Despite a strong defensive effort, the Sendai 89ers fell 67-59 to the host Rizing Fukuoka on Saturday.
The Rizing (24-13) scored 31 fourth-quarter points to secure the victory.
Kevin Palmer paced the hosts with 25 points, including 14-for-25 at the free-throw line. Macho forward Gary Hamilton added 15 points and 18 rebounds, Carlos Dixon scored 12 and Akitomo Takeno had 10.
“We held them to 36 points after three quarters — we led 37-36 but gave up too many transition baskets late in the game,” 89ers coach Bob Pierce told The Japan Times. “Unfortunately, it was also a night where they played good defense and we struggled mightily on offense.”
Dan Fitzgerald was Sendai’s leading scorer with 19 points and Hikaru Kusaka scored 11 for the 89ers (18-19).
Leading up to the game, the 89ers, whose 2010-11 season ended due to the Great East Japan Earthquake last March, reflected on the role that sports plays in community.
“As we remember the one-year anniversary of the 3/11 earthquake, our hearts and prayers go out to all those who lost family, friends, and loved ones,” Pierce said in a news release issued by the team on Friday. “Those of us involved with the 89ers this season owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the 89ers boosters, as well as to fans throughout Japan, who helped make this season possible. We are thankful for every game we get to play, and honored each time we have a chance to represent Sendai. Let’s keep working together to make Sendai even better. Go for it together.”
Before the 89ers game, Sendai forward Johnny Dukes summed up the feelings of many within Japan’s basketball community via Facebook: “(I’m) headed to the gym for tonight’s game but tonight it’s bigger than any one individual player or the game of basketball itself. (Tomorrow) is the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that hit Japan. Tonight we are going to fight for a full 40 minutes, but a year ago people had to fight to stay alive.”
He added: “We need this victory for our city, for the people that were lost and those who struggled to survive. This one is for you guys…”
The 89ers didn’t pick up the win, but the team’s nationwide support has been a constant theme after March 11.
Evessa 84, Big Bulls 74
In Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture, balanced scoring carried Osaka to a victory over the hosts.
Two Evessa players acquired for the season’s stretch run — Mike Bell (19 points, four slam dunks) and Bobby St. Preux (18 points, 11 boards) — were key factors for Osaka (26-11). Wayne Marshall scored 12 points, Lynn Washington and Masashi Obuchi had 10 apiece and Cohey Aoki scored nine and handed out six assists.
Gordon Klaiber led Iwate (10-29) with 17 points, Jamal Boykin had 14, Thomas Kennedy added 13, Atushi Nogami netted 10 and Shawn Malloy had nine points and 11 boards. Yoshiaki Yamamoto had five assists for the first-year club.
Albirex BB 76, Golden Kings 64
In Seiro, Niigata Prefecture, the Albirex outscored Ryukyu 21-7 in the pivotal third quarter and held on for a big win against the league’s winningest squad, which clinched a playoff berth on March 4.
Erron Maxey paced Niigata (22-17) with 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting and pulled down 10 rebounds, Nile Murry and Kimitake Sato each scored 15 points, Yuichi Ikeda scored 13 and Chris Holm contributed 10 points and 16 rebounds.
Narito Namizato had a team-high 17 points for the Golden Kings (31-8), but only two points in the second half. Dzaflo Larkai and Dillion Sneed added 11 points apiece in the loss.
Ryukyu shot 6-for-15 at the foul line.
B-Corsairs 74, Hannaryz 50
In Yokohama, the B-Corsairs bounced back from a 22-point loss and earned a series split against Kyoto.
Yokohama coach Reggie Geary’s club used a 15-2 spurt spanning the third and fourth quarters to take a commanding 58-36 lead en route to its 20th win in 40 games.
Draelon Burns paced the B-Corsairs with 16 points, Marcus Simmons and Justin Burrell had 14 apiece, Pape Mour Faye scored nine and Masayuki Kabaya had eight.
