Sitting in last place after a blowout loss to the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix on Nov. 15, the Niigata Albirex BB regrouped during a three-week layoff and have rattled off five straight victories.
The latest win, an 84-74 road triumph over the Takamatsu Five Arrows, came courtesy of a well-balanced offensive attack.
Antonio Burks scored 22 points and Tyrone Levett and Akitomo Takeno had 16 apiece.
Niigata improved to 7-8, getting 16 rebounds from Burks, 10 boards from Paul Butorac and 10 assists from Takeno.
The Albirex built a 69-56 lead through three quarters.
Takeno, one of the league’s bright young stars who started the season as a backup, has started each of the last five games. He’s scored in double digits in each of those games and dished out five or more assists in four of those contests.
For the Five Arrows (7-14), Michael Gardener had a team-best 32 points.
Also Saturday, Makoto Kato scored a season-high 31 points and Takeshi Mito added 15 in the Toyama Grouses’ 100-90 road win over the Saitama Broncos.
Kirby Lemons added 13 points and nine boards for the Grouses (8-7).
Taishiro Shimizu and Mario Jointer scored 13 points apiece for Saitama (7-10).
Gyno Pomare and Kenichi Takahashi scored 18 points apiece in the Sendai 89ers’ 78-69 road win over the Osaka Evessa.
Pomare also raked in 21 rebounds, and Chris Holm had a double-double (12 points, 12 boards) for the 89ers, who improved to 12-7.
Lynn Washington paced the struggling Evessa (8-11) with 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The host Shiga Lakestars escaped with an 82-80 home win over the Kyoto Hannaryz.
This game was decided in crunch time, with the Lakestars’ Masashi Joho (19 points) and Takamichi Fujiwara (10 points, eight assists) both sinking a pair of free throws in the final 45 seconds. Gary Hamilton (19 points, 15 boards) and Chris Schlatter (17 points) helped Shiga (10-11) pull within one game of .500.
Josh Bostic led the Hannaryz (5-12) with 30 points and 15 rebounds and Taizo Kawabe scored 19.
Marlyn Bryant’s 31-point performance guided the Rizing Fukuoka to a 91-76 road win over the Oita HeatDevils.
Michael Parker had 17 points, 11 boards and five blocks and Kohei Mitomo added 13 points for Fukuoka (13-8), which outscored Oita 48-24 in the middle two quarters.
Ricky Woods scored 24 points for the HeatDevils (7-12) and Matt Lottich finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.