SAITAMA - In the history of professional sports — pick a sport, any sport — very few franchises have achieved the level of futility that’s become the Saitama Broncos’ trademark.
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Broncos have lost 133 of their 148 regular-season games. They were 5-47 in the 2013-14 campaign, followed by a 6-46 mark last season.
On Sunday, Saitama suffered loss No. 40 in the 44th game of its current dreadful season.
The Broncos failed to slow down the high-powered Akita Northern Happinets’ offense for huge stretches of the second half in an 86-63 defeat at Saitama Municipal Gymnasium.
After being completely outplayed in the second half, Saitama extended its losing streak to nine games. Since Dec. 19, the Broncos have lost 23 of 24 games under first-year coach Ryutaro Onodera.
Saitama had no answer for Akita’s inside offense; the Happinets made 25 of 44 shots from inside the arc, including Ray Turner’s 8-for-9 and Richard Roby’s 7-for-13.
Saitama had no answer for the visitors’ shooting skills from 3-point range (8 of 15), either.
As a result, Akita controlled the tempo and took a 42-33 lead into halftime.
And then the Happinets turned their offense into overdrive. Moments after Roby buried a nifty fadeaway jumper, teammate Akitomo Takeno canned a 3 from the right side, extending the visitors’ lead to 57-36.
During one rapid-fire sequence early in the fourth quarter, the Happinets swished three 3s in quick succession that sealed Saitama’s fate.
But first Saitama’s shortcomings on interior defense were shown again, with Kenichi Takahashi delivering a high lob to Turner, who converted an easy bucket to stretch the lead to 66-46.
That opened the floodgates. Takahashi, Yuto Otsuka and Takahashi again drained nothing-but-net shots from beyond the arc.
For Akita, it was part of a 16-4 spurt — capped by a textbook spin move that led to a layup for Turner — to open the fourth quarter and gave the visitors an 80-50 lead.
For Akita (29-15), it was a comprehensive beatdown. In addition to the inside dominance and sharp outside shooting, the Happinets spaced the floor effectively, set good picks and made good passes. One impressive display occurred seconds into the second half when Takeno dished the ball to Roby, feeding him the ball in stride as he raced to the basket for a layup.
Turner, a Texas A&M alum, had 18 points, excelling near the basket against an ineffective Saitama defense. Roby put 14 points on the board and Otsuka had 13. Shigehiro Taguchi added 10 points, Takahashi scored nine, knocking down a trio of 3s (three attempts in total) and Takeno had seven points.
Saitama’s Seth Tarver had a game-high 21 points. No other Bronco scored in double figures. Evan Harris added nine points and three blocks for the hosts. Mitsuhiro Kamezaki and Yuya Shoji contributed seven points apiece.
Addressing the fans after the game, Tarver said, “Everybody played hard. We just came up short today. So we’re just going to keep practicing hard and try to win for you guys.”
Akita coach Makoto Hasegawa said his team’s defense keyed the victory. He noted that his players’ defensive recognition and persistence were strong. He cited forward Noriyuki Sugasawa’s tenacious effort as a key part of the team’s defensive strategy that paid off.
Roby summed up his team’s weekend sweep by saying, “It was good to have two good wins.”
“This team (Saitama) is a little feisty team, so you can’t take them for granted. As much as you want to, you can’t,” he added. “They are going to come out there and play hard. We worked on a lot of things this week during practice, and we were able to execute (them), things that we are going to need to go forward and have a chance to win a championship
Golden Kings 93, Lakestars 84
In Tomigusuku, Okinawa Prefecture, sharpshooter Ryuichi Kishimoto electrified the home crowd with a career-high 41-point performance and the Golden Kings rolled to their second win of the weekend over Shiga.
The 25-year-old Kishimoto made 8 of 12 3s. He sank 5 of 10 shots from inside the arc and drained 7 of 8 free throws.
Anthony McHenry added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Ryukyu (34-10), while Draelon Burns poured in 11. Evan Ravenel and Morihisa Yamauchi had 10 points apiece.
Julian Mavunga paced the Lakestars (30-14) with 20 points and Jeff Parmer finished with 18. Jamelle Horne scored 17 points and Yu Okada added 13.
Shiga fell to 1-3 against Ryukyu this season.
Evessa 78, Bambitious 59
In Osaka, the hosts clamped down on Nara’s offense to secure a series sweep.
Shota Konno led the Evessa (32-14) with 13 points and Olu Ashaolu and Takuya Soma both scored 12. Lawrence “Trend” Blackledge put 10 points on the board and Hamilton matched DeAngelo Hamilton’s scoring output and hauled in 17 rebounds. Narito Namizato chipped in with eight points, five assists and four steals.
