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Golden Kings looking like title contenders

Date Posted: 2011-03-31

The Ryukyu Golden Kings roared through the weekend looking powerful, hungry, and ready for a shot at first the Western Conference Championship and then the Basketball Japan League title.

Okinawa’s professional basketball squad hammered the Toyama Grouses into submission in two home court matches, drubbing the visitors 105-71 in the first stanza, then inflicting even more damage Sunday with a 105-53 win to sweep the series and improve the season’s record to 27-15. Okinawa’s tied with the Osaka Evessa for the Western Conference lead.

Outside guard Naoto Kosuge poured in 24 points Saturday and 23 Sunday to pace the Golden Kings. David Palmer scored 19 Saturday and Shigeyuki Kinjo tallied 16. Anthony McHenry popped in 11 points while pulling 10 boards and joining 11 assists and three steals. Tsubasa Yonamine also scored eight and picked up 10 assists. On Sunday it was Dillion Sneed near the top with 23 points and David Palmer with 19.

Golden Kings head coach Dai Oketani praised Toyama for “coming to play. I believe the power of sports.” Oketani also dedicated his troops’ efforts to sending power to victims of the Great Tohoku Earthquake. He also was clear about his goals, though, for the rest of the season. “I want to go with an image I prepare well, and I want to win next week.”

A very strange thing happened to the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix on Saturday; they lost. It was a squeaker, 70-69 to the Akita Northern Happinets, but it was a loss nonetheless. It was only the fifth loss of the season, and something not anticipated at the hands of the 13-29 Northern Happinets, an expansion team in its first season.

The Phoenix bounced back Sunday, boosting its record to 35-5 with a decisive 117-99 win in a contest it led from the opening tipoff to the final buzzer.

Elsewhere in league action, the Osaka Evessa, who share the Western Conference lead with Okinawa, swept a pair from the Oita HeatDevils, winning Saturday 78-69 and completing the weekend with a thriller 91-90 win Sunday. Osaka is tied with the Ryukyu Golden Kings at 27-15.

The Kyoto Hannaryz split a series with its Kansai-area rival Shiga Lakestars, winning 89-86 and losing 95-83. The two squads are nip and tick, with the Lakestars 24-18 while the Hannaryz sit at 23-19 as the season moves toward a final phase. The Susanoo Magic swept a pair from the Takamatsu Five Arrows, winning 69-60 and 81-69. The Magic are 20-22, while Takamatsu falls to 9-31.

The Fukuoka Rizing outshined the Miyazaki Shining Suns twice, defeating the first year team 94-80 and 94-85 to improve the season record to 25-17, a match with Osaka and Okinawa, although in the Eastern Conference behind the Phoenix.

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