TOKOROZAWA, SAITAMA PREF. – There were several stretches of Sunday’s Saitama Broncos-Sendai 89ers game when the home squad’s defense was in complete disarray.
Sendai players were left wide open on the perimeter or underneath the basket, and when a Broncos defender appeared, it often happened too late.
As a result, the 89ers scored a plethora of easy baskets and seized control of the game in the second half, winning 97-76 at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium.
Sendai improved to 16-6, third-best record in the bj-league’s 12-team Eastern Conference. Saitama fell to 0-18, and the current squad appears likely to have a repeat — or worse — of last season’s 5-47 campaign without drastic improvements in performance and team chemistry.
Kejuan Johnson led the 89ers with 30 points along with seven rebounds and seven assists in the series finale. Former league MVP Wendell White chipped in with 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Big man Jeral Davis, the former Shimane star, played his fourth game in Sendai uniform and was a game-changing force with 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting (four dunks) and a blocked shot in 18-plus minutes. He was sidelined for the final three months of the 2013-14 season after sustaining a hip injury.
“I’m feeling a lot better as the weeks go on,” Davis told The Japan Times after the game. “Trying to get my rhythm and my timing back, but it’s going to take about a month.”
Asked to assess his new surroundings, Davis responded by saying, “Yes, the team is very unselfish, great group of guys, good coach (Shuto Kawachi), and I’m enjoying playing with them. Just an overall great situation.”
In a game of numerous offensive highlights for the out-of-town squad, the 89ers’ veteran standouts also included Adrian Moss (14 points, eight boards) and floor leader Takehiko Shimura (six assists, and many passes that led to the assist; his playmaking prowess, working seamlessly with the other four 89ers on the floor, was a key factor throughout the contest).
To its credit, Saitama opened the game with a solid first quarter and led 23-17 entering the second stanza.
But Sendai started to find its rhythm in over the next 10 minutes and took a 43-38 advantage into halftime, with Shimura and Kejuan Johnson pushing the tempo and directing the offense.
The game was knotted at 45-45 early in the third quarter, and then the 89ers mounted a decisive 15-1 spurt capped by a difficult baseline bank shot by Moss. That made it 60-46 with 4:42 remaining in the period.
Moments later, Moss fed the ball to Kejuan Johnson, who cut past Saitama’s low-post defense, which was out of position on the play, for an easy deuce. Textbook execution, and a 62-47 Sendai lead.
The 89ers were ahead 69-59 after three quarters.
With just under 8 minutes on the clock in the fourth, Kejuan Johnson converted a layup and the 216-cm Davis made a dunk on back-to-back offensive possessions for a 78-65 lead.
At the 5-minute mark, Davis, wide open in the paint, caught a high lob and slammed the ball through the net, increasing the Sendai advantage to 82-67. A similar play occurred for Sendai’s next basket, with Kejuan Johnson delivering a crisp pass to Davis, who executed another throwdown against the bewildered defense.
Late in the final period, the 89ers used a 12-3 run to take their biggest lead of the game, 94-72.
Saitama shot 3-for-16 from 3-point range and turned the ball over 22 times.
Nyika Williams led the Broncos with 21 points and 18 rebounds and Gary Johnson had a 15-point effort. Junya Masumoto and Koji Nagata had 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the loss.
Golden Kings 81, Big Bulls 74
In Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, defending champion Ryukyu bounced back from a Saturday loss and ended the Big Bulls’ 19-game winning streak in the series finale between the powerhouse clubs.
Anthony McHenry paced the Golden Kings (17-3) with 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Draelon Burns added 19 points, including four 3-pointers. Narito Namizato and Ryuichi Kishimoto scored 10 and nine points, respectively.
Wayne Arnold led Iwate (20-2) with 25 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. Lawrence Blackledge had 16 points with 10 boards and Scootie Randall poured in 15 points. Jun Nakanishi and Hayato Kantake both scored seven points.
Phoenix 83, B-Corsairs 58
In Hamamatsu, Nile Murry scored a team-high 21 points and Mo Charlo sparked the hosts with a 20-point, 12-rebound, five-assist performance as they completed a weekend sweep over Yokohama.
Olu Ashaolu contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Phoenix (17-3).
Khyle Marshall had 20 points and 15 rebounds for the B-Corsairs (4-18) and Warren Niles added 20 points and 10 boards. Masayuki Kabaya had an 11-point outing.
