No place like home for Sendai’s hoop wizards


For basketball fans in Tohoku and the Sendai 89ers, an unforgettable line from “The Wizard of Oz” succinctly summarizes the bj-league team’s success this season: “There’s no place like home.”

On Sunday, the 89ers improved to 6-0 in home games by defeating the Tokyo Apache 91-85.

It wasn’t an easy victory by any stretch of the imagination.

Tokyo’s Julius Ashby scored 41 points on 19-for-27 shooting (including five dunks), grabbed 10 rebounds and proved to be a thorn in the side of the 89ers’ frontcourt players. The former University of Colorado player finished with four steals, four blocks and three assists, but despite his superb all-around game he was a non-factor at the free-throw line (2-for-4 shooting).

Sendai (8-2) outscored Tokyo 30-15 in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.

Demetrius Guions led the 89ers with 23 points and added eight rebounds and six assists for good measure. Kenichi Takahashi chipped in with 21 points and five assists, while 160-cm guard Takehiko Shimura handed out five assists, too.

Sendai’s Chris Holm, the league’s leading rebounder last season, pitched in with a 17-point, 10-board performance. Gyno Pomare added nine points and 14 rebounds and Michael Peeples poured in 10 points as Sendai completed a series sweep with a well-rounded team effort.

For the Apache (4-6), Cohey Aoki scored 13 points and dished out six assists. Rasheed Sparks and Nick Davis both scored eight points,with the former finishing with 11 assists and the latter pulling down 15 rebounds.

Also Sunday, the visiting Saitama Broncos defeated the Niigata Albirex BB 73-69.

Taishiro Shimizu had a team-best 18 points for the Broncos (3-7), who have won three straight contests. Terrence Roberts and Mario Jointer had 12 points apiece and Terrence Woodyard ended the afternoon with a double-double (11 points, 14 boards).

Paul Butorac paced the Albirex with 17 points and 17 rebounds. Teammate Antonio Burks scored 16 points and Akitomo Takeno had 14, but Niigata (2-6) slipped into last place in the six-team Eastern Conference.

The Albirex, who play host to the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix next weekend, have lost four games by four points or less.

The Oita HeatDevils, meanwhile, earned a series split,picking up an 81-78 home triumph over the Osaka Evessa.

Oita improved to 3-5 by getting across-the-board production from several players. Ricky Woods (23 points, 14 rebounds), Kimitake Sato (17 points), Mike Bell (14 points, eight boards), Rashaad Singleton (nine points, 14 rebounds,four blocks), Darin Satoshi Maki (six points, 2-for-3 on 3-point shots) and Masahiro Ohara (six points) all made solid contributions.

The Evessa fell to 4-4 on a day when two-time MVP Lynn Washington was held to seven points and 2-for-12 shooting.

Forward Haimo Chen was Osaka’s top scorer with 18 points, followed by Waki Williams with 14 and David Palmer with 11.