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Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011

Jets snap losing streak by holding off 89ers at home

Staff writer

URAYASU, Chiba Pref. — There's a reason the free-throw line is often referred to as the "charity stripe" in basketball vernacular.

News photo
Up and away: Kensuke Tanaka of the Jets goes up for a layup against O'Neal Mims of the Sendai 89ers as Chiba won 79-74 at home on Friday. YOSHIAKI MIURA

The clock is stopped. There's no defender challenging the shooter, and this aspect of the game — for a player or an entire team — can often be a key factor in a team's win or loss.

On Friday, the Chiba Jets showed enough improvement at the line and made enough other plays to hold off the visiting Sendai 89ers 79-74 at Urayasu Sports Park Gymnasium, snapping a three-game losing streak and ending the 89ers' five-game win streak.

The Chiba Jets shot an abysmal 16-for-31 from the free-throw line in Thursday's 14-point loss to visiting Sendai. In the rematch, the Jets were 20-for-29, including 12-for-14 in the fourth quarter.

"We feel very fortunate to win," Chiba coach Eric Gardow said.

"The difference in the game for us was we hit shots when we were supposed to hit shots and then free throws when we needed to," Gardow said.

Chiba, a first-year Eastern Conference franchise, improved to 7-5, while Sendai fell to 8-4. The Jets travel to face the Toyama Grouses next weekend.

The Jets outscored the 89ers 29-20 in the pivotal fourth quarter as both teams vied to control the game's tempo. Sendai's perimeter shooting went cold in the fourth, including 1-for-9 from 3-point range.

"Chiba was much tougher than us tonight," 89ers coach Bob Pierce said, adding that his team made far too many turnovers, including seven in the first quarter.

Maurice Hagrow, who had 12 fourth-quarter points, paced the Jets with 24 points and nine rebounds and Jamel Staten had 18 points and nine boards. Big man Gaston Moliva added 12 points and nine boards and Kensuke Tanaka, last season's bj-league Most Improved Player award winner while playing for the Tokyo Apache, had eight points.

For the 89ers, O'Neal Mims led the way with 24 points and 15 rebounds, Dan Fitzgerald scored 14 and Johnny Dukes had seven points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Despite the loss, Sendai's Hikaru Kusaka reminded the sparse but rowdy crowd that he's capable of being an impact-making scorer, too. And appropriately, when written in Japanese kanji, his first name refers to light, and he was a bright spot on this night.

Kusaka finished 5-for-8 from the field, scoring 13 points that kept the 89ers offense in sync against the pesky Jets.

For the Jets, however, the victory was a team effort as different players stepped up in the second half to provide a spark. Hargrow pulled the Jets within 57-55 on a trio of free throws with 8:33 left in the game.

Chiba regained the lead, 62-61, on Moliva's layup and free throw with 6:08 remaining

A Tanaka 3-pointer put Chiba ahead 67-63. Staten made two foul shots with 3:52 left as the Jets increased their advantage to six.

Sendai called a timeout with 1:11 remaining, trailing 75-69 and hoping to stage a late comeback to keep its winning streak alive.

Mims' inside hoop cut it to 75-71. Seconds later, with 29.7 showing on the game clock, Hargrow sank the second of two free throws to make it 76-71 and a two-possession game. Hiroki Sato canned two free throws to stretch the advantage to 78-71 with 18.6 seconds left. And that essentially sealed the win for the Jets.

In the third quarter, Kusaka sank his first two shots, opening the game 5-for-5 from the field.

Chiba trailed 54-50 entering the fourth quarter.

Showing an aggressive mind-set from the get-go, Yoshihiro Tachibana made a pair of quick layups to give Sendai a 4-0 lead in the early going. The Jets trailed 9-4 midway through the first quarter after Fitzgerald sank a baseline 3-pointer. He grabbed the offensive board from his own missed shot and created another chance for his team seconds earlier.

But the Jets recovered on a 12-0 run to seize momentum. Chiba took its first lead, 10-9, on a Staten layup at the 2:43 mark. He then stepped to the free-throw line for a chance to complete an old-fashioned three-point play. He swished the shot to raise the lead to two.

Sendai led 35-34 at the half.

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