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Monday, Jan. 22, 2007

BJ-LEAGUE

Defending champions stall Apache's momentum


Staff writer

A team's outlook often follows this maxim: You've got to beat the champs to become a title contender.

For the Tokyo Apache, trying to top the Osaka Evessa has also become a conundrum -- a Rubik's Cube-like challenge, if you will.

The out-of-towners topped the Apache 97-75 on Sunday at Ariake Colosseum, completing a weekend sweep and improving to 6-0 this season against Tokyo before a crowd of 2,191.

David Palmer scored a game-high 26 points for the Evessa (16-6). Teammate Matt Lottich added 24, Lynn Washington poured in 18 and Kazuya Hatano had 10.

John Humphrey was Tokyo's top scorer with 15. Jumpei Nakama had 12, Jun Nakanishi and Dameion Baker contributed 11 apiece and Michael Jackson had 10 for the Apache (9-13).

The defending bj-league champions led by double digits for the entire third quarter and took a commanding 72-56 advantage into the final stanza.

"Osaka is a good team," Tokyo coach Joe Bryant said. "They really run that fast break well. They really get up and down the floor. What really impressed me, (whether) they miss or made a shot, is they push it and attack it on the offensive end."

As his team controlled the game's tempo in the fourth quarter, Osaka's Haruyuki Ishibashi made a nice bounce pass to Hirotaka Sato for an easy inside deuce and a 15-point lead. Then the Apache cut it to 77-64 at the 6:24 mark on Jun Nakanishi's smooth, floating jumper from the left baseline. Seconds later, the Apache's deficit was 16 as Washington drained a 3-pointer.

That, in a nutshell, summed up the game: Whenever the Apache hit one shot, the Evessa, it seemed, had two scores sandwiched around it.

Despite being outrebounded 20-6 in the first quarter, the Apache led 18-16 when the period ended.

Nakama's two 3-pointers proved to be big buckets in that time span. This also helped: Tokyo had zero first-quarter turnovers.

Osaka took control of the game in the second quarter, hitting 13 of 16 shots from the field.

The half ended with the hosts facing a 46-32 deficit as Osaka's rebounding dominance (32-7) continued to be the game's chief trademark.

"We all know that rebounding is going to be our problem," Bryant said. "We've known that since last year. We are not a (dominating) rebounding team. That's why I tell the guards that it's important to get a body on a big guy."

They failed miserably in the second quarter.

How bad was it? Tokyo had one second-quarter rebound, a team rebound.

Tokyo also finished 4-for-11 from the field in the period.

"You live by the jump shot and you die by the jump shot, and we died by the jump shot in the second quarter," Bryant said.



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