Niigata prevails over defending champs in series opener


Staff Writer

The Niigata Albirex BB had six players reach double figures in scoring in Saturday’s 89-80 victory over the two-time reigning champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix in Game 1 of their bj-league Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.

Erron Maxey, a former Providence forward, paced the Albirex with 18 points in 18-plus minutes off the bench. Ex-Texas Christian University guard Nile Murry had 16 points and nine rebounds, while Chris Holm scored 14 points, raked in 14 boards and swatted three shots. Bennet Davis added 13 points and nine rebounds, Shuhei Komatsu scored 12 and Kimitake Sato had 11.

The Albirex (28-24 in the regular season) trailed 47-37 at the break, then put 52 points on the board the rest of the way to earn the win at Hamamatsu Arena.

Niigata shot 24-for-33 at the foul line; Hamamatsu was 8-for-14.

Guided by first-year coach Matt Garrison, the Albirex out-rebounded the hosts 53-43 and grabbed 25 offensive boards.

For Phoenix coach Ryuji Kawai’s club, which finished atop the East standings with a 37-15 record, 2011-12 Best Five guard Jermaine Dixon had 23 points on 7-for-21 shooting, including 4-for-12 from 3-point range, and nine rebounds. Big man Gyno Pomare contributed 12 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Lawrence Blackledge and Shoji Nakanishi each had 11 points and Jeffrey Parmer scored 10. Kenya Tomori contributed eight points. Best 5 member Atsuya Ota, a backup center, had zero points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal, one turnover and four fouls in 20:05 of playing time.

Phoenix standout Wayne Arnold, who was held to 1-for-11 shooting, reflected on the loss in a post-game interview with The Japan Times

“They made plays down the stretch and we didn’t, bottom line,” Arnold said. “We came out of the gate fast in the first half behind a strong effort by Jermaine and Shoji Nakanishi. Gyno also gave us a big lift on the glass. I think we as a team were complaining to the refs too much, although the foul call were pretty uneven in the first half. I think that carried over to the second half.

“We got out in transition and forced some turnovers. We definitely did that well,” he continued. “They made a great adjustment to slow the game down and took away a lot of opportunities that we get by playing fast. In turn, they were able to go inside more and spread the court with their Japanese shooters, who played well. Once the game slowed, I think we lost our aggression and they stole the momentum.

“Looking ahead to tomorrow, we have to continue to play our brand of basketball for 50 minutes (including the mini-game tiebreaker). We can’t just rely on Jermaine to create all of our scoring opportunities. Everyone has to be aggressive on D and on offense. This is playoff basketball, no one is going home without a fight.”

Golden Kings 71, Lakestars 61

In Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, Narito Namizato scored 17 points and Dillion Sneed had 16 on 7-for-10 shooting as Ryukyu defeated Shiga in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.

The Golden Kings, the league’s winningest team in the regular season at 39-13, held Shiga to nine fourth-quarter points to lock up the win.

Anthony McHenry had 13 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots for the Golden Kings, who shot 2-for-23 from 3-point range. Forward David Palmer, the league’s top 3-point shooter in the regular season at 50 percent, missed all five of his 3-point shots, but added eight points and eight boards.

Yu Okada scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the first half for Shiga, which finished fourth in the West under first-year coach Alan Westover. Julius Ashby had 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks and Shinya Ogawa added eight points. Ray Nixon had a team-high 10 rebounds.

Ryukyu held Shiga to 22-for-70 shooting from the field.

“Down 0-1 in best-of-three playoff series only motivates me to overcome this obstacle and prevail through adversity,” Nixon wrote on Facebook. (We’re) not going down without a fight! Tough loss today but we get back at it tomorrow.”

Hannaryz 64, Evessa 59

In Osaka, in a low-scoring, defensive struggle, Kyoto edged the Evessa, who were playing their first playoff game in the post-Lynn Washington era.

Jermaine Boyette scored a team-high 17 points for the Hannaryz and Lee Cummard poured in 16 points. Former NBA center Lance Allred (eight points, 10 rebounds) and Taizo Kawabe (eight points) provided key contributions for bench boss Honoo Hamaguchi’s club.

Kyoto shot 16-for-17 at the foul line, compensating for its 22-for-64 effort from the field. The Hannaryz exhibited patience and poise on offense in turning the ball over only seven times.

For Osaka, which had reached the Final Four for six consecutive seasons (three championships) with two-time MVP Washington, whose so-called retirement was announced in April, as the franchise cornerstone, Mike Bell finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Longtime Tokyo Apache star Cohey Aoki scored 13 points in his playoff debut for the Evessa and Wayne Marshall added 12 points and eight rebounds.

Though they sank 16 of 18 free throws, the Evessa missed 43 of their 63 shots from the field.