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Monday, Nov. 16, 2009

BJ-LEAGUE

Apache beat Broncos to halt losing streak


Staff writer

Tokorozawa, Saitama Pref. — Something had to give.

Either the Saitama Broncos would extend their winning streak to five games and the Tokyo Apache would drop their fourth straight contest.

Or . . . Both streaks would come to a screeching halt at Tokorozawa Municipal Gymnasium.

The second scenario played out on Sunday afternoon.

Tokyo outplayed Saitama down the stretch en route to a hard-fought 83-80 triumph.

With intense concentration and a calm demeanor, Apache guard Cohey Aoki scored nine of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, making all five of his shots in that span (3-for-3, including a 3-point shot, from the field and 2-for-2 from the charity stripe) and center Julius Ashby had a game-high 30 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots to help Tokyo improve to 5-7 as it enters a long layoff before its next game on Dec. 7.

After shooting 9-for-18 at the free-throw line in Saturday's four-point loss, the Apache sank 13 of 17 foul shots in the rematch.

"We needed this win," decided Tokyo guard Rasheed Sparks.

Taishiro Shimizu's driving layup in the closing seconds of the third quarter gave the hosts a 61-60 advantage to close out the period.

Sparks' two fourth-quarter steals led to a pair of easy baskets, including a breakaway dunk, to energize his team.

After Ashby's quarter-opening baseline jumper gave the out-of-towners a 62-61 lead, the Apache tied or led for the rest of the game. The big fellow also scored the team's opening points in the first and third periods.

Shoji Nakanishi, who scored 16 points, drained consecutive shots to give Tokyo a 66-63 lead and second later Aoki sank a floater in the lane.

Ashby's inside leaner stretched the lead to 73-65, prompting Saitama to call a timeout with 4:59 to play.

To their credit, the Broncos rallied back and tied it at 76-76 and then at 78-all.

With 28.6 seconds left, Sparks missed the front end of a one-and-one and Ashby snared the rebound, had a putback and a chance for a three-point play.

He swished the shot, giving Tokyo an 81-78 advantage.

Shimizu then missed a 3-pointer and Terrence Woodyard clanked two foul shots with 12.2 seconds remaining. Four seconds later, Aoki hit two free throws to make it 83-78.

Saitama guard Mario Jointer, fouled while attempting a 3-pointer, went to the line with 1.8 seconds left and knocked down two shots in succession before missing the final one.

Sparks finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Jointer and Terrence led Saitama (4-8) with 19 points and Shimizu scored 14.

Tokyo raced out to a 12-5 lead to start the game after consecutive 3s by Sparks and Aoki. Then Saitama used a 9-2 spurt to fire up the home crowd and get back into the game.

The Apache took a 22-19 advantage into the second quarter, but head coach Motofumi Aoki was ejected after picking up two technical fouls at the end of the first period. He had choice words for referee David Law after Sparks' quarter-closing shot was ruled offensive goaltending.

Team captain Jumpei Nakama served as the acting head coach, as he earned that appointment from Tokyo's bench boss, and veteran forward Nick Davis, who missed his second straight game with lower back pain, assisted him from the bench.

Saitama trailed 42-41 at the break.

After the game, Sparks said he grabbed the ball after Nakanishi's missed shot — it almost appeared like a designed alley-oop — and put up a shot.

"They did a nice job," said Sparks, reflecting on Nakama's role as fill-in coach and Davis' work with him.

Nakama didn't view the coaching change as a drastic measure.

"The team simply stuck to its game plan and executed its plays down the stretch," he said.

Turnovers and mistakes on defense played a role in Saturday's loss, according to Nakama. "(But) today's chemistry and communication between Aoki and Sparks was strong in the fourth quarter," he added.

Saitama coach Masato Fukushima said his team has made solid improvements over the past month, as it bounced back from an 0-7 start.

"But we'll need more practice for the next game," Fukushima admitted, acknowledging the Sendai 89ers pose a strong challenge for his team and possess a quality inside-outside game.

Also Sunday, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix improved to 9-1, handing the host Niigata Albirex BB an 89-71 defeat.

Wendell White paced the Phoenix with 31 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Niigata fell to 2-8 despite five double-digit scorers, including Paul Butorac (16).

Demetrius Guions scored 21 points to lead the host Sendai 89ers to a 66-51 victory over the Toyama Grouses.

Gyno Pomare added 16 points and Chris Holm had 11 points and 12 boards for Sendai(9-3).

For Toyama, Brandon Thomas was the high scorer with 15 points.

The Grouses slipped to 5-3.

Elsewhere, Ricky Woods' 32-point, 10-rebound effort helped the visiting Oita HeatDevils edge the struggling Shiga Lakestars 80-77.

Mike Bell supplied 21 points and 12 boards for Oita (5-5).

For Shiga (7-7), Gary Hamilton had 21 points while Masashi Joho poured in 19.

Michael Parker, the bj-league's reigning scoring champion, erupted for 32 points in the Rizing Fukuoka's 99-83 home win over the Takamatsu Five Arrows.

Marlyn Bryant chipped in with 26 points for the Rizing (7-5).

Yu Okada and Michael Gardener had 19-points apiece for the Five Arrows (2-10).

Elsewhere, the Osaka Evessa completed a weekend sweep, topping the Kyoto Hannaryz 88-75.

David Palmer paced the host Evessa with 22 points and Lynn Washington had a double-double (19 points, 11 boards) as Osaka improved to 6-4.

Reda Rhalimi's 16 points led Kyoto (3-7) and Jun Iwasa scored 13.



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