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Monday, March 31, 2008
Osaka stakes claim to first place in win
By ED ODEVEN
The Takamatsu Five Arrows were co-leaders of the bj-league's Western Conference for less than 24 hours.
Then the Osaka Evessa reclaimed sole possession of first place on Sunday.
But boy, oh boy, did it take an epic fight to drop the Five Arrows back down to second place.
Visiting Osaka defeated Takamatsu 117-113 in triple overtime, in a game that lasted 55 minutes, saw nine players score in double figures and raised this second-year rivalry to new heights.
Trailing 83-71 with 6:08 to play in the fourth quarter, the Five Arrows (27-13) mounted a spirited comeback. All-Star center George Leach, who finished with a team-high 27 points, scored to put Takamatsu ahead 84-83 with 2:38 left in the quarter.
Shooting guard Steve Horne hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:36 left. That made it 87-87, which was the score at the end of regulation.
It was a sign of things to come.
In the first OT, Horne, who had 26 points and big shot after big shot, knotted the score at 95-95, sinking a pair of clutch free throws with 41 ticks on the clock and forcing a second bonus period.
Horne made a 2-point bucket with 5 seconds to go in the second OT, tying it at 108-108.
And then the third OT began, with — yep, you guessed correctly — Horne in the spotlight. His free throw gave Takamatsu its final lead of the game, 109-108, at the 4:33 mark. Osaka was in the drivers seat from that point on as the proud, confident, two-time defending league champion, used a 9-0 spurt to seize control of the game.
Jeff Newton made back-to-back baskets, Matt Lottich sank a 3-pointer and Mikey Marshall added a deuce to make it 117-109.
When it was over, Osaka had earned a split in the series and improved to 28-12 overall, matching the record of the Eastern Conference-leading Sendai 89ers.
Newton (38 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks in 55 minutes), Lynn Washington (25 points), Lottich (23), Marshall (11) and Naoto Nakamura (10) provided the bulk of the Evessa's scoring output.
Rasheed Sparks, another 55-minute performer, had 18 points, 14 boards and nine assists for the Five Arrows.
The 89ers, meanwhile, eked out an 80-79 win over the visiting Niigata Albirex BB.
Trailing by a point with 10 seconds left, Sendai called a 60-second timeout.
Ryan Blackwell made the game-winning shot with 4 seconds left.
Bobby St. Preux led the 89ers with 25 points and Nick DeWitz scored 24.
In Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, the Tokyo Apache beat the Saitama Broncos 91-81 and moved into a tie for second-place in the Eastern Conference with the Albirex.
Tokyo (23-17) limited Broncos All-Star forward Gordon James to nine points and eight boards a day after he had a 35-point, 17-rebound effort in Saitama's 90-75 win.
Dameion Baker and John "Helicopter" Humphrey paced the Apache with 22 points apiece, Cohey Aoki and Nick Davis scored 12 apiece and Dean Browne provided 10.
Davis led all players with 18 rebounds and rejected five shots.
For the second straight game, Saitama standout Mamadou Diouf did not play.
Elsewhere Sunday, the visiting Toyama Grouses earned a 75-73 triumph over the Oita HeatDevils.
Robby Joyner finished with a team-high 20 points for the Grouses (6-24), while Takanori Goya scored 17 and dished out six assists and Masayuki Kabaya had a 14-point effort.