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Friday, Jan. 21, 2011

BJ-LEAGUE

Strong fitness helps Apache during grueling stretch


Staff writer

The Tokyo Apache wrapped up a hectic eight games in 14 days with a 79-78 overtime victory over the Takamatsu Five Arrows on Wednesday.

News photo
Satisfaction: Tokyo forward Michael Chappell (20) and guard Jumpei Nakama celebrate the team's overtime win against Takamatsu on Wednesday at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2. KAZ NAGATSUKA PHOTO

Apache coach Bob Hill said after Wednesday's overtime victory that fatigue was not much of a problem for the club, which ended the stretch with six wins and two losses, including six home contests.

"We've had a lot of practices," Hill, a former NBA coach, said with a laugh. "We started in September in Texas. We had a lot of practices. So our team is in good shape.

"Now, it's a matter of maintaining that. We can't practice real long and hard now. So it's maintaining the conditioning that we have. And I think that paid off for us in this stretch."

The Apache had a spectacular, entertaining comeback in Wednesday's game. The team trailed 30-13 after the first quarter, but eventually erased the deficit around Cohey Aoki's offensive contributions — he scored 18 points — and their gutsy defense, which held Takamatsu to 28 second-half points.

Floor leader Byron Eaton sank a game-tying 3 at the buzzer in the final period, before they outscored the Five Arrows 7-6 in overtime at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2.

"Coming back from (17) points down, it takes courage, it takes fighting fatigue, it takes a little bit of luck. I mean, (17) points is a lot of points," Hill said.

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Solid play: Apache All-Star guard Cohey Aoki has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games, helping his club win six of its last eight games before All-Star weekend. KAZ NAGATSUKA PHOTO

Jumpei Nakama, one of the team's captains, said that he'd personally never had such a tough stretch before as a pro player, though he recalled tiresome times from high school.

"We'd play consecutive games in a tournament such as the Winter Cup (All-Japan High School National Championship), but I'd never had that in a season."

But at the end of the day and a tiring stretch for these athletes, wins are the best tonic for their exhaustion. On Wednesday, Tokyo extended its winning streak to five and improved to 12-8 overall.

"Since we're winning, we're not feeling that much fatigue," said Nakama, who had 10 points and seven rebounds.



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