The Aomori Wat’s began their second season by recording a road victory against the Fukushima Firebonds, a first-year franchise, on Saturday night.
The final score: Aomori 82, Fukushima 70.
An announced crowd of 2,018 witnessed the first regular-season game in Firebonds history, and nine other games were on the docket as the bj-league’s 10th season got underway.
Gyno Pomare paced the Wat’s with 20 points on 8-for-9 shooting and 15 rebounds along with two steals. Kenichi Takahashi scored 14 points and Makoto Sawaguchi poured in nine for coach Koju Munakata’s squad. Kyle Richarsdon, who attended Portland State, and Damian Saunders, a Duquesne product, added eight points apiece.
Fukushima led 24-22 after one quarter, and trailed 40-38 at halftime.
The Wat’s extended their lead to 60-55 entering the fourth quarter.
The Firebonds missed 10 of 12 3-point shots. They shot 46.3 percent (29-for-67) from inside the arc. They made 6 of 13 at the free-throw line.
Aomori held a 51-47 edge in rebounds. The Wat’s converted 26 of 50 shots from 2-point range, and sank 18 of 25 free throws.
Big man James Hughes led Fukushima with 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting, including two dunks, with 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. Teammate Terrance Shannon also notched a double-double with 15 points and 15 boards. Edward Morris chipped in with 13 points and nine rebounds and Takumi Masuko had a 10-point night.
Firebonds guard Masaya Karimata, who had six points on 2-for-14 shooting, dished out 10 assists in the opener with one turnover.
Morris, a Pittsburg (Kansas) State, alum, described the atmosphere at Koriyama Gymnasium in a post-game interview with The Japan Times.
“Well it felt really good,” said Morris, a veteran forward who suited up for the Tokyo Cinq Reves last season. “I can see the people up here really appreciate basketball. (It) would’ve been nice to get the win for today’s first game. But we have tomorrow to try that. With fans like today’s game, I’m sure we can pull off some good wins because of the energy the fans bring.”
Golden Kings 77, Phoenix 67
In Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, reigning champion Ryukyu opened its season with a victory over Western Conference rival Hamamatsu Higashimikawa.
Anthony McHenry’s 20 points led the Golden Kings, who were playing their first regular-season game since the departure of league legend Jeff Newton, a six-time title winner, in the offseason.
Ryuichi Kishimoto scored 14 points and Draelon Burns had 10 despite going 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. Kibwe Trim had a nine-point outing, Narito Namizato chipped in with eight points and Naoto Kosuge scored seven.
The Kings made 54.5 percent of their 2-point shots. They held the Phoenix to 7-for-29 shooting (24.1 percent) from 23-point range.
Jermaine Green paced Hamamatsu with 17 points. Newcomer Olu Ashaolu, a University of Oregon alum, had 15 points and 11 boards, while teammates Mo Charlo and Nile Murry added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Charlo missed all seven of his 3s.
Ryukyu outscored the hosts 24-9 in the second quarter. That made it 42-24 entering halftime.
Grouses 81, B-Corsairs 63
In Toyama, Masashi Joho, the 2013-14 regular-season MVP, scored a team-high 18 points and three teammates also reached double figures in points as the Grosues routed Yokohama.
Toyama’s Sam Willard finished with 13 points, 16 rebounds, three steals and two blocks and Joe Werner added 13 points. Tatsunori Fujie had 11 points and four assists and Takeshi Mito provided nine points and handed out six assists.
Four Grouses had four or more assists and they finished with 21 overall while limiting the B-Corsairs to 12.
Warren Niles scored 20 points and nine rebounds in the loss for second-year bench boss Michael Katsuhisa’s club. Dzaflo Larkai added 13 points for Yokohama, Kenji Yamada supplied 10 and Wayne Marshall scored seven.
The B-Corsairs missed 32 of 49 shots from inside the arc.
Cinq Reves 90, Broncos 75
In Saitama, Jemal Farmer knocked down seven 3-pointers en route to 30 points as Tokyo rolled past the hosts.
Farmer, who played college ball at the University of Arkansas, also had a game-best seven assists.
The Cinq Reves canned 15 of 31 3s, with Yuji Ide drained 3 of 4 in a 15-point effort.
