Title-chasing teams thrive on down-to-the-wire contests.
The Kawasaki Brave Thunders edged the host Sendai 89ers, winning 91-86 on Friday while providing another example of this.
Star center Nick Fazekas, a former NBA player, paced the Brave Thunders (34-6) with a game-high 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He made 12 of 20 shots from inside the 3-point arc and went 6-for-6 at the foul line. He leads the league in scoring at 28.1 points per game.Mamadou Diouf chipped in with 11 points and 11 rebounds for Kawasaki, which trailed 40-38 at halftime. Yuma Fujii and Ryusei Shinoyama scored 10 points apiece. Shinoyama also handed out four assists.
The Brave Thunders dominated on the boards, outrebounding Sendai 50-39.
Kawasaki converted 22 of 29 free throws; the hosts made 7 of 12.
Wendell White had 25 points, including five 3-pointers, and nine rebounds for the 89ers (11-29). Tshilidzi Nephawe finished with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting, eight rebounds and five blocks. Kaito Ishikawa scored 13 points and made three steals, while newcomer Greg Mangano, a power forward and Yale University alum, added 12 points and six rebounds.
Second-division update: Friday’s results are as follows: Ehime Orange Vikings (21-20) defeated the Earthfriends Tokyo Z (17-24), winning 61-59; the Nishinomiya Storks (29-13) prevailed 92-71 over the Kagoshima Rebnise (5-37); and the Shimane Susanoo Magic (35-6) triumphed 91-77 over the Tokyo Excellence (15-26).
Did you know?: The unbeaten 1975-76 Indiana University men’s basketball team, led by legendary bench boss Bob Knight, has a connection to the B. League.
Jim Wisman was a backup guard on that famous team. His brother, Tom, coaches the Tochigi Brex.
Additional experience: The Toyama Grouses on Friday announced that Kazuaki Shimoji, who served as the team’s head coach during the 2011-12 bj-league campaign, has rejoined the organization as an assistant coach.
Bob Nash is in his fifth season at the helm. His son, Bobby, joined the staff as an assistant before the 2015-16 season.
In the 40-year-old Shimoji’s last coaching stop, he guided the Saitama Broncos in the 2014-15 season in the bj-league.
Shimoji has battled health issues in recent years. He was hospitalized and away from day-to-day management of the team for several weeks during his season with Saitama due to a heart illness.
Toyama’s next game is March 11 against the visiting Nagoya Diamond Dolphins.