The Gunma Crane Thunders reached the playoffs last season after a 1-12 start, making necessary adjustments and steady improvement over their remaining 39 regular-season contests under veteran bench boss Charlie Parker.
This season, new head coach Hirokazu Nema, formerly an assistant under Parker, has steered the team to an 8-8 start, including back-to-back victories over the visiting Tokyo Cinq Reves over the weekend.
In Sunday’s 106-67 triumph, high-flying forward Thomas Kennedy, one of the most electrifying finishers in league history, grabbed the spotlight. The University of Detroit Mercy product put 31 points on the board and hauled in nine rebounds.
Kennedy had a terrific weekend as the hosts’ featured scorer. He poured in a season-high 37 points in Saturday’s series opener and finished the weekend 25-for-35 from inside the arc. He leads the team in scoring (19.8 points per game) and is No. 10 in the 24-team circuit in that department.
Tokyo (1-15) trailed 49-24 at halftime.
Kosuke Taneichi and Michael St. John added 15 points apiece for Gunma, the latter also pulling down 12 rebounds. Masashi Obuchi and Hirotaka Kondo each dished out five assists.
For the Cinq Reves, Tomoyuki Shinzato had 23 points and Marvin Williams Jr. scored 14.
89ers 88, Broncos 65
In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Sendai swatted 13 shots in an impressive defensive performance that sparked its second victory in as many days.
Six 89ers players had at least one block, including three apiece by Jamal Boykin and Manato Kikuchi.
Wendell White led Sendai (12-4) with 22 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and doled out five assists. Boykin added 20 points and 17 rebounds. Takehiko Shimura had 11 points and eight assists against no turnovers.
Evan Harris scored 19 points and Seth Tarver had 16 for Saitama (1-13).
B-Corsairs 93, Wat’s 82
In Ebina, Kanagawa Prefecture, balanced scoring steered Yokohama past Aomori, earning coach Taketo Aoki’s squad a weekend sweep.
Cory Johnson, a Valparaiso University alum, had an 18-point performance, Carl Hall chipped in with 17 and Masayuki Kabaya and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts each had 16. Kabaya led the B-Corsairs (9-7) in assists (seven).
Yokohama’s offensive clicked in an efficient effort, with 28 assists and 13 assists the result. What’s more, the hosts converted 62.8 percent of their shots (27 of 43) from 2-point range.
Longtime league star Nile Murry scored 24 points for the Wat’s (6-8). Daichi Shimoyama knocked down four 3s in a 15-point effort, with former University of Arizona player Jesse Perry notching a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) along with four assists, two steals and two blocks in 31-plus minutes off the bench.
Evessa 74, Samuraiz 68
In Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, Olu Ashaolu’s 24-point, 12-rebound effort and Takuya Soma’s 15 points helped the Evessa snap a three-game losing streak.
Lawrence Blackledge finished with 11 points, 11 boards, three assists and three steals for Osaka (10-6) and Narito Namizato had 10 points and five assists.
The Evessa sealed the win at the free-throw line, converting 20 of 25 shots.
Masato Tsukino paced Kanazawa (9-7) with 20 points, Andrew Fitzgerald added 12 and Gyno Pomare 10. Floor leader Tsubasa Yonamine dished out nine assists.
Rizing 73, Five Arrows 61
In Iizuka, Fukuoka Prefecture, the hosts outscored Takamatsu in all four quarters and bounced back from a Saturday loss.
Taishiro Shimizu was Fukuoka’s high scorer with 14 points and handed out a team-high five assists. Big man Donnavan Kirk had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting, with Josh Peppers matching Kirk’s scoring output. Cohey Aoki supplied 11 points for the Rizing (6-10).
Anthony Kent led the Five Arrows (5-9) with 15 points and 14 boards and Nino Johnson and Hiroyuki Kikuchi scored 11 points apiece.
Lakestars 102, HeatDevils 67
In Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, Julian Mavunga excelled in the series finale, scoring 30 points and snatching 17 rebounds as Shiga pounded Oita Ehime and earned a sweep.
Shooting guard Yu Okada added 18 points and backcourt mate Shuto Mizoguchi scored 17 for the Lakestars (9-5). Jeff Parmer provided 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Patrick Simon had 20 points for the HeatDevils (2-12).
Hannaryz 87, Golden Kings 85
In Okinawa City, Kyoto defeated Ryukyu by two points for the second straight day in a compelling matchup of Western Conference powers.
Larry Owens had a team-high 20 points for the Hannaryz (11-3) and David Palmer scored 15. Kevin Kotzur chipped in with 14 points and 13 boards and Sunao Murakami added 12 points and five assists.
Shuhei Kitagawa had 20 points for the Golden Kings (10-4) and Anthony McHenry scored 15.
Phoenix 64, Bambitious 55
In Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, Shingo Okada and Terrance Woodbury had 13 points apiece and Reggie Warren hauled in a game-high 16 rebounds as reigning champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa topped Nara in the series opener.
Phoenix newcomer Kejuan Johnson, who was released by Shiga earlier in the week, was held to zero points on 0-for-7 shooting in 10-plus minutes off the bench. He had seven rebounds and two assists.
Hamamatsu (12-3) out-rebounded Nara 48-34.
Charles Hinkle scored 18 points for the Bambitious (4-11).
Big Bulls 69, Firebonds 63
In Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, Alandise Harris had 21 points and 12 rebounds and Abdullahi Kuso delivered a strong all-around performance as the Big Bulls salvaged a series split.
Kuso, a Gonzaga University product, finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, two assists and two blocks. Shota Onodera and Tatsunori Fujie both had eight points for Iwate (9-7).
Masaya Karimata scored 23 points, including four 3-pointers, for Fukushima (9-5) and Le’Bryan Nash added 17 before fouling out. The rest of the team scored 23 points. Joseph Taylor grabbed 14 rebounds.
Northern Happinets 91, Albirex BB 67
In Akita, led by their high-powered offense, the Northern Happinets stormed past Niigata, handing the Albirex and former Akita coach Kazuo Nakamura their second defeat of of the weekend.
Richard Roby paced the hosts with 29 points and Shigehiro Taguchi had 27 points and 13 rebounds. Ray Turner added 13 rebounds and Kenichi Takahashi had seven assists for Akita (10-4).
Yuichi Ikeda scored 21 points and Kimitake Sato had 17 for the Albirex (11-5). Chris Oliver finished with 14 points and rebounds.
Akita out-rebounded the visitors 58-33.
Grouses 99, Brave Warriors 70
In Imizu, Toyama Prefecture, star guard Masashi Joho flushed 7 of 8 3-point attempts in a 29-point outburst, igniting the Grouses as they completed a weekend sweep of struggling Shinshu.
Takeshi Mito had 16 points and seven assists for Toyama (10-4) and Duke Crews added 15 points, three steals and three blocks. Center Sam Willard had 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Yosuke Saito paced the Brave Warriors (4-10) with 23 points, while Mike Bell provided 16 points and 11 boards.
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