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Golden Kings upend Rizing to win Semi-Finals berth

Date Posted: 2010-05-21

Jeff Newton was determined that his Ryukyu Golden Kings would move forward in the Basketball Japan League playoffs, scoring 15 points Saturday and 21 on Sunday as the team first whipped Rizing Fukuoka 85-70, and then maintained their cool to win again Sunday, 79-77.

Anthony McHenry led the Golden Kings offensive, scoring 18 points, while adding six rebounds and seven assists just be sure everything was under control. Newton, who’d been sidelined with injuries much of the season, returned to the lineup for the last eight regular season games leading to the playoffs. Aside from the 15 points, he turned in nine rebounds for the Golden Kings.

Head coach Dai Oketani says the matches were more tiring than the difference in points shows. “We were robbed of a lot of steals, and fought in close range with the opponent.”

Okinawa now heads to the Semi-Finals, where they’ll take on the Western Conference champion Osaka Evessa this weekend in the Western Conference action. The Evessa held on to a one-game lead to deny Okinawa the conference championship for a second straight year.

Osaka swept through the opening playoff round with a 61-60 victory over the Shiga Lakestars on Saturday, and an easier 78-68 win on Sunday. The Evessa’s ace, Lynn Washington, scored the game winning bucket with no time left on the clock Saturday after moments earlier tying it 59-59. He scored a game-high 22 points Saturday, then took top position again Sunday with 23 points.

Ryukyu’s poor free-throw shooting, only 60.3%, is one factor in so many close games. The Golden Kings are not heading into the Final Four with any overconfidence. They went 4-4 against Osaka in the regular season, but are confident that with Jeff Newton—the only player in league history to win four championships—will be the sparkplug, and likewise Anthony McHenry, who some say may be the best pure athlete in the league. The additions of center George Leach and point guard Tsubasa Yonamine in the off-season, and the emergence of Yosuke Sugawara and Masashi Obuchi as the team’s elite Japanese players, are thought to be the catalysts as the Golden Kings defend their championship title.

In the Eastern Conference, champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa wasted no time in destroying the Tokyo Apache, slamming them in the first game 96-68, then putting the first playoff round series away Sunday with a 90-80 victory. Veteran coach Kazuo Nakamura said “Our defensive traps and quick defensive rotation paid off.”

William Knight kept the Phoenix on track Saturday with 23 points, going 10-for-13 in a ten-minute stretch. He added 18 points Sunday as teammate Dzaflo Larkai tallied 21 to lead the Phoenix.

It was nip-and-tuck for the Niigata Albirex BB, who edged the Sendai 89ers to advance to the Final Four. Niigata won 84-83 Saturday, only to lose 92-78 in Sunday’s game. That forced a ten-minute tie breaker period. The Albirex pressed hard in the tiebreaker, winning 23-17 behind the shooting by Akitomo Takeno and Tyrone Levett, who each scored six, and Calvin Chitwood who added five.

The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix and the Niigata Albirex BB are set to clash this weekend in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

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