Matt Lottich, Mikey Marshall, Jeff Newton and Lynn Washington combined for 62 of the Evessa’s 66 points in their 66-56 win over the Tokyo Apache in the bj-league championship game on Sunday at Ariake Colosseum.
Moments after their pulse-rising win before 9,201 fans, the Evessa players performed the customary “doage,” tossing head coach Kensaku Tennichi into the air three times, and then did it again.
“I’m so happy,” Tennichi said. “I’m proud of my players. I simply think our team is pretty good. I’m tired right now . . . but overall it was a good season.”
Washington, the team catalyst and emotional leader, received the 2007-08 MVP award despite missing 30 regular-season games due to a knee injury. He came back for the season’s final eight games and played strong in both weekend contests, finishing off his season with an 18-point, five-rebound, three-assist effort.
“I feel great. I feel blessed,” said Washington, who also received the 2005-06 MVP trophy, on the court as he and teammates prepared to cut down the net. “Today was a team effort, but we all came through on the defensive end and were able to get the win.
“I feel that any one of the players on the court today could’ve gotten the MVP,” he added in the postgame news conference.
Apache coach Joe Bryant, meanwhile, struggled to find the right combinations on a night when the teams combined to shoot 3-for-29 from 3-point range. Tokyo used 10 players in the contest and only two — Nick Davis (18 rebounds, five assists, two points) and John Humphrey (a quiet six points; he was the league’s scoring champ in 2005-06 and 2006-07) played more than 30 minutes.
Davis left the game limping early in the fourth but returned to help his team vie for the title.
Apache All-Star Cohey Aoki, one of the team’s offensive sparkplugs all season, played only one minute. He injured his left eye when he was hit by an elbow in the second quarter. Team spokesman So Kamoshida confirmed he left the arena for a local hospital to have X-rays.
“I truly, truly believe that with Cohey playing we could have won easily,” said Bryant, citing his belief that Osaka doesn’t have a player who can defend Aoki.
“There was nothing we could do about that,” Apache guard Jun Iwasa said of Aoki’s injury.
In a game in which both teams failed to put up impressive offensive numbers, the score was tied at 26-26 at halftime.
Osaka’s Kazuya Hatano scored the game’s first field goal at the 6:23 mark of the opening quarter.
After three quarters, Tokyo trailed 44-41. The Apache got a big boost from high-energy forward Dean Browne, who led Tokyo with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds in 17 minutes before fouling out.
Tokyo had pulled to within 51-49 midway through the fourth on an inside off-balance shot by Browne. Marshall answered with a putback and Washington scored the next four Osaka points to push the lead to eight.
The Apache cut it to 58-54 on a Browne free throw with 1:56 remaining, but were outscored 8-2 the rest of the way, starting with Marshall’s kiss-off-the-glass bucket.
Tokyo (29-17) failed to reach the 20-point mark in each of the four quarters. The Apache offense sputtered all evening and they finished 22-for-72 from the field.
“It’s a real pity. As a point guard, I couldn’t control the game when it was needed most,” Iwasa said. “We were down just four points with 3 minutes remaining. At that time, I should have calmed the team down.”
Osaka was 21-for-27 from the free-throw line. Tokyo made 10-of-12 fouls shots, but neither Humphrey nor Davis attempted a shot.
“It was a great game until you get to the free-throw line,” Bryant said.
Both Apache players are known for their aggressive, attack-the-basket style of play and routinely take numerous free throws per game (they combined for 406 during the regular season).
Talking about this, Bryant shook his head and likened the statistical oddity to this: Kobe Bryant (his son), Dwyane Wade and LeBron James would not all be without a field-goal attempt on the same day.
“That’s just impossible. We play the same style (as Osaka),” Bryant added. “I’m not going to blame the game on that, but we play the same style.”
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