Fittingly, the final game of the first division’s regular season came down to the final champion of the bj-league (Ryukyu Golden Kings) taking on the now-disbanded circuit’s first dynasty (Osaka Evessa).
Entering the season finale, the fierce rivals had identical records, with one playoff spot up for grabs to the second-place finisher in the West Division.
The Golden Kings prevailed 80-72 on Sunday night in Okinawa City, extending their season for at least another week by completing a weekend sweep of the Evessa, whose coach, Dai Oketani, guided Ryukyu to a pair of championships (2008-09 and 2011-12). Between them, they won seven of the bj-league’s 11 titles.
The hosts led 26-14 after the opening quarter, 41-39 at halftime and 57-49 after three quarters
Former University of North Carolina forward Reyshawn Terry ignited Ryukyu (29-31) with 27 points. He sank 10 of 12 free throws. It was a textbook display of veteran poise by Terry, who played on the Tar Heels’ NCAA title-winning team in 2005.
Kings guard Ryuichi Kishimoto had 18 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and five assists. Team legend Anthony McHenry, who starred on all four of the club’s bj-league championship teams, contributed 16 points, five assists and four steals, while Lamont Hamilton finished with seven points.
For Osaka (28-32), Xavier Gibson scored 30 points, including 13 of 15 at the foul line. Richard Roby had eight points, Takuya Hashimoto and Shinnosuke Negoro added seven apiece and Josh Harrellson contributed six points and 11 rebounds.
Jets 76, Levanga 74
In Sapporo, All-Star Game MVP Yuki Togashi converted an inside jumper with 4 seconds remaining, breaking a deadlock and helping Chiba extended its winning streak to nine games.
Tyler Stone sparked the Jets (44-16), the East’s third-place finisher, with 22 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Togashi had an 18-point performance and Michael Parker contributed 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.
Before Togashi’s dramatic game-winning shot, Jahmar Thorpe’s 3-pointer had tied it at 74-74 with 13 seconds left. Thorpe led Hokkaido (23-37) with 20 points. Shooting guard Takehiko Orimo, now 47, had 14 points. Asahi Tajima added 10 points and four assists and Ryota Sakurai doled out six assists.
Brex 75, 89ers 57
In Sendai, East Division champion Tochigi clamped down defensively on the 89ers and veteran forward Jeff Gibbs made his first appearance since April 22 as his team closed out the regular season with a runaway triumph and avenged its Saturday defeat.
Gibbs played 15-plus minutes and had four points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block.
The Brex, who led 34-22 at the break, outscored the 89ers 27-14 in the third quarter to seal the win.
Twenty-two-year-old point guard Shusuke Ikuhara led Tochigi (46-14 overall, 25-5 on the road) with 13 points. He made 3 of 5 3-point attempts in just under 15 minutes. Kosuke Takeuchi had 12 points, Takatoshi Furukawa scored 11 and Yutaro Suda added nine, knocking down 3 of 5 shots from long range.
Wendell White finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Sendai (14-46) and South African native Tshilidzi Nephawe had 12 points and nine boards. Kaito Ishikawa and Takayuki Kumagai both scored seven points.
Alvark 78, Northern Happinets 52
In Akita, Tokyo took a 31-19 lead into halftime and completed a series sweep of the Northern Happinets.
The Alvark outrebounded the hosts 45-34.
Former NBA forward Jeff Ayres had 15 points and six boards for Tokyo (44-16), which earned the East’s No. 2 seed for the playoffs. Diante Garrett chipped in with 13 points and four assists. Daiki Tanaka contributed 11 points and five assists and Keijuro “K.J.” Matsui and Joji Takeuchi both had nine points. Zack Baranski finished with six points, 10 rebounds and three steals in the rout.
Shigehiro Taguchi, who canned 4 of 7 3-pointers, had a 12-point afternoon for Akita (18-42). Evan Ravenel added 10 points and eight boards, Scott Morrison and Tatsunori Fujie scored nine points apiece and Seiya Ando handed out five assists.
Struggling to score throughout the season, the Happinets were 18-for-61 from the field in their regular-season finale.
Lakestars 85, SeaHorses 82
In Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, Yutaka Yokoe sank two free throws with 14 seconds remaining to seal the victory, Shiga’s sixth straight.
The Lakestars (21-39) had a four-point second quarter, and trailed 38-29 entering the second half.
Shiga drained 15 of 30 3s, including Julian Mavunga’s 6-for-9 output. Mavunga scored 35 points. Craig Brackins had 15 points and Tomonobu Hasegawa supplied 12. Narito Namizato dished out five assists.
Mikawa small forward Masaaki Morikawa scored 18 points, including 4 of 6 3s. Isaac Butts had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the West Division champion SeaHorses (46-14) and Kosuke Kanamaru also poured in 10 points.
Diamond Dolphins 91, Hannaryz 79
In Kyoto, the visitors trailed by 17 points at halftime, then outscored the Hannaryz 60-31 the rest of the way to win for the second day in a row.
Justin Burrell had 25 points and 12 rebounds for Nagoya (27-33). Jerome Tillman scored 16 points, while Taito Nakahigashi added 13 points. Tenketsu Harimoto had a 12-point outing.
Kevin Kotzur led Kyoto (25-35) with 21 points and nine rebounds. Mo Charlo had 13 points and eight boards. Genki Kojima and Sunao Murakami each scored 10 points.
Albirex BB 83, B-Corsairs 74
In Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, the hosts pulled away in the third quarter en route to their second win in as many days over Yokohama.
Niigata outscored the visitors 27-11 in the third to take a 67-52 lead into the final stanza.
Clint Chapman had 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Albirex (27-33). He went 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Teammate Davante Gardner added 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Kei Igarashi contributed 11 points and five assists and Stephan Van Treese had nine points.
Jeff Parmer led the B-Corsairs with 24 points and Jason Washburn scored 12. Alexis Minatoya finished with nine points and Takuya Kawamura had eight points and five assists. Faye Pape Mour grabbed eight rebounds for Yokohama (16-44).
Grouses 79, NeoPhoenix 62
In Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, hot-shooting Toyama took a 12-point advantage into the second half and stormed past San-en to earn a bounce-back win.
The Grouses (18-42) shot 60 percent (30-for-50) from inside the arc. Sam Willard notched a double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Naoki Uto contributed 14 points and nine boards. Yu Okada and Dexter Pittman scored 13 points apiece. Takeshi Mito had 10 points.
For the NeoPhoenix (33-27), who finished second in the Central Division behind the idle Kawasaki Brave Thunders (49-11), Josh Childress was the high scorer with 13 points and Robert Dozier poured in 10. Olu Ashaolu and Atsuya Ota each had nine points, with Ashaolu also pulling down seven rebounds.
Playoff pairings for the quarterfinals on May 13-14: Mikawa vs. Ryukyu, Kawasaki vs. Shibuya, Tochigi vs. Chiba and Tokyo vs. San-en.
Second-division update: Here are the results of Sunday’s games: Kagawa Five Arrows 87, Kumamoto Volters 86; Hiroshima Dragonflies 111, Ehime Orange Vikings 77; Aomori Wat’s 80, Fukushima Firebonds 69; Gunma Crane Thunders 72, Yamagata Wyverns 61; Fighting Eagles Nagoya 85, Earthfriends Tokyo Z 75; Bambitious Nara 69, Shinshu Brave Warriors 68; Shimane Susanoo Magic 81, Kagoshima Rebnise 66; and Ibaraki Robots 93, Iwate Big Bulls 67.
Final B2 regular-season standings:
Earthfriends Tokyo 27-33
Tokyo Excellence 22-38