Basketball / B. League

Sunrockers improve to .500 with win over NeoPhoenix

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Fueled by a potent inside attack and a well-orchestrated passing performance, the Sunrockers Shibuya etched an 80-57 victory over the San-en NeoPhoenix on Sunday afternoon.

What’s more, after a woeful October, when they won just two of 10 games, the resurgent Sunrockers improved to 12-12.

Center Robert Sacre led Shibuya with 21 points and former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Ryan Kelly excelled at both ends of the floor with 17 points (three slam dunks for the highlight reel), 18 rebounds and eight assists at Aoyama Gakuin University Memorial Hall.

For the Sunrockers, who led 62-41 entering the fourth quarter, the backups played the majority of the final stanza. High-energy shooting guard Tomoya Hasegawa, for instance, kept the rout intact. He scored all eight of his points, including two 3-pointers, in the fourth and provided a spark on defense, too. Reserve forward Faye Samba, who was born in Senegal, contributed eight points, getting six in the fourth.

Above all, Shibuya’s shooting from inside the 3-point arc (32 of 56, 57.1 percent) was fueled by pinpoint passing. In fact, nearly every basket the Sunrockers scored was credited with an assist — they had 29 in total (against nine turnovers) and 36 baskets on the day.

Sacre established himself early in the game with 10 first-quarter points on perfect 5-for-5 shooting, including two jump hooks. When the game was over, he had taken a 17 shots (10 makes), sharing the team lead with Kelly.

The NeoPhoenix (9-15) looked lethargic for large stretches of the game and failed to match the Sunrockers’ intensity level.

In the series opener, Josh Childress paced San-en with 34 points and 12 rebounds in a 93-85 loss on Saturday. Childress had 15 points, seven of which came on free throws, and eight boards in the rematch. Center William McDonald (10 points, 11 rebounds) was San-en’s only other double-digit scorer in the series finale. Tatsuya Suzuki, Shota Kanno, Shingo Okada and Tomonobu Hasegawa all had five points.

It was a poor offensive performance for NeoPhoenix coach Hiroki Fujita’s club, which shot 3 of 21 from 3-point range and 34.4 percent overall.

After the game, Fujita, who appeared emotionally drained, stated bluntly, “We didn’t play well today.”

Fujita had Childress play 28 minutes in the series finale after logging 40 a day earlier. The coach admitted that the veteran star and former NBA first-round pick “looked tired today.” Shibuya coach Tsutomu Isa, meanwhile, admitted that his game plan included focusing on “slowing Childress down.”

In essence, energy was a factor. It appeared Shibuya burned more calories from start to finish and set the tone with well-executed pick-and-rolls again and again, which the visitors didn’t defend well. Sunrockers point guard Leo Vendrame flourished, working around screens to make things happen for his team. He had 11 assists in the series opener and doled out nine more the next day.

Talking to reporters after the game, Vendrame mentioned that he was focused on “the importance of the entry pass” to initiate the offense, and his teammates stayed in sync as the ball moved from player to player.

The Sunrockers only trailed once. That happened seconds into the game when Suzuki flushed a 3-pointer for the first points of the contest.

Moments later, Shibuya had built a 12-3 lead after a big scoring run. San-en answered with a 9-4 spurt to pull within 16-12 on a McDonald jumper. But the hosts extended their lead to 26-16 at the end of the quarter on a Yuki Mitsuhara buzzer-beating jumper, courtesy of a Kenta Hirose pass, which was initiated by a Tomoya Hasegawa steal.

Shibuya led 43-30 at halftime and looked to be in complete control, barring a total turnaround by San-en.

It never happened.

Instead, Sacre and his teammates enjoyed the satisfaction that comes from a two-game sweep.

“It’s a solid week to have in this league,” said Sacre, a Gonzaga University alum, “and we are really turning things around.”

He added: “I thought our guys really (played hard). We were up and we didn’t let up. We kept fighting and we persevered throughout the whole game. It showed a lot of growth.”

B-Corsairs 60, Evessa 58

In Yokohama, the B-Corsairs have struggled the entire season and their weekend series against Osaka wasn’t easy, either. They won both games by scoring exactly 60 points.

On Saturday, it was a 60-59 decision.

A day later, newcomer Arthur Stepheson provided a big boost with 10 points and 21 rebounds. Masashi Hosoya buried 4 of 6 3-pointers in a 15-point outing and Ryo Tawatari and Takuya Kawamura both had 12 points, with Prince Ibeh adding 14 rebounds and two blocks.

For Osaka, Xavier Gibson scored 18 points, Josh Harrellson had 15 and Naoya Kumagae 13. The Evessa (9-15) rejected nine shots in the loss.