Will Foster and Michael Hart contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the triumph. Kenji Kanai scored nine points off the bench.
First-year Broncos coach Kazuaki Shimoji’s team led 39-34 at halftime, but allowed 25 points in the third quarter and 31 in the fourth.
Saitama was outscored by 20 points in the second half.
Veteran guard Koji Nagata was the Broncos’ top scorer with 18 points. Gary Johnson finished with 17 and Yuki Sasaki had 11. Brian Ormon was the leading rebounder with 10.
Hannaryz 72, HeatDevils 63
In Kyoto, the Hannaryz began their quest for a title with a victory over Oita.
Kevin Kotzur scored 17 points and Reggie Warren had 12 with eight rebounds for coach Honoo Hamaguchi’s squad. Takuya Komoda and Shun Watanuki each had eight points for the Hannaryz.
Todd O’Brien led the HeatDevils with 19 points and nine rebounds. Kellen Thornton had 13 points and Taishiro Shimizu added 10 points and seven assists.
Kyoto held Oita to 24-for-62 shooting from the field.
Evessa 87, Rizing 77
In Osaka, Joshua Dorado’s 25-point, 10-rebound performance and Shunki Hatakeyama’s 21 points guided the hosts to a win over Fukuoka.
Seth Tarver and Jon Kreft both scored 15 points for the Evessa, who outscored the Rizing in the first, second and fourth quarters.
Osaka collected 14 steals and forced the visitors into 21 turnovers.
Josh Peppers led the Rizing with 20 points. Eight-time All-Star Cohey Aoki had 14 points and Kirk Van Slyke scored 13. Copper Land added nine points off the bench.
Big Bulls 74, 89ers 64
In Sendai, Scootie Randall ignited Iwate with 27 points and Lawrence Blackledge filled the stat sheet with 16 points, 17 rebounds, two steals and two blocks as the out-of-towners defeated the 89ers.
Wayne Arnold poured in 12 points for the Big Bulls, who were 40-12 in the regular season in 2013-14. Forward Hayato Kantake contributed seven points
Msaato Tsukino, Jun Nakanishi and Arnold all had three steals for Iwate.
Kejuan Johnson had a team-best 26 points, including five 3s, for Sendai. DeAngelo Hamilton added 20 points and 11 rebounds and Wendell White scored seven points and grabbed nine boards for the 89ers, who trailed 22-9 after one quarter.
Northern Happinets 57, Albirex BB 49
In Niigata, Richard Roby scored 18 points and Shigehiro Taguchi netted 17 as Akita began the Makoto Hasegawa era with a victory.
Taguchi sank 4 of 9 3s. Veteran guard Ryosuke Mizumachi dished out five assists for Akita, which earned a championship runnerup finished under now-retired mentor Kazuo Nakamura in May.
Niigata shot 11-for-46 from inside the arc.
Thomas Kennedy was the Albirex’s high scorer with 14 points and Kimitake Sato had 13. Patrick Sullivan provided 10 points and eight boards.
Lakestars 91, Susanoo Magic 78
In Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture, led by Yu Okada’s 24 points, five Lakestars players scored in double figures in a convincing win over Shimane.
Okada, a Shiga Prefecture native, dished out a game-high seven assists and was one of four Lakestars with three steals on the night; Ray Nixon, Jeff Parmer and Terrance Woodbury were the others.
Parmer and Woodbury each scored 16 points. Chris Holm and Nixon both added 10 as coach Koto Toyama earned a victory in his regular-season debut on the Shiga bench.
Joe Chapman finished with 27 points for Shimane. He was 9-for-10 at the charity stripe. Tatsuhiro Yokoo added 10 points and Edward Yamamoto and Satoshi Kawai scored nine apiece.
Five Arrows 87, Bambitious 72
In Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, former University of North Carolina Tar Heel Justin Watts scored 17 points with four assists in his Takamatsu debut and Andrais Thornton had 16 points against Nara.
B.J. Puckett contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds and Dexter Lyons supplied 11 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists for the Five Arrows, while Masaaki Suzuki had a six-point effort and Hiroyuki Kikuchi notched four assists.
For the Bambitious, Chehales Tapscott had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Michael St. John added 17 points and 13 boards. Tatsuya Suzuki also scored 17 points.