No way, nope, not going to happen.
The way the Niigata Albirex kept fighting back, it seemed like they were bound to win the bj-league championship Sunday night at Ariake Colosseum.
But Lynn Washington and the Osaka Evessa were there to slam the door every time, winning the inaugural league title 74-64 before a crowd of 7,641.
Washington posted 24 points and 15 rebounds — both game-high totals — after an explosive first quarter in which he scored half his points and grabbed five boards.
And it couldn’t have happened against a better team in Washington’s eyes. He played for Niigata for three season when it still played in the JBL Super League, and after the team released him, he landed with Osaka (33-9) and enjoyed every second of carving up his former team.
“Every time I play against Niigata, I get some extra power and energy,” Washington said.
His most important points, the ones that knocked Niigata (30-12) down for good, came with 22.6 seconds remaining, when he overcame a miserable night from the free-throw line to sink a pair of shots, giving Osaka a 70-64 lead Niigata couldn’t touch.
The Evessa made four more free throws before the final buzzer, making a game look more distant than it was, it wasn’t, was and wasn’t again.
After the Albirex led early on, Osaka went on a 9-0 run — paced by seven from Washington — to go up 14-9 late in the period.
Niigata battled back to take a 20-17 lead in the second. Within minutes, it clung to a 26-25 advantage, but David Palmer drilled a 3-pointer that made the Albirex’s lead history.
Palmer and the Evessa ended the first half on an 11-0 run, leading by 10 at the half.
Not quite ready to roll over and die, Niigata came out in the second half, looking refreshed. The Albirex tried to dictate tempo all night, but Osaka’s physical style of play and dominant rebounding kept the tide from turning orange.
“They took us out of what we wanted to do, which was push the ball and run,” said Niigata’s Matt Garrison, who led the team with 17 points.
The lead was never too far from Osaka, largely because of its decisive 69-40 advantage on the glass. Washington, who played college basketball at Indiana University, was one of three Evessa players to rebound in double figures.
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