Phoenix reach showpiece weekend for third straight year


Staff Writer

The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix are headed back to the Final Four for the third straight season.

The bj-league’s defending champion completed a two-game sweep against the Toyama Grouses in the Eastern Conference semifinals, winning 73-62 on Sunday afternoon in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture.

Regular-season MVP Jeffrey Parmer paced the Phoenix, who went 40-6 before the playoffs began, leading his club with an 18-point performance. Dzaflo Larkai and Ray Nixon each scored 11 points, while Wayne Arnold had 11 and Kenya Tomori added eight.

The Phoenix will face the Niigata Albirex BB in the Eastern Conference final on May 21 at Ariake Colosseum. The game tips off at 2:05 p.m.

Haakim Johnson had a team-high 19 points for Toyama, which went 13-31 in the regular season. John Davis chipped in with 15 and Takeshi Mito and Makoto Kato each scored 14.

Albirex BB 84, Happinets 76

In Toyano, Niigata Prefecture, George Leach had 19 points and pulled down 12 rebounds and Yuichi Ikeda scored 17 points as the hosts advanced to the Final Four by beating the expansion Akita squad in Game 2 of their conference semifinal series.

Shuhei Komastsu nailed 4 of 7 3-pointers and scored 16 points, Julius Ashby added 13 points and grabbed seven boards and Naoto Takushi dished out eight assists for the Albirex, who advanced to the Eastern Conference final for the second year in a row.

For the Northern Happinets, Sek Henry scored a team-high 34 points, Will Graves scored 17 points and handed out seven assists and big man Dokun Akingbade added eight points and 18 rebounds. Ryosuke Mizumachi had six points and six assists and Makoto Hasegawa contributed five assists.

Golden Kings 100, Lakestars 87

In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Ryukyu earned its third trip to the Final Four in as many seasons, closing out the series with a well-rounded victory.

Coach Dai Oketani’s club had five double-digit scorers: Carlos Dixon (22 points), David Palmer (19), Anthony McHenry (17), Tsubasa Yonamine, (16) and Naoto Kosuge (10).

Star forward Jeff Newton, the regular-season and playoff MVP during the 2008-09 season when the Golden Kings won the title, sat out both games against the Lakestars due to an ankle injury.

Now Newton has nearly two more weeks until the team’s May 21 playoff encounter with the Osaka Evessa in the Western Conference final at Ariake. Tipoff is slated for 6:05 p.m., as the teams renew their rivalry in the Final Four for the third consecutive May.

In Newton’s absence, his teammates worked well in tandem on the boards, with Dillion Sneed collecting 11 rebounds and Dixon and McHenry raking in 10 apiece. McHenry also had five assists.

For the Lakestars, Mikey Marshall finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks and Gary Hamilton added 18 points and 16 rebounds. Yu Okada had 18 points and Josh Peppers scored 14 for Shiga, a third-year franchise which beat the Kyoto Hannaryz in the first round last weekend.