Golden Kings suffer only sixth loss of season

Anthony McHenry worked mightily but could not stop Rizing Fukuoka winning on Thursday. (Photo by Junya Nashiro)

Stunned is the only way to describe reactions of the Ryukyu Golden Kings Thursday night as they ventured into the Fukuoka City Kyuden Gymnasium to take on the Rizing Fukuoka in their 39th game of the season… and got smashed.

The Rizing Fukuoka played aggressively, overpowering the Kings in the fourth stanza to pull off a 74-64 upset of the top team in the Basketball Japan League.  “I think Okinawa is playing the best basketball of all,” said Fukuoka head coach James Duncan, “but we had a hard and aggressive game.”  Okinawa head coach Tsutomu Isa also praised Fukuoka, noting “Fukuoka’s defense was extremely in their game.”

Naoto Kosuge reaches to score. (Photo by Junya Nashiro)

Okinawa bounced back Friday night, but still needed overtime to pull off an 80-74 road win and the series split.  The victory puts the Golden Kings at 34-6 on the year.  “It was a great experience to play with this team and their new head coach,” said Golden Kings head coach Tsutomu Isa.  “The games were powerful and meaningful for the future,” referring to the preparations for the upcoming playoffs.:  Okinawa heads into Nara Prefecture’s Kashihara Kouen Gymasium this weekend to meet the Bambitious Nara.

Elsewhere in the BJL, the face off between the two Western Conference squads just beneath the Golden Kings proved to be anything but a thriller Saturday, as the Kyoto Hannaryz trounced the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix 101-73 to push its record to 24-15, while the Phoenix slipped to 27-16.  The Phoenix turned it around and evened the score Sunday with an 89-72 win, leaving the Western Conference rankings unmoved.

In Nagano Prefecture, the Brave Warriors overpowered the Iwate Big Bulls 93-74 in the first of their two-game series Saturday.  It wasn’t so easy Sunday, requiring overtime for the Shinshu squad to win 98-96 to push their record to 26-14.  Even with the losses, Iwate’s 28-12.  The Osaka Evessa needed overtime Saturday to outdistance the Toyama Grouses 101-97, but couldn’t hold on to win the series, losing to the 32-10 Grouses 80-75.  The Grouses are now only a game behind the Eastern Conference leading Akita Northern Happinets.

The Northern Happinets upended the Gunma Crane Thunders 102-94 behind the 18-for-35 three-point shooting of its front line Saturday.  The lowly 11-29 Crane Thunders turned the tables Sunday, pulling off a 94-89 upset over the Eastern Conference leaders.  The defending champion Yokohama B-Corsairs whipped the Aomori Wat’s 80-53 on Saturday, only to have the tables turned on Sunday when the Wat’s won 87-62 to even their record at 20-20.  The Shiga Lakestars took an 84-78 win from the Nara Bambitious on Saturday, pushing its record to 22-19.  The Bambitious powered back on Sunday, winning 103-88.

The Niigata Albirex BB upended the Tokyo Cinq Reves 77-65 in their series opener in the capitol city, running its record to 25-16, and capped the second game 86-71.  The Takamatsu Five Arrows beat the Shimane Susanoo Magic 74-66 in their Saturday meeting, which has no playoff implications, then swept the series with a 72-61 victory a day later.  The Sendai 89ers thumped the Saitama Broncos Saturday, handing the hometown team its eighth consecutive loss, then made it worse Sunday with a 105-85 drubbing of the Broncos.