Few games can be considered an instant classic, but that’s what Wednesday’s Tokyo Apache-Akita Northern Happinets double-overtime clash became.
Akita guard Sek Henry scored 42 points, including all 11 of the expansion team’s points in the second overtime, as he lifted the Happinets to a gritty 100-98 triumph at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.
Henry nailed five 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds, dished out six assists and made five steals. He was 16-for-26 from the floor in nearly 42 breathtaking minutes. In the two overtime periods, Henry had 19 points, slightly more than his season scoring average (18.2) in those 10 electrifying minutes.
“Sek was really focused after our poor showing vs. Hamamatsu and seeing (Sendai guard Mac) Hopson get 40,” Akita coach Bob Pierce said, referring to the rookie guard’s performance on Sunday against the Saitama Broncos.
The Happinets (12-27) snapped a two-game losing streak — they dropped a pair to the defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix last weekend — while playing their third game in five days.
The Apache (19-14, third in the Eastern Conference) fell to 0-4 since floor leader Byron Eaton, the team’s versatile momentum-changing guard and NBA Development League veteran, suffered a knee injury against the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
Five-time All-Star Cohey Aoki paced Tokyo with 24 points and made 5 of 6 3-pointers. He had five assists and was one of two Apache players to log more than 45 minutes of court time (longtime teammate Jumpei Nakama played 46:19 and had a tough shooting night — 5-for-13 from the field, including 3-for-11 on 3s).
The Apache had a chance to win it on their final possession in the second OT, but Nakama’s 3-pointer was off the mark.
“We lost Bryon Eaton four games ago and we haven’t won a game since,” were Tokyo Apache Bob Hill’s opening remarks in the post-game news conference.
He added: “And sometimes teams can get that way where they rely on one guy so much that in his absence they have a hard time performing, and obviously that’s the case with our team right now.
“On top of that, we are really, really tired. The last thing we needed was a double-overtime game.”
Center Robert Swift had one of his better games this season, finishing with 22 points and 18 rebounds. He was 8-for-11 from the field (four dunks and a rare 3-point attempt).
Mike Chappell and Nakama each scored 16 points, Jeremy Tyler had 12 points and eight boards and point guard Kensuke Tanaka continued his solid play of late with eight points and nine assists.
For Akita, Paul Butorac scored 22 points with 12 rebounds, including a game-best five offensive boards. Newcomer Will Graves, a talented guard/forward and North Carolina product, added 16 points and six boards, but missed all five of his 3-point shots.
Like the Apache, the Happinets’ shooting was inconsistent on a night when weary legs took a toll on players’ shooting rhythm.
“When shooters like Cohey start hitting the front of the rim, they are tired. They just are, they’re tired. And when he doesn’t make free throws, there’s something wrong,” said Hill, citing Aoki’s 5-for-7 effort at the foul line, a rare stat line for a player who entered the season as a career 89.9 percent shooter, and his team’s 21-for-35 free-throw effort.
Antonio Burks drained a pair of 3s early in the fourth to extend the Happinets’ lead to 65-56, but Tokyo mounted a comeback.
With the game tied at 74-74, the Apache missed three chances to win it on their final possession of the fourth quarter and that forced overtime.
Henry sent it into double OT with a buzzer-beating 3 from the right corner at the end of the first OT.
Tokyo took the first lead of the second OT when Nakama made a 3. Swift’s free throw increased the lead to 93-89, but Henry answered with another 3, cutting it to one.
With 1:03 left in double OT, Aoki canned two free throws to cut it to 97-95. Then Henry, a former Nebraska standout, hit a floater and a foul shot to make it a five-point game.
But Aoki nailed a 3 near the top of the key with about 36 seconds left. Akita then committed a turnover, giving Tokyo new hope to rally back. The Apache got the ball back with 27 seconds left, but Aoki’s layup attempt rolled off the rim but didn’t fall through.
Following a missed Akita free throw, Swift grabbed the rebound and at the other end Tanaka’s driving shot was rejected by Dokun Akingbade. Yet with 2.5 seconds left in 2OT, the hosts had one more shot for the win, but Nakama’s final 3-point attempt missed its intended target.
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