Lance Allred scored a team-high 11 points for the Hannary (25-13), Rick Rickert had 10 points, Lee Cummard scored nine and Jermaine Boyette had eight.
After allowing 34 first-quarter points in the series opener, the B-Corsairs held Kyoto to 35 points through three quarters in the rematch.
The Hannaryz shot 17-for-57 from the field, including 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Yokohama made 28 of 51 shots from inside the arc, or twice as many 2-pointers as the out-of-towners.
B-Corsairs center Chas McFarland picked up two technicals and was ejected.
Yokohama, out-rebounded 45-30 in the opener against one of the league’s top clubs, returned the favor with a 43-34 advantage in the rematch.
Broncos 81, Jets 71
In Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture, Kenny Satterfield had a triple-double and four teammates scored in double figures to lead the hosts to a win over Chiba.
Satterfield, a former NBA point guard, had 13 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and two steals. John Flowers scored 19 points, Daiki Terashita had 16 and Yuki Kitamuki and John Humphrey each had 12 as Saitama improved to 11-26.
Jamel Staten scored 23 points and Maurice Hargrow had 22 for the Jets (13-24) and Takaki Ishida added 13 points. Chiba shot 6-for-26 on 3s in the loss.
Phoenix 77, Grouses 70
In Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, Jermaine Dixon scored 22 points and Kenya Tomori had 14 as the two-time defending champions defeated Toyama in the series opener.
Grouses guard Masashi Joho, a four-time All-Star, missed his first game of the season. He’s the team’s second-leading scorer (15.9 points per game).
The Phoenix (26-13) jumped out to a 25-14 lead after one quarter.
Wayne Arnold scored 12 points, Shoji Nakanishi had 11 and Lawrence Blackledge 10 for Hamamatsu Higashimikawa. Blackledge, a key part of the team’s second unit had seven blocks, six boards, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes. Fellow backup Gyno Pomare had 10 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes.
Ira Brown (23 points, 17 rebounds) and Brian Harper (22 points, 14 boards) led Toyama (21-16) and Takeshi Mito chipped in with seven points.
Lakestars 86, Northern Happinets 78
In Hikone, Shiga Prefecture, after scoring 24 first-half points, Akita’s Kyle Swanston was held to five after intermission, and the hosts picked up a victory.
Josh Peppers had a team-best 16 points for Shiga (22-15), Julius Ashby contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds and Ray Nixon added 14 points. Shinya Ogawa had a 12-point game and Yu Okada scored 10 and dished out six assists, and Shiga outscored the Happinets 31-12 in the third quarter to seize momentum.
For Akita (23-16), Ricky Woods was the No. 2 scorer with 13 points and 12 boards, E.J. Drayton had 11 and Ryosuke Mizumachi and Kazuhiro Shoji had seven apiece.
HeatDevils 94, Five Arrows 68
In Saeki, Oita Prefecture, frontcourt mates T.J. Cummings and Taj Finger scored 34 and 24 points, respectively, as the HeatDevils trounced Takamatsu.
The Five Arrows fell to a league-worst 2-35.
Finger grabbed 15 boards and dished out six assists. Cummings had 11 rebounds. Matt Lottich scored 16 points and added seven rebounds and five assists for Oita (15-24). Kohei Mitomo registered a season-best 11 assists for the HeatDevils. Former league MVP Wendell White was out of the lineup for the second straight game.
Takamatsu’s Kevin Smith scored 21 points.
Susanoo Magic 86, Shining Suns 72
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, in a matchup of second-year clubs, the hosts picked up a convincing victory.
Shimane’s Michael Parker, the league’s three-time reigning scoring champ, had 27 points and 14 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks after a pair of season-low scoring games (12 and nine points) against the Ryukyu Golden Kings last weekend.
Jeral Davis, Jumpei Nakama and B.J. Puckett each had 11 points for the Magic (21-18) and Tatsuhiro Yokoo scored eight.
O’Neal “Trey” Mims and Darryl Dora both had 17 points for Miyazaki (17-22) and Dexter Lyons scored 13 with seven assists.