Brex 68, Albirex BB 62

In Niigata, Tochigi gave Ryan Rossiter, the league’s No. 2 scorer (23.6 points per game), the day off, and his teammates stepped up and played a solid 40 minutes against the hosts to win for the second time in as many days.

Jeff Gibbs had 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and Yusuke Endo poured in 13 points for the Brex (20-4). Kosuke Takeuchi chipped in with 10 points and seven boards and Hironori Watanabe added eight points and seven assists.

Albirex star Davante Gardner scored 30 points and hauled in 15 rebounds. Lamont Hamilton had 11 points and matched Gardner’s rebounding total for Niigata (15-9), which shot 35.2 percent the floor.

Golden Kings 91, Diamond Dolphins 88

In Nagoya, Takatoshi Furukawa calmly sank two free throws with 4 seconds left in the fourth, which set the stage for the hosts’ crucial final possession.

After a Diamond Dolphins timeout, Markeith Cummings shot a 3-pointer with a chance to send the game into overtime. He missed, and the Golden Kings completed a series sweep.

Josh Scott powered Ryukyu (18-6) with 27 points, 11 boards and five assists. Ryuichi Kishimoto and Jeff Ayres both had 14-point outings and nailed four 3s apiece. Furukawa finished with a dozen points. As a team, the Kings buried 14 of 28 3s.

Cummings energized Nagoya (14-10) with 38 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. Craig Brackins scored 12 points and nabbed a team-high nine boards, while Taito Nakahigashi also had 12 points

Grouses 84, Brave Thunders 71

In Toyama, the Grouses took a commanding 44-29 advantage into halftime and held on to earn a weekend split with Kawasaki.

Joshua Smith had 24 points and 11 rebounds for Toyama (13-11) and Tomokazu Abe made 4 of 5 3s in a 16-point effort. Leo Lyons corralled 16 rebounds as the hosts finished with 47 and held the Brave Thunders to 30.

Nick Fazekas led Kawasaki (14-10) with 28 points and nine boards and Shane Edwards scored 14 points. Yuma Fujii added 13 points and seven assists.

Jets 76, Alvark 71

In Tokyo, Chiba avenged its Saturday defeat in a narrow victory over the reigning champions.

Trey Jones paced the Jets (19-5) with 20 points and Gavin Edwards provided 15 points, 12 boards and five assists. Yuki Togashi also had 15 points and five assists.

For the Alvark (15-9), Alex Kirk posted a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Jawad Williams and Yudai Baba both scored 11 points and Genki Kojima handed out seven assists. Tokyo made just 4 of 18 3s and converted 15-for-23 at the foul line.

Rizing Zephyr 65, Lakestars 56

In Fukuoka, the hosts clamped down on Shiga in the second half, holding the Lakestars to 26 points and earning a bounce-back win.

Fukuoka center Dexter Pittman scored 16 points and Benjamin Lawson contributed nine, with both collecting nine rebounds. Shota Tsuyama and Daisuke Kobayashi added eight points apiece for the Rizing Zephyr (5-19).

Koyo Takahashi had a team-high 16 points for Shiga (5-19), Yusuke Karino scored 14 and D’or Fischer 11.

Hannaryz 77, SeaHorses 73

In Kyoto, strong shooting carried the hosts past Mikawa a day after the teams staged a dramatic double-overtime contest, giving Hannaryz coach Honoo Hamaguchi’s club a weekend sweep.

Kyoto (14-10) shot 60.5 percent from 2-point range, making 23 of 38 attempts.

David Simon led the Hannaryz with 27 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Julian Mavunga added 12 points, nine boards and nine assists. Kevin Hareyama contributed 15 points, canning all three of his 3-point shots. Yusuke Okada and Tatsuya Ito both had eight points.

J.R. Sakuragi scored 17 points and snared 12 rebounds for Mikawa (12-12) and Kennedy Meeks had 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Masaaki Morikawa and Takanobu Nishikawa finished with 11 points apiece.

Second-division update

Here are Sunday’s B2 scores:

Storks 77, Wat’s 58

Volters 86, 89ers 69

Crane Thunders 81, Bambitious 60

Orange Vikings 101, Firebonds 95

Susanoo Magic 83, Five Arrows 78

Samuraiz 89, Dragonflies 80

Wyverns 98, Bee Trains 93

Brave Warriors 91, Earthfriends 65

Robots 98, Fighting Eagles 85

Note: In Ehime’s high-scoring win over Fukushima, Orange Vikings power forward Andrew Fitzgerald had a game for the ages. He scored 55 points on 23-of-37 shooting, pulled down 22 rebounds (nine offensive) and finished with an astounding 62 efficiency rating.