Nobody expects Makoto Hasegawa to be the Akita Northern Happinets’ go-to scorer this season.
On Christmas Day, however, he proved he can still be a dominant player in the bj-league.
The 39-year-old Hasegawa scored a season-high 28 points in 19-plus minutes, but it wasn’t enough to lift Akita past the visiting Niigata Albirex BB.
Instead, longtime Albirex coach Masaya Hirose’s squad and Hasegawa’s former club defeated Akita 81-75.
Hasegawa, who has had limited playing time this season while coping with injuries, had previously scored a total of 41 points in the Happinets’ first 20 games. On Saturday, he was 9-for-10 from 2-point range, 2-for-5 from 3-point range and 4-for-4 at the free-throw line.
“Niigata definitely knew the importance of this game and came out fired up,” Akita coach Bob Pierce said, voicing displeasure with his team’s performance.
“Hasegawa was about the only one who didn’t look like he had started his weeklong vacation two days early,” the coach added. “He’s been working hard with rehab and treatment, and this week he practiced more as well. Last week, he played some good minutes in Shiga, so you could see that he was preparing himself for his home game against Niigata.”
Pierce was impressed with his veteran’s inspired play.
“Hasegawa still has lot of pride, and when he saw how lethargically we were playing, coupled with the fact that he still doesn’t think (Niigata’s Takato) or (Naoto) Takushi can guard him one-on-one, he went on the attack,” Pierce said. “He had 17 points in the second quarter, and we took our only lead, 44-43, going into halftime.”
Paul Butorac added 12 points and 10 boards for Akita (7-14), while Sek Henry scored nine and Kazuhiro Shoji had seven.
For Niigata (10-9), center Julius Ashby had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Willie Veasley scored 17 and Zach Andrews had 13 and pulled down 11 boards.
89ers 93, Shining Suns 86
In Sendai, Mac Hopson gave coach Honoo Hamaguchi a timely Christmas gift — a double-double (24 points, 11 assists; he also had six rebounds and two steals) — to help ignite the hosts as they recorded a series sweep over struggling Miyazaki.
Chris Holm (21 points, 15 rebounds) and Mike Bell (21 points, 10 boards) played big roles for the 89ers, who improved to 12-8. Hikaru Kusaka scored 11 and Terrence Woodyward and Kenichi Takahashi each had eight.
For the Shining Suns, who have lost four straight, Brandon Cole had team-high totals in points (28) and rebounds (13). Elijah Palmer added 23 points and Taishiro Shimizu had a 16-point, eight-rebound, six-assist, two-steal effort for Miyazaki (6-16).
Hannaryz 99, Rizing 74
In Muko, Kyoto Prefecture, Hannaryz star Wendell White reminded the beaten visitors why he was chosen as the bj-league’s MVP last season, finishing with 31 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots and three steals.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf chipped in with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Kibwe Trim had a 16-point, 15-rebound effort for the Hannaryz (11-10). Naoto Nakamura scored 12 and Taizo Kawabe had 10 for Kyoto.
Michael Parker and Thiago Cordeiro scored 16 points apiece for Fukuoka (12-9), while Akitomo Takeno added 11 and Jun Nakanishi 10.
Broncos 85, Apache 74
In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Kenny Satterfield had 24 points and seven assists to guide the hosts to a victory over Tokyo.
George Leach added 16 points and eight boards and Saitaama All-Star forward Kazuya Hatano chipped in with 12 points and nine boards. Bobby Nash scored 11 and Gordon Klaiber scored 10 for the Broncos (6-15).
Tokyo’s five-game winning streak ended.
Cohey Aoki paced the Apache (6-5) with 16 points and Byron Eaton scored 13. Robert Swift had a 12-point, 12-rebound effort and Kendall Dartez finished with 10 points.
Saitama was 22-for-30 at the charity stripe; Tokyo finished 10-for-16.
Phoenix 106, Lakestars 82
In Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, Ray Nixon, Wayne Arnold and Jeffrey Parmer combined for 67 points in the hosts’ runaway victory over Shiga.
Nixon scored a game-high 25 points and Arnold and Parmer each had 21. Parmer also finished with 10 rebounds and five assists, while Dzaflo Larkai scored 11 and Masahiro Oguchi added seven for the Phoenix (19-2).
For Shiga (14-7), Mikey Marshall had a team-best 22 points, Masashi Joho scored 18 and Gary Hamilton added 17 points, 17 boards and five assists, but also committed nine turnovers.
The Lakestars had 25 turnovers and shot 3-for-20 from beyond the 3-point arc. Marshall was 3-for-5 on 3s, the rest of the team was 0-for-15.
Grouses 77, Five Arrows 75
In Toyama, Brian Harper had 26 points and 14 rebounds and the hosts survived Takamatsu’s spirited fourth-quarter rally to win the series opener.
Takeshi Mito scored 19 points and Haakim Johnson added 12 for the Grouses (6-13).
Terrance Farley had a team-high 18 points on 9-for-12 shooting for the Five Arrows (5-14), who trailed by 16 points early in the fourth quarter. Satoshi Takeda scored 13, Rasheed Sparks notched a double-double (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Jeffrey Price had a 10-point game.
Evessa 85, Susanoo Magic 74
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Osaka’s Billy Knight scored 17 points, including 14-for-20 at the free-throw line, and Lynn Washington added 15 points and 13 rebounds in a hard-earned win over the hosts.
For the Western Conference-leading Evessa (16-5), Osaka’s Lawrence Blackledge also scored 15 points and Hirohisa Takeda had 14 to reach double digits in points for the third straight game.
After allowing Shimane forward Reggie Golson to score 14 first-quarter points, he scored only nine more points the rest of the way, fouling out after playing 22 minutes.
The Magic led 26-14 after one quarter, but the Evessa chipped away at the lead and tied it at 36-36 entering the third quarter.
Will Caudle and Tatsuhiro Yokoo scored 14 points apiece for Shimane (8-13) and Takumi Ishizaki had nine points and seven assists.
HeatDevils 81, Golden Kings 78 (OT)
In Beppu, Oita Prefecture, first-year coach L.J. Hepp’s squad held off hard-charging Ryukyu to improve to 2-1 against the Golden Kings this season.
Kimitake Sato paced Oita with 18 points and Wellington Smith scored 16 and drained 4 of 5 3-point shots. Damian Johnson added 13 points and 10 rebounds and Taj Finger finished with 11 points and 17 boards, while Matt Lottich poured in nine points for the HeatDevils (8-11).
For Ryukyu (13-8), David Palmer scored a team-high 18 points and Jeff Newton had 14 points and raked in 15 boards. Abdullahi Kuso scored 12 and Anthony McHenry had 11, while Shigeyuki Kinjo scored seven.
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