Toyama Grouses guard Masashi Joho celebrated his 34th birthday on Sunday with a 27-point performance in the team’s 98-90 win over the visiting Aomori Wat’s.
Joho, an enduring star throughout the bj-league’s 11 seasons, helped the Grouses capture the Eastern Conference regular-season crown with a vintage performance. He capitalized on opportunities throughout the game and made an impact at the free-throw line, knocking down 9 of 10 shots in Toyama.
He had three steals and two assists on the final day of the league’s final season. (Twenty-three of 24 bj-league teams are set to join the new B. League, a 45-team, three-division circuit that tips off in the fall. The Hiroshima Lightning are not scheduled to join the new league.)
It wasn’t a one-man show for Toyama (39-13). Big man Sam Willard paced the team with 29 points and 19 rebounds and handed out four assists. Drew Viney scored 13 points and Takeshi Mito had 12 points.
On a day when Grouses coach Bob Nash only used seven players, the hosts had frequent breaks due to the flow of the game. Toyama was sent to the free-throw line repeatedly (31-for-41); conversely, Aomori made 8 of 11 foul shots.
Joho led the Grouses in scoring this season (17.1 points per game).
Jesse Perry paced the Wat’s (23-29) with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Nile Murry scored 24 points and Makoto Sawaguchi had 18, while Yuki Kitamuki scored 10.
Phoenix 88, Susanoo Magic 51
In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, reigning champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa pounded the short-handed hosts, who played without leading scorer Scootie Randall (undisclosed) and rebounding ace Josh Davis (left thigh) due to injuries, to complete a series sweep.
The Phoenix (36-16) out-rebounded Shimane 71-26, including 25-2 on the offensive glass.
Shuto Tawatari led Hamamatsu with 25 points, Reggie Warren had 15 and 18 rebounds and DeAngelo Kirkland scored 13 points with nine boards.
Shimane center Wayne Marshall had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Edward Yamamoto and Jun Abe scored nine points apiece.
The Magic (37-15) shot 21-for-68 from the field.
Hannaryz 102, Lightning 51
In Yanai, Yamaguchi, Kyoto routed the hosts and dominated on the boards.
Hiroshima (1-51) finished its lone season in the bj-league by breaking the Takamatsu Five Arrows’ single-season worst record (2-50), which was set in 2011-12. The Lightning only played 50 games, with two losses being handed to them as forfeits for a canceled home series against the Tokyo Cinq Reves in December.
Moses Ehambe had 24 points for the Hannaryz and teammates Takuya Komoda and Kevin Kotzur both had 17.
Kyoto out-rebounded the Lightning 63-26.
Kyoto (41-11) enters the playoffs as one of the top title contenders.
Golden Kings 90, Evessa 71
In Okinawa City, the latest Ryukyu-Osaka showdown fittingly was played on the last day of this final season, and the Golden Kings avenged Saturday’s four-point loss.
Anthony McHenry, one of the league’s all-time greats, had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Ryukyu (40-12) and Shuhei Kitagawa scored 15 points.
Draelon Burns finished with 13 points and Evan Ravenel contributed 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Ryuichi Kishimoto scored 11 points and matched Ravenel’s assist total.
The Golden Kings shot 50 percent from inside the arc and drained 20 of 26 free throws.
For Osaka (35-17), Lawrence “Trend” Blackledge was the high scorer with 15 points and Shota Konno added nine.
The Evessa were held to 5-for-23 shooting from 3-point range.
Both teams have captured three bj-league titles apiece over the previous 10 seasons.
Big Bulls 80, Albirex BB 74
In Niigata, Patrick Sanders’ team-high 22 points helped Iwate bounce back from a series-opening defeat against the Albirex.
Tatsunori Fujie added 17 points and five assists for the Big Bulls (30-22) and Abdullahi Kuso scored 15 points and hauled in nine rebounds.
Ryan Reid led Niigata (34-18) with 23 points and 17 boards. Wayne Arnold had 20 points and seven assists and Faye Pape Mour chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Rizing 97, Bambitious 75
In Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, balanced scoring lifted the hosts to their second win in as many days over Nara.
Donnavan Kirk led the Rizing (20-32) with 19 points. Joseph Taylor had 14 points and 13 rebounds and Josh Peppers contributed 11 points, nine boards and five assists. Josei Maniwa scored 10 points, Taishiro Shimizu had nine and Cohey Aoki and Keisuke Takabatake added eight apiece.
“I’m very proud of my teammates,” Kirk told The Japan Times. “We have been through a lot this season.
