Unlikely heroes emerge when you least expect them.
Forward Takuya Komoda played the role for the Sendai 89ers in a 66-62 win over the host Niigata Albirex BB on Sunday in the bj-league.
The 24-year-old Komoda scored a season-high 13 points, sank two victory-clinching free throws in crunch time and delivered a key pass to Takehiko “Take” Shimura, which led to Shimura’s timely 3, his second of the fourth quarter, in the final minute.
Dan Fitzgerald paced the 89ers, who beat Niigata twice over the weekend, with 16 points. Shimura had 12 points and six assists, Johnny Dukes delivered nine points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. Rashaad Singeton had a seven-block effort for the second straight game.
Trailing by as many as 14 points in the second quarter, the 89ers never lost their composure. At the time, vocal leader Dan Fitzgerald, who had 31 points on Saturday but had zero at this point, was an encouraging presence for his teamates.
“He kept telling our guys to ‘stay together’ and keep playing tough defense,” Sendai coach Bob Pierce said.
The defensive focus paid off.
“In the second half, Dan, Takuya and Take all hit big shots, as we battled on every possession,” Pierce said.
Komoda is now 13-for-27 at the free-throw line this season, but has shown dramatic improvement in that phase of his game in recent weeks. He has made six straight free throws, two apiece on Jan. 28, Jan. 29 and on Sunday.
After the game, Dukes summed up his team’s performance this way on Facebook: “(We’re) starting to find our stride at the right point in the season.”
The 89ers have won three of their last four games, which prompted Dukes to post these comments on the social networking site: “(We’ve) gotta keep this going as we get closer to the playoffs.”
Chris Holm scored 15 points and hauled in 12 rebounds and Erron Maxey and Nile Murry had 14 points apiece for the Albirex (16-14), while Shuhei Komatsu added eight points.
Phoenix 85, Susanoo Magic 83
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Jermaine Dixon scored a game-best 27 points as Hamamatsu Higashimikawa (20-10) edged the hosts and became the first team in the Eastern Conference to reach 20 wins this season.
Super sub Wayne Arnold poured in 17 points and Lawrence Blackledge had 10 points for the two-time reigning champions, who are 6-0 since the All-Star break. Atsuya Ota and Gyno Pomare both had eight points for Hamamatsu.
Michael Parker had 21 points and 15 rebounds for Shimane (17-13), with Reggie Golson matching his scoring output. Jeral Davis added 18 points and 14 rebounds and Jumpei Nakama scored 11.
The Susanoo Magic were 3-for-16 on 3-points shots.
Despite the loss, Shimane coach Zeljko Pavlicevic was happy with his team’s performance.
“I think they played a great game,” Pavlicevic said in a phone interview. “And it was a really nice game for the fans.”
After a 17-point defeat on Saturday, Shimane did a better job defensively in the rematch, the coach said, noting his team became more effective using the zone defense against an experienced Phoenix squad.
In a game that was up and down, with both teams trading baskets, a few costly turnovers and missed shots were the difference, Pavlicevic said.
“I’m very happy with the team for a very good effort,” Pavlicevic said. “Two points is two points — that is the story.”
Evessa 88, Lakestars 66
In Moriyama, Shiga Prefecture, perennial title-contending Osaka had a stellar showing on the defensive end and completed a series sweep.
The Evessa (20-8) are the league’s stingiest defense, holding foes to a league-low 69.5 points per game.
Osaka’s Lynn Washington had a 22-point, seven-rebound, six-assist performance, Masashi Obuchi put 17 points on the board and Cohey Aoki and Mike Bell scored 16 apiece. Center Wayne Marshall provided 11 points and 13 rebounds in the winning effort. The Evessa made 20 of 24 shots from the charity stripe.
Newcomer Bryant Markson led Shiga (18-12) with 14 points, Yu Okada scored 13, Julius Ashby had 12 and Ray Nixon 11.
Grouses 83, HeatDevils 74
In Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, the Grouses swept Oita and moved into third place in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history.
All-Star guard Masashi Joho had a team-high 23 points and eight rebounds for Toyama (15-13) and backcourt mate Takeshi Mito sank five 3s en route to a 21-point performance. Brian Harper had 17 points and nine rebounds and Devin Searcy scored 13 points and raked in 15 rebounds for the much-improved Grouses, who have never had a winning season since entering the league in 2006. Big man Ira Brown blocked six shots for the victors.
Matt Lottich scored 26 points for Oita (8-22), Wendell White had 16, T.J. Cummings chipped in with 14 points and 12 boards and Naoto Takushi added 11 points.
Golden Kings 100, Five Arrows 60
In Okinawa City, Jeff Newton had 25 points and 17 rebounds and David Palmer chipped in with six 3-pointers and 23 points in Ryukyu’s runaway win over Takamatsu.
Dillion Sneed scored 21 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, Naoto Kosuge added nine points and Narito Namizato handed out seven assists for the Golden Kings (24-6), who led 77-41 after three quarters.
Paul Butorac had 21 points for the Five Arrows (2-28).
Rizing 72, Hannaryz 63
In Kyoto, Carlos Dixon scored 22 points and Jermaine Dearman added 15 as Fukuoka bounced back from a Saturday defeat.
Kevin Palmer scored 11 points and Jun Nakanishi had a 10-point, four-assist, four-steal afternoon for the Rizing (19-11).
Lance Allred led Kyoto with 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Teammates Rick Rickert and Taizo Kawabe scored 13 and 11 points, respectively. Rickert had 14 rebounds for the Hannaryz (20-8). Lee Cummard and Kyosuke Setoyama each dished out five assists in the loss.
Brave Warriors 90, Northern Happinets 78
In Saku, Nagano Prefecture, Lee Roberts had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Edward Morris and Derek Raivio both scored 20 points as Shinshu earned a series split.
Takato Saito made key contributions for the expansion Brave Warriors (12-18), finishing with 11 points, six assists and five steals.
For Akita, Mychal Kearse was the top scorer with 17 points, followed by Ricky Woods’ 16 and newcomer Shigehiro Taguchi’s 15 (5-for-9 on 3s). The Happinets fell to 18-12.
Big Bulls 69, B-Corsairs 62
In Mizusawa, Iwate Prefecture, free throws were the deciding factor in the series finale as the hosts topped Yokohama.
In a matchup of expansion clubs, Iwate made 13 of 15 free throws. Yokohama was 14-for-24.
Thomas Kennedy led the Big Bulls (8-22) with 20 points and Gordon Klaiber scored 19, Jamal Boykin had eight and Yoshiaki Yamamoto added seven.
The B-Corsairs (15-15) missed 14 of 16 shots from 3-point range. Justin Burrell led the visitors with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Masayuki Kabaya scored 15 points, Kenji Yamada had 10 and Chas McFarland seven.