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Golden Kings in Battle of the Titans

Date Posted: 2012-03-30

It’s not easy being the league leader, and even more challenging to face its closest Western Division rival in Okinawa for a weekend duel.

The Ryukyu Golden Kings found out just hard it is, hammering second place Osaka Evessa in the first of their two-game series, but having trouble closing the deal in the Sunday series finale.

Osaka and Okinawa hold four of the six league championship trophies in the Basketball Japan League, with the Evessa having claimed three while the Ryukyu Golden Kings took one while still a newbie in the league. In addition, both teams have been runner-up once and one of the two has been in the league championship game each of the last six years. Not shabby play, and enough pressure to put Okinawa on notice.

Playing in front of the home fans, Okinawa dumped Osaka Saturday, 97-75, as the Evessa played without the services of its star forward, Lynn Washington. Washington is suspended, having been arrested earlier this month and charged with smuggling marijuana into Japan.

Narito Namizato stepped out for Okinawa, scoring a season-high 29 points while going 12-for-17, while Dzaflo Larkai added 16 points, and David Palmer and Naoto Kosuge each had 12. Kosuge also hauled down 14 rebounds.

It wasn’t so pretty on Sunday as Osaka regrouped and kicked in the after burner, outscoring the Golden Kings 20-8 in the final stanza to pull out a 75-70 win. Narito Namizato again led Okinawa with 14 points, followed by Anthony McHenry with 13, Dillion Sneed with 112 and Dzaflo Larkai with 10.

As the regular season ticks down to the wire, Okinawa is 34-10, while Osaka trails 29-13.

Meanwhile, the Akita Northern Happinets became the second Eastern Conference team to wrap up a playoff berth, hauling in a pair of wins over the Saitama Broncos. The Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix, the reigning BJL champion, achieved the honors last weekend. The Happinets outdid the 11-31 Broncos 97-94 in the first matchup, then made easier work of the second game with a 97-87 win. The Happinets are now 27-17.

The Toyama Grouses split their series with the Iwate Big Bulls, losing the first game in an 81-79 squeaker, then pounding the Big Bulls 91-67 on Sunday. The Grouses are now 22-20, while Iwate slips to 13-31.

The Shimane Susanoo Magic were fired up in a series against the Kyoto Hannaryz, sweeping both games. The 223-21 Susanoo Magic outlasted the Hannaryz 75-63 and 87-83. Kyoto is now 26-16. The Chiba Jets started the weekend on a winning note, upending the Yokohama B-Corsairs 80-63. The B-Corsairs turned the tables Sunday with a 97-80 win in a battle of first-year clubs. Still, the Jets are only 17-27, while Yokohama is 23-21.

The Sendai 89ers picked up a pair of victories in their first game in Shiogama in four years, squeaking past the Shinshu Brave Warriors 96-78 in overtime on Saturday, and taking a 10-oint 66-56 win a day later. Sendai, a team without a true home since the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, is now 22-20. Shinshu’s out of contention at 15-27.

The plight of the Takamatsu Five Arrows continued, with the team falling to 2-40 with another pair of losses, this time to the Shiga Lakestars. The Lakestars improve to 26-16 with the 88-75 and 84-71 victories. The Oita HeatDevils also took both games in their series against Fukuoka Rizing. The 26-16 Rizing was stunned by the 93-86 and 84-81 losses to the HeatDevils, who are only 17-25 on the year.

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