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Monday, Nov. 26, 2007

BJ-LEAGUE

Apache keep up winning ways against Broncos


Staff writer

Here's a time-honored recipe for success on the basketball court:

A splash of swagger, a pinch of (winning) passion and a healthy dose of reality, and naturally, the most essential ingredient is this: more points than the other team.

The Tokyo Apache concocted a winning recipe on Sunday afternoon at Ariake Colosseum, producing a 95-90 triumph over the Saitama Broncos witnessed by 3,523 spectators.

For the fourth time in this young season, the Apache faced the Broncos and for the fourth time Joe Bryant's club walked off the court — Ariake, to be precise — with a victory.

John "Helicopter" Humphrey, the bj-league's two-time scoring champion, had a team-best 26 points for the Apache, including one thunderous slam dunk. Cohey Aoki and Dameion Baker scored 17 points apiece, with nine of Baker's points coming on free throws (he attempted 10). Center Nick Davis, who played only five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, finished with 19 points and had his customary 60-plus percent outing from the field (8-for-13).

Thirty minutes after this hard-nosed game concluded, Aoki had started to relax.

"I was expecting it (to be tough)," he told reporters gathered near his locker. "It's really tough for a team to win four in a row against the same opponent. We knew they would come at us with firm strategies."

But the Apache, which improved to 6-2 and play host to the Eastern Conference's first-place club, the 5-1 Sendai 89ers, next weekend have found a way to make that happen.

A brief recap: Tokyo topped Saitama 96-80 on Saturday. In that game, Humphrey and Aoki combined for 50 points. In the teams' season-opening series, Nov. 3-4, the Apache posted an 84-65 victory in the opener and a 90-86 win a day later.

"We had a problem in the first half," Aoki said, referring to foul trouble. "But in the second half they fouled us and put us on the free-throw line, so I thought this would be our game."

Tokyo led 24-19 after one quarter. By halftime, the Broncos (2-6) had built a 45-41 lead. By that point, power forward Gordon James had already produced a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) for Saitama.

"At halftime I spoke about the energy we needed in the second half," Bryant said, characterizing his team's first-quarter play as "good," followed by a "brain-dead" effort in the second quarter.

Then Bryant's players responded to his challenge and outscored Saitama 33-20 in the third quarter to take a 74-65 advantage into the final period.

Tokyo tied it at 58-all on a Humphrey free throw with 3:09 left in the third. James, who finished with 26 points and 21 rebounds, gave the Broncos a 60-58 lead on two foul shots.

Then the highlight reel play of the game occurred. Aoki dished a perfect alley-oop to Humphrey, who soared through the air for a monster jam. That tied it at 60.

Seconds later, Apache guard Masashi Joho answered with two shots of his own from the charity stripe to push the hosts' lead to two.

Tokyo never trailed again, extending its lead to double digits, 78-68 on a Davis bucket early in the fourth.

Takamatsu gets win

The Takamatsu Five Arrows outlasted the host Ryukyu Golden Kings on Sunday, earning a 92-89 victory in double overtime.

Shooting guard Steve Horne led the Five Arrows (6-2) with 25 points, while power forward Reggie Warren finished with a 20-point, nine-rebound effort. Center George Leach scored 11 points and grabbed 11 boards for good measure and point guard Rasheed Sparks had a busy afternoon— eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

The Oita HeatDevils, meanwhile, recorded a 90-71 win over the visiting Niigata Albirex BB.

Oita (3-5) outscored the Albirex in each of the four quarters. All-Star forward Andy Ellis had a game-best 26 points and 18 rebounds for the HeatDevils and guard Jason Braxton 20 points on the board.

Center Andrew Preston's 17 points led Niigata (4-4), while Matt Garrison had a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds).



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