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Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011

BJ-LEAGUE

Smothering defensive effort allows Apache to breeze past Happinets


Staff writer

Defensive intensity doesn't always guarantee good results.

Players can hustle, for instance, but be in the wrong place due to repeatedly missing defensive assignments.

But if a team's intensity matches its across-the-board effectiveness on defense, good things can happen.

That proved to be the case in the Tokyo Apache's 91-65 victory over the Akita Northern Happinets on Wednesday at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2. Bob Hill's club completed a series sweep and improved to 16-10.

The Apache held the Northern Happinets to 17 or fewer points in each of the first three quarters. Akita's poor shooting — 15-for-52, including 1-for-12 from 3-point range, in that span — wasn't the only factor. Coming off a half-bad, half-good game in the series opener, Tokyo made a concerted effort to harass Akita on every offensive possession.

Akita (10-22) dropped its third straight game.

"We played two halves tonight," Hill said, before adding, "Next week is a huge week. We've got Osaka here."

He was, of course, referring to the Evessa, who lead the nine-team Western Conference with a 21-11 record.

"I thought that the way we guarded them tonight, our defensive game plan made a lot of difference," Hill said, citing his team's man-to-man defense a day after mixing up man and zone defenses. "We kept them off balance . . . didn't let them get into any rhythm."

Tokyo led by as many as 35 points in the final period.

The Apache didn't have the gaudy defensive numbers, but made life miserable for Akita's shooters throughout the game.

Tokyo center Robert Swift scored a game-high 19 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbed 15 rebounds, Jumpei Nakama had 17 points, Jeremy Tyler added 16 points and 11 boards in 21-plus minutes, Byron Eaton scored 14 and Cohey Aoki had 12.

For Akita, Paul Butorac was the top scorer with 17 points, followed by Sek Henry's 15 and Antonio Burks' 10.

In the third quarter, Aoki swished a 3-pointer from the left corner to put Tokyo ahead 52-34. A little more than a minute later, Nakama nailed a 3 and the Apache increased the margin to 55-34.

Nakama stepped to the free-throw line with 2:49 to play in the third. He made the second of two shots to make it 56-36.

He added a fast-break layup following a Happinets turnover as Tokyo's quarter-opening 18-6 spurt made it 60-36, with Akita finding little success against the Apache's tough defense.

The Happinets will have little time to regroup from the two-game series at Yoyogi as a weekend showdown at home against the defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix (28-4) looms for the expansion squad.

Tokyo jumped out to a 9-4 lead and held an 11-6 edge near the midway point of the first quarter. Nakama, who has struggled with his shooting in recent games, found his form in the early going, making inside shots and a spot-up 3 from the corner to give Tokyo a 14-8.

The Apache took their biggest lead of the quarter (18-11) on a Tyler layup coming off a nice high lob.

Akita trailed 18-13 after the first quarter in part due to being outrebounded 17-8 in the opening stanza.

Leading by three, Tokyo used a 14-2 spurt to grab a 36-21 edge. Aoki and Byron Eaton canned back-to-back 3-pointers and Eaton sank four free throws during the run.

After an official timeout with 4:38 before intermission and intense play by both teams, Tyler's rim-rattling jam excited the crowd and made it 40-26.

Tokyo briefly went to a four-guard lineup — Aoki, Kensuke Tanaka, Eaton and Darin Satoshi Maki — late in the second quarter. Eaton, showing fearlessness as he attacked the basket, made a layup to give Tokyo its largest advantage of the half, 42-26.

The Northern Happinets, who trailed for most of the first 20 minutes, closed out the half on Hasegawa's shot in the lane, and Tokyo was ahead 42-30 at that time.

Eaton and Nakama led all scorers with 11 points apiece in the first half. Akita shot 12-for-35 from the field in the half.



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