After a down-to-the-wire overtime loss on Saturday night, the Ryukyu Golden Kings maintained their poise down the stretch in Sunday’s intense duel with the Sunrockers Shibuya.
The Golden Kings eked out a 76-74 victory at Aoyama Gakuin University Memorial Hall, earning a series split with former Ryukyu coach Tsutomu Isa’s club.
Center Jack Cooley scored a go-ahead layup — courtesy of a nice pass into the low post from Narito Namizato — with 33 seconds left to put the Golden Kings ahead 74-72.
The Sunrockers answered with a Ryan Kelly in-the-paint bucket to tie it at 74-74.
Ryukyu’s De’Mon Brooks was fouled by Kelly with 4 seconds left on a drive to the hoop. He sank both shots, giving the visitors a two-point lead.
After a Shibuya timeout, Kelly missed a 3-pointer before the final buzzer sounded.
Cooley led the Golden Kings (22-12) with 17 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Namizato poured in 16 points, Shota Onodera chipped in with 12 points, Ryuichi Kishimoto finished with 10, Brooks had nine. Hayato Maki had six clutch points, connecting on both of his 3-point attempts.
Maki’s second 3-pointer tied it at 72-all with 1:08 left.
The Sunrockers (23-12) led 71-65 with 1:54 to play after Jackson’s close-range basket, but the determined Golden Kings never backed down.
A pair of Namizato free throws with 1:45 left made it a four-point game.
Charles Jackson, a Tennessee Tech alum, paced the Sunrockers with 27 points along with eight rebounds and two blocks. Kelly, who was 0-for-9 from 3-point range, added 12 points and three blocks. Leo Vendrame scored nine points and Yusei Sugiura had seven points and eight boards.
“They are a great team,” Jackson said of Ryukyu. “They play hard, they play physical, and we also do the same, so it was a great fight. … We just came up short today.”
Ryukyu coach Hiroki Fujita said his team’s defensive patience and tenacious defensive effort paid off in the series finale. He commending his players “for hitting big shots” and matching Shibuya’s overall intensity.
It was a game in which physical play and a persistent fight for loose-ball rebounds were key factors, Fujita said.
The hosts had 22 offensive rebounds; the Kings had 21.
Isa agreed with Fujita’s assessment that the game showcased the teams’ fighting spirit. It was, he said, “a really good game.”
Said Kelly: “No excuses. We just couldn’t find a way to win.”
“A few key plays down the stretch turned the game one way or the other,” he added.
Shibuya led 38-34 at halftime and took a 55-51 lead into the fourth quarter.
Neither team led by more than seven points in the two-game series.
The Sunrockers, who earned a series-opening 75-73 OT victory on Saturday, now shift their focus to next weekend’s road series against the Kyoto Hannaryz, who have won nine of their last 10 games.
Hannaryz 82, Northern Happinets 81
In Akita, Julian Mavunga scored the game-winning shot, a jumper in the lane, with 12 seconds left, as Kyoto extended its winning streak to three.
Rookie center Jessie Govan, a Georgetown University alum, energized the Hannaryz (18-17) with 25 points and a season-best 21 rebounds. Mavunga poured in 21 points and Keijuro Matsui scored 14.
Javier Carter paced Akita (15-19) with 15 points and Masashi Hosoya added 13.
Lakestars 81, SeaHorses 57
In Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, Shiga jumped out to a 16-point lead by halftime and cruised past Mikawa to earn a series split.
Craig Brackins, an ex-NBA player, ignited the Lakestars (17-18) with 22 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. Jeff Ayres notched a double-double (17 points, 12 boards) and Takumi Saito contributed 12 points and seven assists.
Chris Johnson had a 19-point outing for the SeaHorses (16-19).
Evessa 92, B-Corsairs 85 (OT)
In Yokohama, frontcourt mates Josh Harrellson and Richard Hendrix delivered dynamic performances as Osaka outlasted the hosts in overtime and finished the two-game series with a split.
Harrellson led all players with 37 points and 19 rebounds. Hendrix filled the stat sheet with 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Evessa (23-11).
James Southerland had 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Reginald Becton chipped in with 19 points and 12 boards for the B-Corsairs (9-25).
Albirex BB 68, Diamond Dolphins 64
In Nagoya, Nick Perkins and Xavier Gibson scored 16 points apiece and Kei Igarashi handed out eight assists as Niigata avenged its series-opening defeat.
The Albirex (12-23) converted 14 of 15 free-throw attempts. The Diamond Dolphins made 4 of 7.
Seiya Ando scored 16 points and Justin Burrell had 15 for Nagoya (14-21). Hilton Armstrong led the club in rebounds (10).
Levanga 88, Grouses 80
In Toyama, Kennedy Meeks led Hokkaido with 27 points and 12 rebounds and Markeith Cummings chipped in with 25 points and seven assists in a bounce-back victory over the hosts.
Akito Uchida added 12 points for the Levanga (12-23).
Leo Lyons had 24 points for the Grouses (14-21). Satoru Maeta finished with 18 points, draining five 3s. Naoki Uto and Isaac Butts both scored 12 points. Butts also had 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Brex 87, NeoPhoenix 50
In Hamamatsu, Utsunomiya outscored the hosts 20-6 in the final quarter to complete a two-game sweep.
The NeoPhoenix (3-32), who trailed 45-30 at halftime, suffered their 11th straight loss.
Former NBA forward Jawad Williams scored 14 points for the Brex (27-8). Williams was 4-for-4 from 3-point range. Teammates Jeff Gibbs, Ryan Rossiter, Seiji Ikaruga and Makoto Hiejima all had 12-point outings. Gibbs also grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds.
Robert Dozier and Yuki Kawamura had 10 points apiece for San-en.