebound performance and Masaharu Kataoka poured in 20 points as Sendai handed the hosts their 25th straight loss.

The Eastern Conference-leading 89ers (25-9) got 14 points and 11 boards from Jamal Boykin in the rout.

White converted 12 of 16 shots and Kataoka sank 9 of 12.

Andre Murray paced Tokyo (1-31) with 20 points and John Florveus had 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Firebonds 98, Grouses 59

In Toyama, Fukushima bounced back from Saturday’s 17-point loss to earn a series split.

The Firebonds (19-13) dominated on the boards (61-23 rebounding advantage) in a game that Toyama’s best rebounder, Sam Willard (13.1 per game, No. 3 in the league), was sidelined with an injury. It was Willard’s first missed game this season.

Big man Stephan Van Treese led Fukushima with 27 points and 20 rebounds and Shinya Murakami had a season-high 17 points. Le’Bryan Nash contributed 12 points and 10 boards and Masaya Karimata dished out seven assists.

For the Grouses (22-10), Duke Crews had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Masashi Joho scored 12 points on 5-for-19 shooting.

“It was very important for us to win today,” Van Treese told The Japan Times. “We are trying to make a push in the East to get towards the top. I feel like it’s still a close race and a lot of things could still change in the East. We still have to play three of the top four teams again.

“I think we are trying to get on a winning streak and it starts with Tokyo next weekend. We feel like we can do it.”

Hannaryz 86, Rizing 77

In Fukuoka, Shingo Utsumi’s 18-point effort and Tyren Johnson’s 17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists helped guide West-leading Kyoto to a victory and a series sweep of the Rizing.

Koki Yabuuchi had 13 points, Kevin Kotzur scored 11 and Kyosuke Setoyama doled out five assists for the Hannaryz (25-7).

Donnavan Kirk and Josh Peppers both scored 14 points for Fukuoka (14-20).

Bambitious 79, HeatDevils 74

In Toon, Ehime Prefecture, Daiki Terashita canned 4 of 5 3-point attempts in a 16-point outing and Tatsuya Suzuki finished with nine points and 10 assists as Nara edged the hosts to complete a weekend sweep.

Charles Hinkle and Jumpei Honda had 12 points apiece for the Bambitious (13-21).

For Oita Ehime (9-23), Chehales Tapscott put 17 points on the board and snagged 15 rebounds. Patrick Simon scored 13 points.

Northern Happinets 76, Crane Thunders 69

In Yokote, Akita Prefecture, the hosts’ talented, versatile roster shined in the series finale and coach Makoto Hasegawa’s squad won its second in a row over Gunma.

The Happinets (22-10) have won five of their last six games.

Yuto Otsuka paced Akita with 20 points and Ray Turner supplied 16 points, 16 rebounds and four assists. Scott Morrison scored 14 points and grabbed 10 boards, while Richard Roby had 12 points and six assists. Shigehiro Taguchi finished with 10 points.

The hosts made 23 of 36 2-point shots.

Thomas Kennedy had a team-high 26 points for the Crane Thunders (14-20) and Michael St. John added 11.

Susanoo Magic 82, Five Arrows 58

In Takamatsu, Shimane routed the struggling Five Arrows for the second time in as many days.

The Susanoo Magic (25-9) earned a 20-point victory in the series opener.

Shimane star Scootie Randall had 23 points and teammate Josh Davis provided 21 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks. Tatsuhiro Yokoo added 18 points, Wayne Marshall pulled down 10 rebounds and Naoto Takushi dished out five assists.

For Takamatsu (8-24), which dropped its eighth consecutive game, Jarvis Williams had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Shuichi Takada scored 10 points.

Brave Warriors 84, Wat’s 67

In Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, Mike Bell notched a double-double (19 points, 16 rebounds) and Xavier Gibson had a 15-point outing as Shinshu extended its winning streak to four games by trouncing the hosts.

Yasuhiko Wada drained four 3s in a 14-point effort for the Brave Warriors (15-19).

Shinshu out-rebounded Aomori 49-30.

Nile Murry scored 20 points and Yuki Kitamuki contributed 18 for the Wat’s (15-19).

Aomori was held to a combined 21 points in the middle two quarters.

Evessa 73, Phoenix 68

In Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, for the second straight game, the reigning champions’ offense disappeared in the pivotal fourth quarter, and Osaka earned a series sweep.

Hamamatsu Higashimikawa (22-10) was held to eight points in the final stanza on Sunday after scoring just five points in that period on Saturday.

The Phoenix turned the ball over 20 times in the rematch.

For the Evessa (23-11), Lawrence “Trend” Blackledge had 24 points on 11-for-19 shooting and Shun Watanuki chipped in with 11 points and six assists.

Shingo Okada led Hamamatsu with 13 points and Reggie Warren had 12 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Atsuya Ota and Toshifumi Kawamitsu both scored 10 points.

After the game, Warren pinpointed his team’s struggles over the weekend.

“We didn’t do a good job taking care of the basketball,” Warren told The Japan Times on Sunday night. “We got to learn from these two and come back stronger and get a good rhythm heading into the playoffs.”

Evessa coach Dai Oketani commented on the series in a short email interview with The Japan Times on Sunday night.

“We beat ourselves this weekend,” Oketani said, “not only beat Hamamatsu. We played through our basketball.”

The key?

“Tough defense,” he said.