Michael Parker handled the heavy-duty offensive workload, scoring 44 points, and teammate Tsuyoshi Kawazura reminded us that quality is just as important as quantity in sports.

Together, the Rizing Fukuoka teammates played pivotal roles in their team’s 96-93 overtime victory over the Shiga Lakestars on Sunday in the bj-league.

Kawazura converted two free throws with 1:34 remaining in overtime. The first shot shattered a 90-90 tie, and the second one gave Fukuoka a lead it would not relinquish.

With the victory, well-traveled Rizing coach John Neumann’s run-and-gun squad improved to 10-14, which gives it the same record as Shiga, the fourth-place team in the Western Conference.

Arguably, Sunday’s victory will give Parker, Kawazura and Co. much-needed momentum as they shift gears to prepare for another team ahead of them in the standings — the Takamatsu Five Arrows, who routed the Osaka Evessa 91-65 in their series finale on Sunday.

For Fukuoka, Marlyn Bryant added 21 points and Takanori Goya scored 15. Kawazura, who finished with two points, added five assists and five rebounds for good measure.

Budding star Ray Schafer led the expansion Lakestars with 33 points and pulled down 13 boards. Bobby Nash chipped in with 15 points, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 13 seconds left in regulation to send the game into OT, and 14 rebounds.

Also Sunday, the Five Arrows (15-9) salvaged a split in their weekend series in the aforementioned blowout victory. Yu Okada paced Takamatsu with 24 points and George Leach scored 22.

Lynn Washington’s 21 points led the Evessa (15-9), whose five-game winning streak ended.

The Ryukyu Golden Kings, meanwhile, became the league’s first 20-win team, reaching that milestone in their 24th game by beating the Oita HeatDevils 102-86.

Naoto Takushi’s super shooting ignited Ryukyu’s high-octane offense. He scored a season-high 30 points on 10-for-13 from the field and 7-for-7 from the line. Chris Ayer (20 points, 11 rebounds), Anthony McHenry (16 points), Jeff Newton (14 points, 16 boards) and Bryan Simpson (12 points) also reached double figures in scoring for Dai Oketani’s first-place squad.

Jeffrey Price led Oita (5-19) with a 23-point outing.

Balanced scoring carried the Sendai 89ers to an 89-86 win over the Tokyo Apache. Led by Bobby St. Preux’s 20 points, Chris Holm’s 15 and Kenichi Takahashi’s 13, the 89ers improved to 11-13.

Tokyo, which won the series opener, slipped to 16-8. John Humphrey (23 points), Masashi Joho (19) and Cohey Aoki (16) were Tokyo’s top point-getters.

The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix defeated the Saitama Broncos 83-63, snatching their second runaway triumph over the out-of-towners in as many days.

Do-it-all guard Michael Gardener was the game’s top player, scoring 32, dishing out five assists and collecting eight steals as Hamamatsu improved to 14-10 with its sixth straight win. Teammate Sun Ming Ming, the 236-cm Chinese center, made a giant impact in the middle — a season-best 18 points, 10 rebounds and attempted 10 free throws for only the second time this season (he made eight).

Dokun Akingbade’s 28-point, 13-rebond effort helped the host Niigata Albirex BB trounce the Toyama Grouses 101-73.

Niigata (10-14) completed the series sweep by getting five players in double figures.

Terrence Woodyard paced the Grouses (7-17) with 10 points in the loss. Veteran forward Jerod Ward, who played for Toyama two seasons ago and was once the top college basketball recruit in the U.S. when he signed to play at the University of Michigan, made his season debut after rejoining the squad. Ward shot 1-for-5 from 3-point range and was 1-for-2 at the line in nine minutes.

All-Star date set

The Japan Times

The bj-league announced on Saturday that Sendai will host the All-Star Game for the 2009-2010 season.

The game will be held at Hot House Super Arena in Rifu, Miyagi Pref., on Jan. 31.

This season’s All-Star Game is held at B-con Plaza, the home of the Oita HeatDevils, on Jan. 25.

JOMO claims title

Kyodo News

The JOMO Sunflowers captured their first national basketball title in five years with an 86-62 rout of the three-time defending champion Fujitsu Red Wave in the women’s final Sunday.

In a rematch of the 2008 final, JOMO outscored Fujitsu 30-13 in the second quarter to take a 46-27 halftime lead, highlighted by three 3-pointers by Ryoko Utsumi, who scored a game-high 18 points.

Yuko Oga and Hiromi Suwa each added 15 points for JOMO, while Fujitsu star Ryoko Yano was held to 10 points at Yoyogi national gymnasium.

The Aisin SeaHorses and the Hitachi Sunrockers will meet in the men’s final Monday.

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