Masashi Joho made a major impact in the early going and played a key role in the Shiga Lakestars’ 75-68 triumph over the Western Conference-leading Osaka Evessa on Saturday in the bj-league.

Joho scored 10 of his team’s first 12 points and finished with a team-best 21 in a win over his former club. The shooting guard helped the Evessa win a pair of championships in 2005-06 and 2006-07 before moving on to the Tokyo Apache and then joining Shiga before the start of last season.

The fan favorite’s scoring average has increased from 6.7 to 7.6 to 10.0 to 15.0 in the previous four seasons, and now in 2010-11, he’s averaging 17.8.

In the series opener at Shiga Prefectural Gymnasium, Joho nailed 4 of 8 3-point shots as the Lakestars improved to 6-3 and won their first meeting this season against Osaka, a perennial title contender.

Mikey Marshall added 18 points and seven boards and Lamar Rice scored 13. Steady power forward Gary Hamilton, who was held to four points, contributed 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and one blocked shot, while Shinya Ogawa had a seven-point game.

For the Evessa (7-2), Lynn Washington scored a season-high 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Wayne Marshall added 12 points and 12 boards, while Billy Knight scored 10.

Albirex BB 81, Grouses 60

In Gosen, Niigata Prefecture, Zach Andrews and Julius Ashby scored 18 points apiece as the hosts routed Toyama in the series opener.

Andrews controlled the boards, pulling down 12 rebounds for Niigata (4-3). He also had four steals and three blocks while making 7 of 8 shots; Ashby, meanwhile, was 8-for-12 from the field. Teammate Issa Konare scored 15 points, Willie Veasley had 11 and Yuichi Ikeda had eight.

For Toyama (3-6), Brian Harper finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds.

The Grouses were 1-for-14 from 3-point range.

Shining Suns 86, HeatDevils 72

In Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture Jackie Manuel paced the hosts with 21 points in a victory over Oita.

Brandon Cole (19 points, 15 rebounds) and Elijah Palmer (15 points, 18 boards) added solid two-way efforts as Miyazaki (3-6) snapped a three-game losing streak.

Matt Lottich led the HeatDevils (4-5) with 16 points and Taj Finger scored 14. Four other HeatDevils had double-digit scoring performances.

89ers 82, Northern Happinets 70

In Sendai, Mac Hopson played a strong all-around game in leading the hosts to a win over Akita, an expansion club, for the third time in as many contests this season.

Hopson, who had 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, helped Sendai improve to 6-3. Mike Bell added 15 points and eight boards and six blocked shots. Chris Holm finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Lee Hyecheon chipped in with 11 points and Kenichi Takahashi scored 10. The 89ers were 20-for-25 at the free-throw line.

Paul Butorac was the Northern Happinets’ top scorer (19 points) and rebounder (13). Sek Henry continued his strong play withe 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Antonio Burks scored 10 and Ryosuke Mizumachi had eight.

Akita slipped to 3-6

Phoenix 96, Broncos 83

In Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, Jeffrey Parmer scored 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting, hauled in 14 rebounds, dished out five assists and made four steals in Hamamatsu Higashimikawa’s win over Saitama.

Wayne Arnold and Dzaflo Larkai each scored 16 points apiece for the Phoenix (8-1), with Arnold draining 4 of 7 3-point shots.

Bobby Nash paced the struggling Broncos (2-7) with 25 points. Daiki Terashita added 17 points, Kenny Satterfield scored 12 and Kazuya Hatano had 11. Bruce Brown pulled down 11 rebounds. Talented center George Leach, who signed with Saitama last weekend, did not suit up in the series opener.

Golden Kings 68, Susanoo Magic 64

In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Carlos Dixon scored 14 points and David Palmer and Naoto Kosuge each had 13-point outings in Ryukyu’s win over Shimane.

Jeff Newton added 11 points and nine boards and Anthony McHenry scored nine for the Golden Kings.

It was the expansion Susanoo Magic’s first game in Okinawa.

Ryukyu improved to 4-5. Shimane fell to 5-4.

The Susanoo Magic played without standout point guard Takumi Ishizaki, who is suiting up for the Japan national team at the ongoing Asian Games. He is the first active bj-league player to be a national team member.

Reggie Golson paced injury-plagued Shimane with 29 points and 11 rebounds and Shoji Nakanishi added 13.

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