Entering this season, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix and Ryukyu Golden Kings had combined to win six of 10 bj-league championships, with each franchise grabbing the title three times.
Bragging rights are always at stake when they show up on the same court. And both are in the mix again this spring to capture the crown in the circuit’s final season before the launch of the B. League in the fall.
Their fierce rivalry closed one chapter on Sunday in Hamamatsu, where the Phoenix ended the Golden Kings’ franchise-record 16-game winning streak with an 84-77 bounce-back victory in the teams’ final bj-league regular-season showdown.
On Saturday, Ryukyu won the series opener 74-56.
In the rematch, turnovers were a decisive factor. Defending champion Hamamatsu (34-16) had six turnovers; Ryukyu committed 16.
DeAngelo Kirkland paced the Phoenix with 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds. A 26-year-old product of NCAA Division II Columbus (Georgia) State, Kirkland canned 4 of 7 3-point shots.
Toshifumi Kawamitsu scored 13 points and Tasuku Namizato had 12 points and five assists, while Reggie Warren chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds to notch a double-double.
The Phoenix didn’t have an efficient offensive performance — they shot 10 of 26 from 3-point range, 20 of 46 from inside the arc and 14 of 23 at the free-throw line — but their disruptive defense caused problems for the Golden Kings.
“Yeah, it was a big win for us moving into the last regular-season games,” Warren told The Japan Times.
He called it “just a hard-fought win over a great team.”
Asked to pinpoint keys to victory, Warren offered this insight in a post-game interview: “Definitely taking care of the basketball was one of the keys for sure.”
He added: “We played a lot better defense today than we did yesterday, just came out today and worked harder on the defensive end. DeAngelo Kirkland and a couple of the young guys stepped up and played a great game for us, so that’s key for us moving forward.”
Ryukyu (39-11) was held to eight assists and 5-for-17 3-point shooting.
Shuhei Kitagawa scored a team-high 19 points for the Golden Kings, Ryuichi Kishimoto had 14 and Evan Ravenel poured in 13. Anthony McHenry and Draelon Burns scored 12 and eight points, respectively.
The Phoenix trailed 23-13 after the first quarter and 36-35 at halftime.
Hannaryz 65, Five Arrows 64
In Kyoto, Tyren Johnson scored 19 points and Kevin Kotzur had 18 points and 14 rebounds to lead the hosts to their second win in as many days over Takamatsu.
Genki Kojima finished with nine points for Kyoto (39-11), which is tied with Ryukyu for the best record in the Western Conference.
The Hannaryz were the aggressors inside and held an 18-7 edge in offensive rebounds.
For the Five Arrows (11-39), Jarvis Williams had 27 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Anthony Kent scored 18 points and Hiroyuki Kikuchi had 16, including four 3s.
Rizing 80, Samuraiz 71
In Kanazawa, Josh Peppers’ 23-point performance and Donnavan Kirk’s 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting helped Fukuoka salvage a series split with the Samuraiz.
Satoshi Ishitani dished out eight assists and contributed six points and two steals for the Rizing (18-32).
Andrew Fitzgerald led Kanazawa (27-23) with 22 points and Yuji Ide had 12. Yusuke Takamatsu chipped in with 11 points and five assists.
The Samuraiz struggled at the free-throw line (22-for-37, including Marshall Brown’s 3-for-10) and made just 3 of 18 3-point attempts.
Evessa 109, HeatDevils 81
In Osaka, the pass-happy Evessa raced out to a 65-33 lead by halftime to hammer Oita Ehime and complete a series sweep.
Coach Dai Oketani’s club made 40 baskets on 34 assists. Leading the offensive onslaught, Narito Namizato handed out 10 assists and scored eight points in the series finale.
Olu Ashaolu had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Osaka (34-16) and Takuya Soma added 22 points, converting 6 of 8 3-point shots. Shota Konno sank four 3s en route to 18 points and DeAngelo Hamilton had 16 points and nine rebounds.
For the HeatDevils (16-34), Chehales Tapscott scored 31 points and hauled in 13 rebounds and Patrick Simon added 21 points.
Bambitious 109, Lightning 64
In Nara, Charles Hinkle put 26 points on the board and the hosts overwhelmed Hiroshima in the rebounding department.
Makoto Higuchi scored 20 points for the Bambitious (17-33) and Tatsuya Suzuki had 17 with seven assists. Jumpei Honda poured in 16 points and Daiki Terashita netted 10.
Nara out-rebounded the visitors 62-27.
Ayumu Osawa paced the Lightning (1-49) with 17 points.
