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Monday, April 6, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE

Slow Broncos recover to blow Grouses away


Staff writer

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Fast and furious after a woeful game-opening stretch, the Saitama Broncos put their footprint on the game in a hurry over the next three-plus quarters.

The final score — Saitama 109, Toyama Grouses 91 — didn't indicate how dominating coach David Benoit's club played for the majority of the game, starting after it found itself facing a 15-2 deficit at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium.

Consider: The Broncos (19-27) outscored Toyama 53-24 over the middle two quarters.

Grouses shooting guard Masayuki Kabaya scored 15 of his 32 points in the first quarter, burying a trio of 3-pointers in that span. Kabaya's scoring output equaled the top single-game scoring mark by a Japanese player this season.

Saitama, which won the series opener 97-65 on Saturday, appeared sluggish from the get-go and let the Grouses players get good shooting looks on the perimeter. Jerod Ward's 3-pointer gave Toyama a 15-2 lead with 6:50 to play in the first.

The Broncos woke up from their afternoon slumber moments later, cutting the deficit to 27-22 after one quarter and getting a buzzer-beating 3 by power forward Reggie Warren with 2 seconds left in the quarter to provide a jolt of energy for the next quarter.

It worked.

Saitama pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring the Grouses 34-8 and taking a 56-35 lead into halftime.

"I didn't do anything," Benoit told the crowd after the game, indicating his players had plenty of self-motivation. "These guys (the players) did all the work today — (so) let's give them a hand."

The Broncos, who have an outside shot at making the bj-league playoffs, made 15 of 19 shots in the second quarter, when hot-shooting Isaac Sojourner scored 16 of his 18 points and was 7-for-7 from the field. Warren had 10 of his 33 points in the quarter and finished with 18 rebounds, four assists and three of his team's seven blocked shots.

Said Sojourner: "We are just trying to finish out the last six games and let the chips fall where they may."

The 10-36 Grouses, losers of 13 straight games, meanwhile, missed 14 of 16 shots in the second quarter.

Toyama, which trailed 81-51 early in the fourth, made the final score look respectable by putting 40 points on the board in the quarter.

Saitama was 14-for-22 from 3-point range, including Daiki Terashita's 3-for-3 effort.

Terashita said his team's effort underscored its desire to "get a playoff chance."

Overall, it was a banner day for Japanese standouts, with three of the league's top four individual scoring performances coming from native players on this day, including Kabaya's aforementioned 32-point effort.

Tokyo Apache guard Cohey Aoki had a game-high 29 points against the Niigata Albirex BB.

Takamatsu Five Arrows guard Yu Okada scored a game-best 29 points, including 9-for-13 from 3-point range, against the Oita HeatDevils.

The Apache (28-18) defeated the visiting Albirex 97-85 to earn a weekend split. Gritty veteran Dameion Baker added 23 points, Masashi Joho poured in 13 and Nick Davis finished with 11 points, 18 rebounds and five assists.

Emmanuel Little paced Niigata (22-24) with 27 points, while Yu Ikeda had 14 and Makoto Hasegawa and Akitomo Takeno both scored 11.

In the Five Arrows' 92-85 win over the visiting HeatDevils, center Babacar had a gargantuan impact inside (21 points, 24 rebounds). Takamatsu (32-14) remains on pace to be the Western Conference's No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

Oita (7-39) has lost 14 straight games.

Elsewhere, Jeff Newton had 24 points and 14 rebounds in the Ryukyu Golden Kings' 72-68 road triumph over the Rizing Fukuoka.

Anthony McHenry (17 points, nine boards) and Yosuke Sugawara (10 points) helped Ryukyu improve to 35-11.

Michael Parker was the leading scorer (22 points) for Fukuoka, which fell to 22-26.

Led by Michael Gardener's 26 points and Marcus Morrison's 25, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (31-15) earned a series split, defeating the host Sendai 89ers 88-79.

Takeshi Hotta added 16 points for the victors.

Rodney Webb had a team-best 20 points for Sendai (26-20).

Nile Murry's 32 points helped carry the Osaka Evessa past the Shiga Lakestars in a 108-98 overtime win.

Ryan Blackwell had a 25-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist effort for Osaka (29-17).

The Lakestars' Bobby Nash sent the game into overtime by draining a game-tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Nash and Ray Schafer both scored 22 points for Shiga (17-29), while Takamichi Fujiwara had an 11-assist outing.



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