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Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE

Streaking Apache fire on all cylinders in win


Staff writer

The more options a coach has, the better chance that team will be successful in the long run.

Just ask Joe Bryant.

"Having (Dameion) Baker really changes the dynamics of our team," the Tokyo Apache coach said after his team's 88-83 victory on Saturday over the Sendai 89ers at Ariake Colosseum.

Tokyo (21-12) improved to 3-0 since Baker rejoined the team. He had previously played for the Apache in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

The 193-cm Baker, a quick enough player to see time at small forward and a strong enough guy to mix it up with the big guys at the power forward spot, played, ahem, two dozen minutes and scored 18 points off the bench, adding four rebounds, four assists and one steal for good measure. Call him Tokyo's energizer in the series opener.

Tokyo, which never trailed in the fourth quarter, earned a runnerup spot in the bj-league last season, losing the title game to the Osaka Evessa. Bryant was asked if the Apache would've been a stronger team from the outset of the season with Baker on the roster.

"This is the right time for Baker to come back," said Bryant, citing budget issues, salary issues and his desire for the team to peak at the right time. "The owners were great in talking to me in certain situations. To bring another player in, you usually have to cut someone.

"We were able to work that out without cutting someone."

John Humphrey led the Apache with 20 points and a team-best three steals. Julius Ashby and Cohey Aoki pumped in 13 points apiece.

Ashby and Nick Davis both pulled down 11 rebounds for the Apache, and Darin Satoshi Maki, whose assist-to-turnover ratio is better than 3:1, handed out five assists.

Rodney Webb paced the 89ers with 25 points on 9-for-18 shooting. Bobby St. Preux added 24 points, Kenichi Takahashi, had 14 points and Chris Holm had 12 points and 19 rebounds, but the league's top rebounder was held to three offensive boards.

"That's probably No. 1 at the top of the page — you must box him out," Bryant said of Holm, referring to his team's scouting report.

Takahashi scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, draining 3 of 4 3-point attempts as Sendai staged a comeback but fell short.

In the fourth quarter, Baker scored back-to-back baskets, including an old-school 3-point play — an off-balance bank shot and a free throw — to give the Apache a nine-point cushion with 8:11 left.

Sendai coach Honoo Hamaguchi said he would like to see his team play stronger defense in the rematch.

"It was a frustrating game," Hamaguchi admitted before commending his players' effort.

Also Saturday, the Takamatsu Five Arrows extended their winning streak to 10 games, trouncing the visiting Osaka Evessa 99-79.

Matt Garrison scored a game-high 27 points for Takamatsu (24-9), while Kazuyuki Nakagawa had 20, including a 6-for-10 effort from 3-point range.

Five Arrows sharpshooter Yu Okada and Babacar Camara added 14 points apiece and Rasheed Sparks dished out seven assists in the win.

Jerod Ward scored 20 points and Masayuki Kabaya had 18 to lead the host Toyama Grouses to an 87-79 win over the Niigata Albirex BB.

Georgia Tech product Anthony McHenry had a triple-double in the Ryukyu Golden Kings' 94-68 win over the visiting Oita HeatDevils.

McHenry had a 12-point, 15-rebound, 11-assist performance as Ryukyu improved to a league-best 25-8. Jeff Newton had 18 points and 14 boards, while Shigeyuki Kinjo pumped in 16 points in the rout.

Michael Gardener scored 34 points and Marcus Morrison had 15 to lead the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix to a 75-60 road win over the Saitama Broncos.

The visiting Shiga Lakestars jumped out to a 21-9 lead after one quarter en route to an 87-77 win over the Rizing Fukuoka.

Bobby Nash scored a team-best 28 points and Ryan Rourke contributed 23 for Shiga, which improved to 13-20.



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