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Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009
Top teams cruise
By ED ODEVEN
The bj-league's first-place teams began 2009 on a winning note.
The host Ryukyu Golden Kings collected their third victory in as many games against the Takamatsu Five Arrows, posting a methodical 86-79 victory on Saturday. The Tokyo Apache, meanwhile, defeated the host Toyama Grouses 86-77.
Five players scored in doubles for Ryukyu (17-4), which holds a three-game lead over the Five Arrows in the Western Conference standings. Naoto Takushi led the way with a team-high 21 points and a game-best six assists. Chris Ayer added 19 points and seven rebounds, Jeff Newton had 16 points and 17 boards, Shigeyuki Kinjo scored 14 and Anthony McHenry had 13.
Center George Leach paced the Five Arrows (14-7) with 23 points and 13 rebounds, while Rasheed Sparks had a 19-point game and Gordon James provided his standard double-double output (14 points, 12 boards). Yu Okada, the team's top outside shooter, was held to six points.
In Toyama, Apache catalyst Cohey Aoki ignited his team's offense with a 22-point outing, while Nick Davis added 20 points, John Humphrey contributed 19 and Julius Ashby added 10. Tokyo, which had three players with nine or more rebounds led by Ashby's 10, improved to 14-7.
Elsewhere, the visiting Osaka Evessa edged the Rizing Fukuoka 75-69.
Two-time league MVP Lynn Washington gave his team a big lift, finishing with 21 points and 21 boards. Nile Murry stuffed the stat sheet with 26 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Evessa (13-8). Eric Walton contributed 11 points and nine boards, while guard Jun Nakanishi matched his top-scoring output (nine points) since being traded to Osaka from Fukuoka in early December.