Golden Kings fly past Chiba Jets
The wins continue to pile up for the high flying Ryukyu Golden Kings, who are only weeks away from the playoffs with the trophy as Western Conference Champions of the Basketball Japan League again within an arm’s length.
Playing on the road in Chiba, the Okinawa squad found excitement in its first clash with the Chiba Jets, going to the wire before 22-year-old Morihisa Yamauchi popped a pair of clean swish baskets in the final seconds to give the Golden Kings an 84-82 win. Yamauchi sank the go-ahead three-pointer with less than a minute to play, only to be challenged by Chiba guard Kensuke Tanaka with a three-pointer of his own to tie the game at 82-82.
Yamauchi wasn’t finished though. The second year player whipped of the go-ahead basket. For the final breathtaking seconds, Okinawa battled to win, with Anthony McHenry knocking the ball away from Chiba with only four seconds on the clock. Defense kept Okinawa ahead for the final ticks. It probably shouldn’t have gone that way, statistically, as Chiba completed the evening with 52 rebounds to Okinawa’s 36.
Head coach Koto Toyama, only in his first year in the top spot, kept his team moving in a multitude of combinations, including a grueling ten minutes in the second stanza when he kept Terrance Woodbury and McHenry on the court the whole time. “We were patient,” he said, “and we hustled at both ends of the court.”
It was a whole different ball game on Sunday, as the Golden Kings moved their record to 31-9 overall and 14-6 on the road. The Chiba Jets couldn’t do anything right, losing 89-59. Terrance Woodbury picked up 15 points for Okinawa, while Narito Namizato finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
The Miyazaki Shining Suns, continued hoping for the rest of the season to end quickly, losing 106-100 to the Saitama Broncos in the first game of their weekend series. They saw a ray of sunshine Sunday, though, eking out a 94-90 overtime win, their eighth against 34 losses. It’s not much better for the Broncos, who are now 11-29. The Oita HeatDevils lost to the Sendai 89ers 85-74, but turned it around Sunday to win 96-87. Oita’s now 14-28, while Sendai’s 16-24.
The Toyama Grouses split their series with the Tokyo Cinq Reves, losing the first 90-83, only to bounce back with a 105-78 win on Sunday. The expansion Tokyo squad is now 15-25. The Osaka Evessa continues hot, sweeping its series with the Shinshu Brave Warriors. They won their fifth straight game with 86-66 and 78-64 to move to 15-25. That doesn’t sound like much until considering the Evessa was 5-19 before new head coach Bill Cartwright, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, moved to town.
The Shimane Susanoo Magic didn’t have any magic as they were outdone by the Gunma Crane Thunders, 78-72 Saturday, but found their karma Sunday to win 82-60. The Magic is now 29-13 on the season, while Gunma drops to 10-32. Rizing Fukuoka made short work of the Takamatsu Five Arrows, hammering out a 95-86 victory on Saturday, and 80-74 on Sunday. The Rizing’s now 28-14, well in playoffs contention. The Five Arrows are 16-26.
The Kyoto Hannaryz lost to the Akita Northern Happinets 78-77 in a Saturday squeaker, only to find the shoe on the other foot Sunday. The Happinets move to 21-19 on the season, an exact match with Kyoto.