Susanoo Magic 69, Lakestars 63
In Hamada, Shimane Prefecture, the hosts outscored Shiga 21-8 in the third quarter and held on for a victory to record a weekend split.
Scootie Randall scored 12 points for Shimane (37-13) and Edward Yamamoto and Wayne Marshall both had 11. Marshall, a Temple University alum, also provided seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks.
For the Lakestars (33-17), Jeff Parmer had 17 points and eight rebounds. Yu Okada added 10 points, but misfired on all seven of his 3-point shots. Julian Mavunga and Yutaka Yokoe had seven points apiece.
89ers 83, Firebonds 81
In Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, after its 10-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday, Sendai returned the favor a day later, edging the hosts in a down-to-the-wire contest.
MVP candidate Wendell White energized the 89ers (36-14) with 34 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, and former Fukushima big man Terrance Shannon had 12 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Masaharu Kataoka added 12 points for Sendai.
Firebonds forward Le’Bryan Nash, who scored 42 points in the series opener, was held to 25 in this one. He made 8 of 24 shots from the field and collected nine rebounds. Stephan Van Treese added 13 points and 14 rebounds and Bingo Merriex had 13 points and 11 boards. Shota Kanno and Shinya Murakami each scored eight points for Fukushima (29-21).
Albirex BB 90, Crane Thunders 86
In Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, sharpshooter Wayne Arnold drained 6 of 12 3-pointers in a 26-point performance and Niigata held off the Crane Thunders once again.
Ryan Reid added 18 points and eight rebounds for the Albirex (33-17) and Ryotaro Honma scored a season-best 17 points, while Kimitake Sato added 13.
Niigata sank 14 of 30 3s.
Thomas Kennedy carried the Gunma offense with a 33-point effort. He made 14 of 15 foul shots. Takamichi Fujiwara scored 16 points and Michael St. John had 15 for the Crane Thunders (21-29).
“It’s always great to get two wins on the road against a team fighting for their playoff life heading into the playoffs,” Arnold told The Japan Times. “Also we were in foul trouble and had one of our key guys (Reid) ejected from the game. With that, we still found a way to win as a team, which is great.
“During the playoffs you have to be able to win ugly games in order to win the title. I think our Sunday game was huge for our team’s overall confidence heading into the postseason.”
Broncos 90, Cinq Reves 79
In Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, Edward Morris’ 31-point, 16-rebound effort sparked the Broncos, who snapped a 13-game slide.
Seth Tarver contributed 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for Saitama (5-45), while Evan Harris had 11 points and nine boards.
Andre Murray paced Tokyo (4-46) with 30 points.
Grouses 87, B-Corsairs 64
In Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Toyama pounded short-handed Yokohama and handed the hosts their eighth straight defeat.
The B-Corsairs (18-32) suffered their 18th loss in a dreadful 20-game stretch.
Drew Viney led the East-leading Grouses (37-13) with 25 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Sam Willard contributed 13 points and 17 rebounds and Masashi Joho had 17 points, six assists and two steals in the rout. Ryo Yamazaki and Takeshi Mito added 10 and eight points, respectively.
Yokohama’s Jordan Henriquez-Roberts scored 14 points and snatched 10 rebounds and Carl Hall had 10 points.
Big Bulls 80, Brave Warriors 63
In Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture, the Big Bulls dominated the second quarter, outscoring Shinshu 19-5 and taking a 20-point cushion into halftime to secure a weekend split.
Alandise Harris had a team-high 23 points for Iwate (29-21) and Abdullahi Kuso supplied 19 points, 10 boards and two blocks. Patrick Sanders scored 15 points and Tatsunori Fujie 10.
Mike Bell paced the Brave Warriors (25-25) with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Xavier Gibson had 11 points in the loss.
Shinshu made 20 of 61 shots from the field and turned the ball over 21 times.
Wat’s 66, Northern Happinets 64
In Akita, Jesse Perry scored a game-high 36 points with 14 rebounds as Aomori avenged Saturday’s defeat to the hosts.
Nile Murry finished with 11 points for the Wat’s (23-27) and Makoto Sawaguchi had nine points. Yuki Kitamuki had a scoreless performance, but the veteran guard made an impact with four steals and three assists.
Shigehiro Taguchi led Akita (34-16) with 17 points and Richard Roby scored 15. Ray Turner contributed 14 points and 10 boards and Scott Morrison had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
After a 96-77 win in the opener, the Happinets were not able to replicate their high-scoring ways. They made just 22 of 66 shots in the rematch.