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Golden Kings in weekend Final Four

Date Posted: 2009-05-14

The Ryukyu Golden Kings are sporting the Basketball Japan League’s best team record at 43-11, but they’re out this weekend to cap the season at 45-11.

Okinawa’s professional basketball squad, which only a year ago finished with a dismal 10-34 record, are in Tokyo, ready to square off Saturday at Ariake Colosseum with the Osaka Evessa for the Western Conference Championship. The Golden Kings worked their way into the championship matchup by beating the Rizing Fukuoka twice, 76-69 and 70-59 on home hardwoods in Naha City last week. Osaka propelled itself to the championship game with a pair of wins over the Takamatsu Five Arrows.

A victory over Osaka, which won the league championship the past three years, would send the Golden Kings into Sunday’s League Championship. Okinawa will be looking for inspiration from center Jeff Newton, who was selected the league’s Most Valuable Player. Equally important, they hope Newton will be able to provide valuable insights about the Evessa, the team Newton played for during each of the three seasons Osaka won the championships.

Okinawa coach Dai Oketani has his squad focused on two things: defense and rebounding. He’s harped on the two elements of basketball fundamentals all season, but has been reiterating them all week. Oketani, who was chosen Coach of the Year for his transformation of the young Okinawa team, is putting a lot of faith in Jeff Newton. He calls Newton “incredibly valuable” for his contributions and leadership, but lavished equal praise on his entire squad for its tenacity and commitment to basketball fundamentals.

Newton will be playing a pivotal role, both as center and team leader. He’s playing in his fifth Final Four since joining Japan after a collegiate career at Indiana University, where he was part of the 2002 NCAA Final Four team. He’s been with Saturday’s opponent, Osaka, during their three-year championship run. He was traded to Okinawa during the off season

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