Julius Ashby had 17 points for the Bambitious (15-31) and Charles Hinkle scored 11, but committed eight turnovers. Jumpei Honda had 10 points and Daiki Terashita scored eight.
Brave Warriors 97, Crane Thunders 90
In Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, Shinshu overcame Gunma star Thomas Kennedy’s game-high 45 points to collect its second win in as many days.
Xavier Gibson had 30 points on 11-for-15 shooting with 11 rebounds and five assists for the Brave Warriors (23-23). Mike Bell supplied 21 points and 10 boards and Junki Kano also scored 21.
Kennedy, a University of Detroit Mercy alum, shot 17-for-31 from the field and made 8 of 12 free throws in 26-plus minutes.
Masashi Obuchi had 16 points for the Crane Thunders (19-25) and Michael St. John added eight points and 14 rebounds.
Hannaryz 64, Phoenix 58
In Toyokawa, Aichi Prefecture, in a battle of Western Conference heavyweights, Kyoto avenged Saturday’s loss to Hamamatsu Higashimikawa, salvaging a series split.
Kevin Kotzur guided the Hannaryz’s inside attack with 17 points and snatched 18 rebounds. Shingo Utsumi poured in 11 points and Tyren Johnson had 10 for Kyoto (33-11). Takuya Komoda added eight points.
Kejuan Johnson led the Phoenix (30-14) with 17 points, DeAngelo Kirkland scored 14 and Reggie Warren had 11 and grabbed 15 rebounds.
Hamamatsu made just 6 of 24 3-point shots.
Firebonds 78, B-Corsairs 56
In Fukushima, a strong start for the hosts proved too big a hole for Yokohama to overcome.
The Firebonds (28-16) took a 25-8 advantage into the second quarter en route to a series sweep.
Le’Bryan Nash had a strong all-around game for the hosts, contributing 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Shota Kanno scored 13 points and Bingo Merriex had 12. Stephan Van Treese pulled down 14 rebounds, while Masaya Karimata added nine points and five assists.
Kenji Yamada scored 14 points and handed out seven assists for the B-Corsairs (18-28). Cory Johnson and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts both had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Yokohama was held to 23-for-72 shooting, including 1-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Susanoo Magic 86, Samuraiz 63
In Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, Shimane’s powerful rebounding carried the club to a bounce-back win over Kanazawa.
The Susanoo Magic out-rebounded the hosts 57-35. Josh Davis, who scored nine points, led Shimane with 20 rebounds and Wayne Marshall had 11.
Scootie Randall contributed 23 points and 10 boards for Shimane (34-12) and Jun Abe scored 20 points, while Edward Yamamoto and Tatsuhiro Yokoo had 14 and 11, respectively.
Gyno Pomare paced the Samuraiz (26-20) with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Fitzgerald had 12 points and Yusuke Kodera and Marshall Brown 11 apiece.
Albirex BB 108, Cinq Reves 79
In Seiro, Niigata Prefecture, Ryan Reid flirted with a triple-double (34 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists) and Wayne Arnold delivered a 21-point, six-assist performance as the hosts pounded lowly Tokyo.
Faye Pape Mour added 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Niigata (30-16) and Kimitake Sato scored 13 points.
The Albirex chalked up 31 assists against seven turnovers.
Andre Murray led the Cinq Reves (1-41) with 29 points, Akihito Inoue had 18 and John Florveus 11 with 13 rebounds.
Tokyo lost its 35th straight game.
89ers 77, Wat’s 75
In Sendai, Wendell White sparked the 89ers with 22 points and 13 rebounds as the hosts completed a series sweep of Tohoku rival Aomori.
Jamal Boykin chipped in with 16 points, Manato Kikuchi had 16 and swingman Masaharu Kataoka added 14, including four 3-pointers, and doled out five assists for Sendai (33-13).
For the Wat’s (20-16), Nile Murry scored 26 points and Jesse Perry had 15. Yuki Kitamuki and Daichi Shimoyama both scored 10 points.
Grouses 82, Big Bulls 66
In Takizawa, Iwate Prefecture, Toyama shot 61.4 percent from 2-point range and trounced the hosts to earn a series split.
Masashi Joho led the Grouses (31-13) with 22 points and Alandise Harris scored 18. Drew Viney and Sam Willard both had 11 points and Willard collected 12 rebounds.
Abdullahi Kuso finished with 12 points, five steals and five blocks for the Big Bulls (25-19) and Tatsunori Fujie also scored 12 points. Patrick Sanders added 11 points and 10 boards.
In the paint: Lance Allred, a former Kyoto Hannaryz and NBA center, has written a compelling essay for The Vertical (Yahoo Sports’ NBA website) about his life and current business project. Here’s the link: sports.yahoo.com/news/a-mission-more-important-than-basketball-170652968.html