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Golden Kings trash Phoenix to win league title

Date Posted: 2012-05-25

The Ryukyu Golden Kings were the top team in the Basketball Japan League this season, racking up a 39-13 regular season record in its quest for a shot at the playoffs and a second league title, and it all came together in Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum with a drubbing of the defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix.

What made the 89-73 victory even more special was the ‘revenge’ element brought forward in the rematch between the Golden Kings and the Phoenix. A year ago, the Phoenix beat up on Okinawa to win the championship 82-68. For Okinawa, it was the end to a three-season championship drought since a trophy winning defeat of the Tokyo Apache in May 2009.

It’s hard to tell who the happiest guy on the hardwood was Sunday afternoon following the win; Golden Kings center Jeff Newton, the only guy in the BJL to play in all seven Final Four games, and the only player in the league with five championships, or Anthony McHenry, who scored a game-high 25 points and was chosen Most Valuable Player. Ryukyu coach Dai Oketani was one happy figure on the court following his team’s win, smiling and laughing and hugging everyone.

Okinawa was in control throughout the championship battle, despite a close call with 3:02 remaining and Phoenix at the free throw line. Wayne Arnolds’ two shots trimmed the Golden Kings lead to 72-70, but that was all. Anthony McHenry’s slam dunk with just over two minutes remaining gave Okinawa an adrenalin boost and they didn’t look back. Says coach Oketani of the moment: “When McHenry made the dunk, I almost started crying.”

Aside from McHenry’s 25 points, Naoto Kosuge dumped in 17 and the youngest teammate, 22-year-old Narito Namizato, had 15. Jeff Newton’s 19 rebounds were critical to the Golden Kings owning the boards, 54-41. “I’m so happy, man” was all he could say after chalking up nine points, 19 rebounds, three steals and a block. “I’m just so happy for our fans, for our organization … this team really does deserve it.” As for himself and his own successes, he said “I play to win and I want to win them all. I love being in these kinds of moments. They all feel great, and every time, it’s another accomplishment.”

“Jeff sacrificed his body,” says coach Oketani. “He played really well, as usual, but at the end of the day, we played as a team and that brought us the championship.” Naoto Kosuge agreed. “We were desperate to win, so we just put out our hearts,” he said.

McHenry and Newton were a dynamic duo, teaming for eight points with McHenry doing the layup and a jam, while Newton converting twice from the charity stripe and dropping a smooth pop up jumper.

The Yokohama B-Corsairs, playing their inaugural season, finished with a 33-23 record and the third place trophy. They outdistanced the Kyoto Hannaryz 75-66. The Hannaryz, who turned the ball over 20 times in the consolation game, ended the year with a 35-21 record.

(Photo Okinawa Times)

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