“And to close with three wins in a row is amazing,” the University of Miami alum added. “It took a lot of heart and determination to do this and we did it.”
For the Bambitious (17-35), Josh Ritchart scored 20 points, including 5-for-7 from beyond the 3-point arc, and grabbed 12 rebounds. Daiki Terashita had 14 points, Tatsuya Suzuki poured in 13 with four assists and Charles Hinkle had 11.
Lakestars 91, Five Arrows 66
In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, crisp passing and good ball-handling decisions were keys for the Lakestars in a convincing victory over Takamatsu.
Shiga (35-17) chalked up 24 assists against nine turnovers in the series finale and won its second straight game and for the fifth time in its last six.
Lakestars standout Julian Mavunga, a Miami (Ohio) University product, had 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Yu Okada canned five 3s in a 17-point performance and Jeff Parmer had 15 points, four assists and three steals. Jamelle Horne chipped in with 11 points and five assists.
Jarvis Williams paced the Five Arrows (11-41) with 25 points and 16 rebounds. Anthony Kent finished with 16 points and nine boards, while Shuichi Takada scored 10 points.
Firebonds 74, Crane Thunders 56
In Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, rookie star Le’Bryan Nash scored 18 points and Fukushima rebounded from a Saturday loss.
Masaya Karimata provided 12 points and seven assists for the Firebonds (30-22), who made a nine-win improvement over their inaugural season in 2014-15. Kenya Tomori and Shota Kanno had 11 points apiece and Stephan Van Treese notched a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Fukushima out-rebounded Gunma 46-36.
For the Crane Thunders (22-30), Thomas Kennedy scored 12 points and Gary Hamilton had 10 with 13 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Michael St. John and Masashi Obuchi both had nine-point outings and Takamichi Fujiwara scored eight.
Brave Warriors 101, Broncos 60
In Nagano, Joe Wolfinger scored 17 points and raked in 19 rebounds and Xavier Gibson completed his stellar regular season with 16 points, 10 boards, four blocks and three steals as Shinshu blasted Saitama to complete a series sweep.
Yosuke Saito and Takahiro Ueda had 14 points apiece for the Brave Warriors (27-25) and Junki Kano and Mike Bell both scored 11. Bell also pulled down 13 rebounds.
Seth Tarver led the Broncos (5-47) with 15 points and nine rebounds. Masaomi Toi added 10 points.
Shinshu dominated on the boards and finished with a 63-37 rebounding edge.
Northern Happinets 100, 89ers 82
In Sendai, Texas A&M alum Ray Turner sparked Akita with 31 points on 13-for-17 shooting and 16 rebounds as the visitors earned a series split with the 89ers.
Happinets star Richard Roby finished with 27 points, making 10 of 16 shots from the field. Shigehiro Taguchi added 10 points and Kenichi Takahashi and Akitemo Takeno both dished out six assists for Akita (35-17).
Sendai (37-15) struggled to make baskets from the outside. The team shot 7-for-26 from 3-point range.
Terrance Shannon had 26 points, 16 rebounds and four assists for the 89ers and Jamal Boykin added 14 points and nine boards. Fumiya Sato and Yohei Sakai each scored eight points and Wendell White finished with seven. Takehiko Shimura handed out nine assists.
Playoff matchups: The East’s first-round series for next Saturday and Sunday are as follows: No. 1 Toyama vs. No. 8 Aomori, No. 2 Sendai vs. No. 7 Shinshu, No. 3 Akita vs. No. 6 Fukushima and No. 4 Niigata vs. No. 5 Iwate. For the West, these are the four first-round series: No. 1 Kyoto vs. No. 8 Fukuoka, No. 2 Ryukyu vs. No. 7 Kanazawa, No. 3 Shimane vs. No. 6 Osaka and No. 4 Hamamatsu vs. No. 5 Shiga.
Stat leaders: Le’Bryan Nash finished the season as the league’s scoring leader (26.7 points per game), followed by White (25.6) and Kennedy (24.9). For assists, Suzuki placed first with 6.6, Shimura was No. 2 (4.8) and Tarver, Karimata and Yokohama’s Kenji Yamada shared the third spot (4.6).
Davis earned the rebounding title (15.5 per game), followed by Warren (13.5) and Willard (13.0). Tokyo’s Andre Murray finished No. 1 in steals (2.3), with Oita Ehime’s Chehales Tascott (2.1) and Peppers (2.0) rounding out the top three.
Gibson captured the shot blocks title (2.5 a game). Yokohama’s Jordan Henriquez-Roberts (2.1) and Blackledge (1.9) were second and third, respectively.