A lot has changed since May 2006, when the Toyama Grouses made guard Takanori Goya the No. 1 pick in the bj-league draft.
The Grouses were an expansion team putting the pieces together for their inaugural season, which began five months later when the league had eight teams (now there are 21). The talented Okinawan was the face of the franchise before it had an identity.
Fast forward to Sunday, and the well-traveled Goya, who has bounced around the league with stops in Toyama, Osaka, Fukuoka and Tokyo, was the catalyst for his current club, the Shinshu Brave Warriors, in an 81-72 victory over the Yokohama B-Corsairs.
Goya’s 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals were critical to his club as it rebounded from a series-opening loss in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture.
When healthy, Goya has been a dependable, productive player. But he was plagued by injuries over the past two seasons — 13 games in 2010-11 for the Apache and 33 for the Brave Warriors last season.
On Sunday, Goya was 8-for-14 from the field and 7-for-9 at the free-throw line as Shinshu improved to 6-4.
Jermaine Green scored 14 points and Edward Morris and Wayne Marshall had 13 apiece for the Brave Warriors.
Yokohama (5-3) missed 18 of 21 3-point shots in the loss.
Thomas Kennedy had a team-high 23 points with nine rebounds for the B-Corsairs. Draelon Burns added 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and Pape Faye Mour scored 10 points.
Golden Kings 112, Shining Suns 72
In Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture, Ryukyu outclassed the undermanned hosts, sending them to their ninth straight loss.
Morihisa Yamauchi poured in a career-high 30 points, knocking down 7 of 13 3s, for the defending champion Golden Kings (8-0) and Jeff Newton had a terrific afternoon with 25 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and four steals. Terrance Woodbury added 22 points and Narito Namizato dished out seven assists.
Ryukyu’s 39 third-quarter points turned the contest into a rout.
Dominique Keller led the Shining Suns (1-9) with 31 points and Larriques Cunningham had 16.
Northern Happinets 86, Big Bulls 67
In Mizusawa, Iwate Prefecture, Akita’s Dion Harris scored 22 points and distributed the ball effectively in a bounce-back win over the Big Bulls.
Jordan DeMercy had 13 points, Anthony Kent scored 12, T.J. Cummings added 11 and Yuki Kikuchi had 10 for the Northern Happinets (7-1), while Harris registered seven assists.
Iwate (10-2) had a miserable day at the foul line, shooting 18-for-37. Carlos Dixon and Dillion Sneed shared the team lead in points with 13 apiece and Reggie Okosa and Lawrence Blackledge both had 10.
HeatDevils 85, Evessa 77
In Oita, frontcourt mates Wendell White and Cyrus Tate combined for 42 points in the HeatDevils’ victory over Osaka.
White, who had a game-best 23 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots for the HeatDevils (8-2), who lost the series opener. Matt Lottich came off the bench and scored 15 points and Kohei Mitomo added 13 points and seven assists.
Rick Rickert paced the Evessa with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Nathan Walkup had 20 points and Masashi Obuchi supplied 11 points and eight assists.
The Evessa fell to 1-5.
Grouses 83, Crane Thunders 71
In Kamiichi, Toyama Prefecture, Tatsunori Fujie led the hosts with 18 points and Ira Brown finished with 16 points, nine boards and eight assists against Gunma.
Brandon Cole scored 12 points and Mitsuhiro Kamezaki had 11 for Toyama (8-4). Guard Masashi Joho did not play due to an injury.
For the Crane Thunders (0-12), Nyika Williams was the top scorer with 18 points, followed by Lewis Witcher’s 11.
Cinq Reves 102, 89ers 88
In Tokyo, Jonathan Jones’ 31-point performance and stellar 3-point shooting carried coach Motofumi Aoki’s club past Sendai.
Rasheem Barrett had a 17-point outing and Dennis Carr canned all three of his shots from beyond the arc in a 15-point afternoon. Hirohisa Takada and Cohey Aoki both put 12 points on the board. (A hand-turned, non-electric scoreboard, a turn-back-the-clock relic, was used.)
Cinq Reves guard Chris Sasaki, a Tokyo native, was 3-for-3 from long range and finished with nine points.
Tokyo shot 12 of 19 from 3-point range.
The Cinq Reves improved to 4-6.
Sendai, which dropped both games in the series after a three-week layoff, fell to 2-6.
Sam Coleman paced the visitors with 21 points, Kevin Coble had 15 and Takehiko Shimura and Sam Willard each scored 14.
Lakestars 87, Rizing 79
In Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture, the hosts snapped a five-game losing streak, beating Fukuoka in a bruising, physical contest.
There were 77 free throws and 56 personal fouls in the series finale.
Shinya Ogawa led the Lakestars (4-6) with 19 points. Dionisio Gomez had 18 points and 16 rebounds, Ray Nixon scored 15, Takamichi Fujiwara had 14 and Jumpei Nakama 11.
Reggie Warren paced Fukuoka (6-4) with 19 points and 16 rebounds and Josh Peppers scored 15 points. Jun Nakanishi and Akitomo Takeno had 14 and 10 points, respectively.
Susanoo Magic 70, Five Arrows 59
In Marugame, Kagawa Prefecture, Michael Parker scored 15 points and three teammates reached double figures in scoring as Shimane earned a split in the series.
B.J. Puckett provided 13 points and Jeral Davis and Koki Yabuuchi both had 10 for the Susanoo Magic (6-4). Tatsuhiro Yokoo scored eight points and Edward Yamamoto added seven points and five assists.
For Takamatsu (3-5), Dexter Lyons was the high scorer with 16 points.
Albirex BB 79, Broncos 55
In Niigata, Saitama trailed 21-6 after one quarter and never recovered.
The Albirex completed a series sweep by getting solid numbers from several players, including Kimitake Sato (14 points), Chris Holm (13 points, 11 rebounds), Yuichi Ikeda (12 points) and Nile Murry and Rodney Webb (11 apiece).
The Albirex (7-3) sank 20 of 26 free throws.
Dameion Baker had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Broncos (1-7) and Antwan Scott and Yuki Kitamuki each scored 14 points.
Saitama shot 22-for-76 from the field.