Northern Happinets 107, Five Arrows 77
In Kanonji, Kagawa Prefecture, Akita’s offensive ran like a high-performance automobile in a blowout victory over Takamatsu.
The Northern Happinets (18-4) shot 60 percent from 2-point range and dished out 28 assists with nine turnovers.
Akita’s Richard Roby had a superb all-around game: 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. And his teammates followed with inspiring performances of their own. Deshawn Stephens scored 18 points and hauled in 16 rebounds, Yuto Otsuka scored 12 points, draining 4 of 5 3-point attempts and Akitomo Takeno and Shigehiro Taguchi both had 10 points. Takeno doled out six assists.
For the Five Arrows (7-15), Justin Watts finished with 29 points and 17 rebounds and Dexter Lyons scored 20. Tsubasa Yonezawa had 14 points.
Takamatsu’s losing streak stretched to eight games.
Susanoo Magic 80, Crane Thunders 72
In Midori, Gunma Prefecture, Edward Yamamoto capitalized on his numerous visits to the free-throw line as Shimane salvaged a series split and halted the hosts’ three-game win streak.
Yamamoto, who was 14-for-16 at the line, led the visitors with 19 points. Shuichi Takada had 14 points and Bingo Morriex and Joe Chapman each scored 12. Morriex also corralled 11 rebounds for Shimane (4-18).
Former NBA big man Melvin Ely had 21 points and 17 rebounds, both season-high totals, for Gunma (5-15). Marcus Morrison scored 13 points and Carlos Dixon had 10.
Wat’s 84, Cinq Reves 73 (OT)
In Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, the Wat’s made key plays down the stretch to outlast Tokyo in overtime and pick up their second victory in as many days.
Big man Paul Williams finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds and Yuki Yamaguchi had 15 points for Aomori (13-9). Kenichi Takahashi and Damian Saunders scored 12 points apiece and Gyno Pomare contributed 10 points and 14 boards.
Jemal Farmer had 30 points for the Cinq Reves (4-18) and Akihito Inoue added 14. Michael Hart chipped in with 12 points and Will Foster hauled in 13 rebounds and blocked four shots.
Firebonds 59, Albirex BB 54
In Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, Masaya Karimata’s 20-point effort keyed a hard-fought, bounce-back win over Niigata.
Terrance Shannon supplied 11 points and 17 rebounds for Fukushima (7-15) and Verdell Jones III ended up with 11 points and five assists.
Thomas Kennedy paced the Albirex (12-10) with 18 points. Patrick Sullivan added 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists and teammate Kimitake Sato scored 10 points.
Brave Warriors 83, Evessa 75
In Osaka, DeVaughn Washington’s 29-point, 15-rebound game ignited Shinshu, which finished the weekend strong after a 34-point loss on Saturday.
Patrick Sanders had 18 points for the Brave Warriors (8-10) and Takato Saito poured in 15.
Josh Dollard had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Evessa (14-8), Shota Konno scored 16 points and Seth Tarver 13. Gary Hamilton added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Grouses 74, Hannaryz 66
In Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, Toyama dominated in the rebounding department (51-34 overall edge) and ended the Hannaryz’s eight-game win streak.
Takeshi Mito had four 3s in a 19-point outing for the Grouses (15-7), who snapped their second three-game slide of the season. Tatsunori Fujie scored 17 points with six assists and Jamelle Horne added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Joe Werner contributed seven points and 12 boards.
Kyoto’s Kevin Kotzur had a team-high 16 points with 11 rebounds and David Palmer scored 15 points. Ryan Forehan-Kelly added 14 points and Shingo Utsumi scored 13.
Bambitious 81, HeatDevils 77
In Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture, the hosts overcame an 18-point deficit entering the fourth quarter and handed Oita its sixth consecutive loss.
Andre Murray led the Bambitious (7-11) with 25 points and Chehales Tapscott scored 23 and snatched eight rebounds. Taishi Kasahara had 11 points and Tatsuya Suzuki finished with eight points, 10 assists and four steals.
Kellen Thornton notched a double-double (22 points, 11 rebounds) for the HeatDevils (6-14) and Naoto Takushi scored 12 points but had eight turnovers.
Nara outscored the visitors 40-18 in the final quarter.