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Sunday, May 2, 2010

BJ-LEAGUE

HeatDevils eliminated from playoff race


Staff writer

After an awful 8-44 campaign in 2008-09, the Oita HeatDevils entered this season with a number of questions marks.

Fast forward to this weekend. Entering a tough series against the Shiga Lakestars, the HeatDevils faced the prospect of needing four straight wins — and a dose of good fortune — to have a shot at earning the bj-league's fourth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Oita (24-25) will fall short of reaching that goal, but, by all accounts, first-year coach Brian Rowsom's club, has had a successful season as it returned to respectability.

On Saturday, the visiting Lakestars handed Oita a 90-73 defeat, ending the HeatDevils' slim chances of securing a playoff berth.

Gary Hamilton and Masashi Joho paced the fourth-place Lakestars (29-22) with 18 points apiece. Mikey Marshall added 17 points and Ray Schafer scored 16. Hamilton raked in 21 rebounds for the second-year franchise.

After one quarter, all five Shiga starters had put points on the board, a solid sign for any team. The Lakestars led 29-12 at that point.

Oita trailed 49-26 at halftime.

Mike Bell finished with a team-high 18 points and seven rebounds for the HeatDevils and Ricky Woods scored 16 points. Matt Lottich added 10 points and four assists and Rashaad Singleton scored eight and grabbed 10 boards.

Elsewhere Saturday, the Saitama Broncos edged the host Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix 96-92.

Both teams had good shooting days from the field, with Saitama making 31 of 52 2-point shots and Hamamatsu canning 25 of 42.

Mario Jointer paced the Broncos (16-34) with 29 points, including 10-for-12 at the free-throw line, and a game-high eight assists. Terrence Woodyard added 28 points and 12 rebounds and Terrence Roberts had 18 points and eight rebounds. Taishiro Shimizu handed out five assists.

Saitama outrebounded Hamamatsu 44-36.

The Broncos led 27-20 after one quarter. William Knight, who finished with 28 points, scored 19 of the Phoenix's first 25 points.

Hamamatsu (39-11) used a 12-0 run to open the second quarter and led 50-41 at the break.

And then the oldest strategy in basketball paid off for Saitama: It put more points on the board in the second half — 13 to be precise — to secure the win.

Wendell White score 26 points and Dzaflo Larkai added 17 for the Phoenix, who were 15-for-23 at the foul line.

Also Saturday, Josh Peppers scored 19 points and Chris Holm had a crowd-pleasing 16-point, 16-rebound performance to lead the Sendai 89ers to an 82-74 home triumph over the Tokyo Apache.

Backup forward Nick DeWitz added 15 points and eight rebounds in 20 productive minutes, Takehiko Shimura handed out seven assists and picked up three steals, while Kenichi Takahashi scored 11 points and Hikaru Kusaka had seven for the 89ers (34-15).

For the Apache (21-28), Julius Ashby was the leading scorer (24 points) and rebounder (11 boards). Cohey Aoki added 18 points and six assists and Michael Chappell scored 11.

The Niigata Albirex BB, meanwhile, snapped a four-game losing streak, routing the host Toyama Grouses 91-65.

Paul Butorac paced the Albirex (23-26) with 17 points and Uche Echefu scored 14. Akitomo Takeno and Yuichi Ikeda scored 13 apiece. Tyrone Levett chipped in with 10 points and 11 boards and Antonio Burks and Shuhei Komatsu each scored nine.

For Takeno, who was 5-for-8 from the field, including 2-for-2 on 3-point attempts, it was his highest scoring game since a 13-point outing on Feb. 28.

For Ikeda, who made 4 of 6 shots, including 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, it was his highest output since a 14-point game on Feb. 21.

As a team, Niigata knocked down 11 of 18 3-pointers.

The Albirex outscored the Grouses 72-43 over the final three quarters.

Brian Harper led Toyama (16-33) with 19 points.

The Grouses shot a woeful 13-for-31 at the free-throw line.



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