Evessa edge Golden Kings in riveting series opener


Ryukyu Golden Kings guard Yasufumi Takushi drained three 3-pointers in the final 18 seconds of Saturday’s game in Kansai, but the Osaka Evessa survived the late-game drama, holding on for a 78-74 win.

The game, pitting the reigning bj-league champion Golden Kings against the three-time winners (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08) from Osaka, was tied at 56-56 entering the final quarter.

David Palmer’s 3-pointer gave the surging Evessa (18-15) a 70-61 lead with 6:03 to play. A pair of Ryan Blackwell free throws gave Osaka what appeared to be a seemingly insurmountable 78-65 lead with 30 seconds left.

Takushi, however, made sure that Osaka’s players, coaching staff and fans had their collective heart rates increase dramatically in the final seconds. He scored all nine of his points in the final 18 seconds.

Palmer’s 32-point, 14-rebound, three-steal performance helped the Evessa improve to 4-3 against injury-depleted Ryukyu. Lynn Washington scored 13 points, Nile Murry had 12 points and 10 rebounds and four assists, Ryan Blackwell added eight points, seven boards and four assists and Shota Konno had seven points.

For the Golden Kings, who are missing standouts Jeff Newton (shoulder), Shigeyuki Kinjo (knee) and Anthony McHenry (knee), George Leach had a team-best 24 points, while Masashi Obuchi and Bryan Simpson each scored 10. Kevin Steenberge added nine points and 13 boards and Yosuke Sugawara scored eight despite going 0-for-8 from 3-point range.

The Evessa sealed the win at the free-throw line, converting 22 of 27 shots, while the Golden Kings shot an abysmal 50 percent (10-for-20).

The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix are a super home team and proved that once again in the series opener against the Niigata Albirex BB.

Wendell White’s 18-point, nine-rebound, five-assist effort sparked the Phoenix to an 88-80 win over Niigata, giving them 14 wins in 17 home contests.

Shingo Okada scored all 12 of his points in the first quarter, helping Hamamatsu (27-6) build a 37-13 advantage entering the second quarter. Limar Wilson and Wayne Arnold had 10 points apiece and William White, the league’s sixth-leading scorer at 22.0 points per game who returned to the lineup after a five-game absence, added nine points and nine rebounds.

Uche Echefu paced the Albirex (17-16) with 20 points and 16 rebounds, Akitomo Takeno scored 18 points and Antonio Burks had 10. Calvin Chitwood and Yuichi Ikeda both scored nine and Shuhei Komatsu had an eight-point afternoon.

Josh Peppers scored 23 points and Kenichi Takahashi had a 21-point performance in the Sendai 89ers’ 85-69 home win over the Kyoto Hannaryz.

Gyno Pomare finished with a double-double (17 points, 11 boards) and frontcourt mate Chris Holm scored seven and pulled down 14 boards for the 89ers (21-12, including 11-6 at home). Stellar sub Takehiko Shimura chipped in with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists and Hikaru Kusaka deftly dealt out four assists in the win.

Sendai outscored Kyoto 29-15 in the decisive fourth quarter.

For the Hannaryz, Josh Bostic scored a team-best 29 points and grabbed 13 boards. Taizo Kawabe added eight points and J.R. Inman had eight for Kyoto, which shot 24-for 63 from the field.

Kyoto’s Naoto Takushi and John Clifford had six point apiece, while Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was held to 2-for-12 shooting and had only five points.

The Hannaryz fell to 12-19.

Balanced scoring carried the Shiga Lakestars to an 81-72 win over the visiting Saitama Broncos.

Masashi Joho paced the hosts with 17 points and dished out five assists. Ray Schafer added 16 points and 13 rebounds and Gary Hamilton scored 12 and raked in 19 boards. Bobby Nash had a 15-point performance and Takamichi Fujiwara contributed 10 points, four rebounds and four assists as Shiga opened the weekend with a victory after having a bye week.

The Lakestars (17-18) jumped out to a 24-9 lead after one quarter and maintained their offensive intensity in the final stanza, outscoring Saitama 30-24 over the final 10 minutes.

Mario Jointer scored 20 points to lead the Broncos. Terrence Woodyard had 12 points and Haruhito Shishito added 10.

Saitama (11-20) has lost five straight games.

In Shikoku, Kirby Lemons’ 28 points and 23 rebounds and Brandon Thomas’ all-around stellar play ignited the struggling Toyama Grouses to an 87-65 road win over the Takamatsu Five Arrows.

The Grouses (13-18) snapped a four-game losing streak on a night when Thomas scored 14 points, pulled down 14 rebounds, dished out six assists, blocked five shots and made two steals. Kenya Tomori also scored 14 points and Johann Collins, who began the season with the Phoenix, added 10 points and eight rebounds, while Takeshi Mito had eight points in the series opener.

The Five Arrows (10-23) were held to 11 points in the fourth quarter.

Takamatsu shot 18.2 percent (4-for-22) from 3-point range. Michael Gardener led the hosts with 20 points and five assists. Antoine Broxsie scored 18 and hauled in 18 boards and Yu Okada finished with 11 points.

The Tokyo Apache, meanwhile, improved to 8-9 on the road, eking out an 86-84 win over the Oita HeatDevils.

Apache forward Michael Chappell, who shot 11-for-12 from the field, including 7-for-8 from 3-point range, scored the game-winning hoop with 1:10 remaining. He finished with 29 points.

Call it a game Chappell will rank among his favorites in the years to come.

Oita’s Ricky Woods had tied it at 84-84 with 1:29 left after making the first of two free throws. Woods, who scored a game-high 35 points, missed the second foul shot. Chappell then grabbed the rebound and scored the final basket of the game seconds later.

Cohey Aoki scored 18 points for Tokyo (11-20) and Julius Ashby had 17, while Reina Itakura added eight. Three Apache players — Aoki, Rasheed Sparks and Jumpei Nakama — had five assists apiece.

Tokyo shot 24-for-38 (63.2 percent) from 2-point range and 9-for-18 from beyond the arc.

For Oita (15-20), Matt Lottich scored 17 points, Mike Bell added 12 points and 10 rebounds and Masahiro Ohara had seven.

The HeatDevils were 14-for-25 from the free-throw line, including Woods’ 5-for-11 effort.