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Monday, March 30, 2009
Confident Gardener finds his range to boost Phoenix past Apache
By ED ODEVEN
If you shot 4-for-31 from the field, as Michael Gardener did on Saturday, you'd probably expect to shoot a better percentage in your next basketball game.
Gardener didn't resemble former Indiana Pacers sharpshooter Reggie Miller in one of his can't-miss stretches against the New York Knicks from days of yore, but he played like a confident star willing to do whatever it takes to lead his team to victory.
Gardener had 43 points in the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix's 102-96 win over the Tokyo Apache on Sunday before a rowdy crowd of 6,105 at Ariake Colosseum.
The diminutive All-Star point guard was 12-for-28 from the field and 12-for-13 from the free throw line and dished out nine assists. He attempted 20 3-point shots (seven makes) a day after a 2-for-21 outing from 3-point range.
Hamamatsu (30-14) relies on the fleet-footed Gardener to be the pace-setter on offense, and that's precisely what he did in the series finale of bj-league title contenders.
"The difference between today and yesterday was I think we made him shoot jumpers off the dribble, where today we let him stand still and gave him good looks at the bucket," Apache coach Joe Bryant said of Gardener after his team dropped to 27-17 overall and 2-6 against the Phoenix.
"Michael's a very good player, very fast, very quick, and we could've done a better job defensively. We let him walk the ball up to NBA-range (for 3-pointers) and shoot it. We still have to put a hand up to make him think about not shooting it."
Tokyo trailed 72-67 after three entertaining, fast-pace quarters. The Phoenix, who lost 72-68 on Saturday, pulled ahead 84-73 after a Marcus Morrison basket with 6:32 remaining. Morrison finished with 25 points.
The Apache staged a rally, cutting it to 86-82 after Julius Ashby's forceful dunk and 88-84 moments later on a Dameion Baker basket. But Gardener, who operates at a faster gear than most players, thwarted Tokyo's momentum by draining a fallaway 3 to raise the margin to seven.
Cohey Aoki, who had 16 points, made two 3s in the final minute, but the Apache didn't overtake Hamamatsu at the end.
Ashby had six dunks and a 9-for-10 shooting day en route to 21 points. Masashi Joho scored 16 and had eight assists, Baker added 13 and John Humphrey 10 for Tokyo.
"Tokyo is a talented team," Phoenix coach Kazuo Nakamura said. "It was a fun, interesting game with a playoff-like atmosphere."
Also Sunday, Justen Naughton scored his only basket of the game with 1 second remaining to lift the visiting Osaka Evessa to a 69-68 win over the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
Ryukyu (33-11) had taken a 68-67 lead on Jeff Newton's basket with 2 seconds left. Then Osaka (27-17) called a 60-second timeout to set up a final play.
Ryan Blackwell had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Lynn Washington added 17 points and 14 boards for the Evessa.
Anthony McHenry's 24 points led the Golden Kings, who had four double-digit scorers. Naoto Takushi dished out five assists for Ryukyu.
Michael Parker finished with 33 points and 19 rebounds in the Rizing Fukuoka's 88-81 home win over the Oita HeatDevils.
The Rizing improved to 20-24, while the HeatDevils fell to 7-34 despite forward David Reichel's 28 points.
The host Takamatsu Five Arrows picked up their 30th win in 44 games by beating the Shiga Lakestars 88-79.
Babacar Camara paced Takamatsu with 20 points, Syuichi Takada contributed 16, Kazuyuki Nakagawa had 13 and Rasheed Sparks did a little of everything in a seven-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist performance.
For the Lakestars (17-27), Ray Schafer was the top scorer with 22 points and rookie Bobby Nash, formerly of the University of Hawaii, had 21.
Emmanuel Little's triple-double and Akitomo Takeno's 22 points carried the host Niigata Albirex BB to a 90-75 win over the Saitama Broncos.
Little finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, while Antonio Burks and Paul Butorac chipped in with 18 and 17 points, respectively for Niigata (21-23).
Reggie Warren had an 18-point outing for Saitama (17-27).
The Sendai 89ers finished strongly, outscoring the host Toyama Grouses 28-10 in the fourth quarter en route to an 86-78 victory.
Chris Holm led the 89ers (25-19) with 27 points and 21 rebounds and Rodney Webb scored 20. Kenichi Takahashi handed out eight assists.
Jerod Ward put 25 points on the board for the Grouses (10-34).