The Ryukyu Golden Kings are starting to play like a championship contender again, and two former league MVPs are setting the tone for the Western Conference club.

David Palmer scored a team-high 16 points and Jeff Newton added 11 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, three blocked shots and two steals to lead visiting Ryukyu to a 77-65 win over the rival Osaka Evessa on Saturday night in the bj-league.

The Golden Kings (6-5) won their third straight game and held their opponent to 68 or fewer points for the second time in three games.

Naoto Kosuge, an offseason pickup, added 11 points and Abdullahi Kuso scored 10 for Ryukyu, which won the championship in 2008-09. Point guard Tsubasa Yonamine contributed eight points and four assists. He was 6-for-6 at the free-throw line and has made all 21 of his foul shots in the past four games.

The Evessa (7-4), meanwhile, lost their third consecutive game.

Billy Knight paced Osaka with 19 points, while Wayne Marshall added 12 points and Lynn Washington had 11 points and 15 rebounds.

Sunday’s rematch in Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, could feature a fiery effort from both squads, as they jockey for position in the ultra-tough nine-team conference. In addition, the teams’ championship past — Osaka won the titles in the league’s first three seasons, followed by Ryukyu’s league crown — adds another element to this superb rivalry.

Apache 98, Northern Happinets 79

In Akita, Tokyo’s frontcourt standouts made a major impact in a one-sided win over the hosts.

Robert Swift scored 19 points and pulled down seven boards and Jeremy Tyler had 18 points as the Apache improved to 3-4 under ex-NBA coach Bob Hill.

Jumpei Nakama, averaging a career-high 13.7 points per game, poured in 15 points for his fourth double-digit scoring game of the season. Backcourt mate Darin Satoshi Maki, who had been sidelined due to a hamstring injury, scored 12 points in his season debut and also had seven assists and three steals.

The Apache led 65-51 after three quarters.

Tokyo standout Cohey Aoki did not play.

Antonio Burks had a team-high 14 points for Akita (4-7) and Sek Henry scored 11. Makoto Sawaguchi, Dokun Akingbade, Anthony Coleman and Paul Butorac each scored 10, while Ryosuke Mizumachi dished out seven assists.

89ers 76, Albirex BB 71

In Sendai, Chris Holm had 18 points and 18 rebounds and Mike Bell scored 15 and pulled down 12 boards as the 89ers edged Niigata.

Mac Hopson added 17 points and six assists for Sendai (7-4) and Lee Hyecheon scored 10.

Julius Ashby, Willie Veasley and Yuichi Ikeda finished with 13 points apiece for Niigata (4-5) and Naoto Takushi had five assists.

Phoenix 107, Hannaryz 82

In Kyoto, Wayne Arnold scored 35 points, including six 3-pointers, and defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa drained 17 of 31 3s in a runaway victory over the hosts.

The Phoenix improved to 11-1 as five players scored in double figures, including Ray Nixon (15 points, nine rebounds), Jeffrey Parmer (13) and Masahiro Oguchi (12 and 4-for-5 on 3-pointers).

Hamamatsu completed a two-game sweep.

For Kyoto (4-8), Reggie Warren finished with a double-double (20 points, 12 boards), Michael Fey scored 17 and Sunao Murakami added 16 points, five assists and three steals.

The Phoenix help Wendell White, the reigning regular-season MVP, to eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

Hannaryz guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf did not play due to an unspecified injury. The sharpshooter’s presence was missed, as Kyoto shot 3-for-17 from 3-point range and 15-for-29 at the charity stripe.

Grouses 100, Broncos 92

In Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture, Brian Harper had a 28-point, 13-rebound performance and Haakim Johnson scored 18 in a win over struggling Saitama.

The Broncos fell to 2-9. Point guard Kenny Satterfield paced the Broncos with 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Gordon Klaiber added 19 points and center George Leach had 12 points on 6-for-14 shooting, seven boards and two blocks in his season debut.

For Toyama (5-6), John Davis chipped in with 17 points and Takeshi Mito had 15.

Five Arrows 88, Shining Suns 71

In Takamatsu, Satoshi Takeda scored 20 points, Rasheed Sparks had a 15-point, 11-rebound, seven-assist outing and the Five Arrows cruised to a victory over Miyazaki.

Hiroyuki Kikuchi added 14 points and Terrance Farley had 13 points and hauled in 14 boards for Takamatsu (4-5).

Jackie Manuel led the expansion Shining Suns (3-8) with 22 points, while Brandon Cole and Elijah Palmer both scored 12. Taishiro Shimizu had nine.

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