The Sendai 89ers picked up their ninth victory in 10 games, edging the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix 98-94 in a down-to-the-wire bj-league contest on Saturday.

The host 89ers (26-19) led 80-66 entering the fourth quarter, but trailed by a point in the final minute after Hamamatsu (30-15), the first-place team in the Eastern Conference, staged a comeback.

Forward Rodney Webb scored the go-ahead basket with 24 seconds remaining to give Sendai a 95-94 lead it would not relinquish.

Bobby St. Preux paced the 89ers with 26 points, while Webb added 20. Kenichi Takahashi had 17 points on a night when five 89ers had double-digit scoring performances. Center Chris Holm grabbed 16 rebounds.

All-Star guard Michael Gardener had 44 points on 14-of-39 shooting in the loss, Phoenix teammate Marcus Morrison scored 30 and Stanley Ocitti had 11. The rest of the team had nine points.

Tokyo Apache coach Joe Bryant was ejected with 2:57 remaining in the fourth quarter of his team’s 107-90 loss to the Niigata Albirex BB at Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex. Bryant voiced his disgust at the game officials for the way they called the game and picked up two technical fouls.

Albirex guard Akitomo Takeno scored a game-high 27 points.

Niigata (22-23) took a commanding 50-32 lead into intermission after outscoring Tokyo 25-9 in the second quarter.

For the Apache (27-18), John Humphrey had a team-high 20 points and Cohey Aoki scored 17.

Elsewhere in the bj-league, the Takamatsu Five Arrows jumped out to a 14-3 first-quarter lead en route to a 101-89 home win over the Oita HeatDevils.

Babacar Camara, who had a 20-point, 16-rebound game, was one of six Five Arrows in double figures. Rasheed Sparks and Hiroyuki Kikuchi added 17 apiece for Takamatsu (31-14).

For Oita (7-38), Jeffrey Price had 21 points.

Lynn Washington scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the Osaka Evessa’s 88-73 win over the visiting Shiga Lakestars.

Nile Murry added 20 points, Ryan Blackwell had 13 and Naoto Nakamura 11 as Osaka improved to 28-17.

Ryan Rourke finished as the leading scorer (21 points) for Shiga, which fell to 17-28.

Reggie Warren, one of three Saitama Broncos to post a double-double, had 23 points and 10 rebounds in his team’s 97-65 home victory over the Toyama Grouses.

Steve Horne (15 points, 10 boards) and Isaac Sojourner (14 points, 11 boards) also played key roles in the win for coach David Benoit’s club, which improved to 18-27. Taishiro Shimizu chipped in with 12 points and five assists.

For Toyama (10-35), Jerod Ward had 26 points and Takeshi Mito and Masayuki Kabaya each had 12.

The Grouses have lost 12 straight games.

Led by center Chris Ayer’s game-best 27 points, the visiting Ryukyu Golden Kings routed the Rizing Fukuoka 94-69.

The Golden Kings (34-11) had a busy, productive night on the boards. Ayer hauled in 15 rebounds. Anthony McHenry and and Jeff Newton added 11 apiece and Naoto Takushi came within one rebound of a double-digit outing in that department. McHenry added 20 points, Yosuke Sugawara poured in 18 and MVP candidate Newton had 17.

Michael Parker led Fukuoka (20-25) with 20 points.

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