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Golden Kings split season opening twin bill at home

Date Posted: 2010-10-07

It was the defending champions of the Basketball Japan League taking on the 2009-2010 third place finishers as the new season kicked off over the weekend, and the two sparred on both offense and defense before finally splitting the two-game set in front of the local home crowd at Okinawa Convention Center.

The Hamamatsu and Higashi-Mikawa Phoenix dropped the Ryukyu Golden Kings 78-69 in the season opener, only to have the tables turned and Okinawa drubbing the Phoenix 72-62 on Sunday. The Golden Kings had some trouble with internal communications on the court Saturday. “We lacked in communication” said head coach Dai Oketani. “We had to revise that, and boost stamina.”

Okinawa did that Sunday afternoon, pouring on the steam as they redeemed themselves, demonstrating “hitting shots with all one’s might,” as coach Oketani described it. Golden Kings guard Shigeyuki Kinjo says “we won, but there were problems. Our defense was good, but too much was decided by Hamamatsu.”

The Phoenix captured the league crown last May with an easy 84-56 win over the Osaka Evessa. Head coach Kazuo Nakamura, who at age 70 is the league’s elder statesman, called this season’s start in Okinawa “Pleasant. The atmosphere here is good.”

Okinawa took third place in the league championships, beating the Niigata Albirex BB 82-75 on the strength of Jeff Newton, who entered the postseason as the only player in league history to play on four championship teams, had 23 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks for Ryukyu, which finished 36-20. Tsubasa Yonamine scored 14 points in that game, including 8-for-10 at the free-throw line. Ryukyu teammates Anthony McHenry and George Leach added 13 and 11 points, respectively.

Newton, McHenry, Leach and Bryan Simpson, a former airman from Kadena Air Base, are Americans back for another season with the Golden Kings. Also returning are Kinjo, Yosuke Sugawara, Taketo Aoki, Yoshiki Yamashiro and Yasufumi Takushi. Newly signed to bring added skills this season is Tsubasa Yonamine at point guard.

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