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Golden Kings falter, take third place

Date Posted: 2010-05-28

The Golden Kings wanted it, but the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix wanted it more, trouncing the Osaka Evessa 84-56 to win the 2009-2010 Basketball Japan League championship.

Okinawa’s Ryukyu Golden Kings, who swept through the playoffs’ first round disposing of the Rizing Fukuoka, found themselves on the uphill side of the Osaka Evessa in round two at the Ariake Colosseum, being routed 84-65 Saturday. The defending champion Golden Kings were headed to the consolation game instead of a chance to defend its league championship.

The Phoenix looked brilliant en route to the title, had defeated Osaka twice before in the season, and spent Sunday afternoon disrupting the Evessa’s offensive pace while at the same time turning out a red hot performance at the free throw stripe, going 26-for-30, an 86.7% average. Hamamatsu, only in its second season in BJ League—they defected from the rival Japan Basketball League—racked up the hottest record, 45-11 overall.

Osaka’s all-star Lynn Washington, who’s been on three Evessa title-winning squads, was disconcerted. “It sucks that it’s only one game, he said, complaining about both his team’s play and the single-game championship format. “If we’d won, it would have been a team effort, but we didn’t,” he lamented. “Even though we lost, it’s still a team effort.

Okinawa’s performance against Osaka in the second round was lackluster, pumped in only 20 of 69 shots attempted, while simultaneously going only 20-for-33 at the charity stripe. Osaka kept Okinawa off balance, switching from a 2-3 zone to a 3-2. “We had a little run at the end, but hats off to Osaka for stopping us,” said the Golden Kings’ Jeff Newton. “They kept their composure.”

The Golden Kings couldn’t claim the league title, but headed into Sunday afternoon’s consolation bracket determined to put down the Niigata Albirex BB, and they did. Okinawa, led by Jeff Newton with 23 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks, propelled the Golden Kings to an 82-75 victory to bring the 3rd place trophy to Okinawa. Tsubasa Yonamine scored 14 points, including 8-for-10 at the free throw line. Teammates Anthony McHenry and George leach added 13 and 11 points.

Okinawa finished the season 36-20. Golden Kings assistant coach Keith Richardson says “the 3rd place game gave us a chance to show the people of Okinawa and our great fans that we could still play with pride, which I felt was more important to win than if we’d been playing for the Championship. We played and won this game for Okinawa.”

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