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Defending champs split opening weekend with Osaka Evessa

Date Posted: 2009-10-15

The Ryukyu Golden Kings launched the Basketball Japan League’s new campaign at home, providing plenty of action, excitement and entertainment to the local crowd as it lost a squeaker Saturday, then bounced back with a Sunday afternoon thriller over the Osaka Evessa.

Okinawa’s Golden Kings, the 2008-2009 league champions, lost a tight contest to Osaka Saturday, 73-67, in front of 2,465 fans at the Okinawa Convention Center. Jeff Newton, the Golden Kings scoring leader and playoff MVP, suffered a sprained ankle in the hardwood battle, forcing him to the bench for Sunday’s match up.

Despite Newton’s absence from the court, and a struggling performance from guard Shigeyuki Kinjo, the Golden Kings looked much different Sunday. Kinjo went five-for-ten from the field, and picked up nine-of-ten free throws, but couldn’t buy a single three-pointer. Bryan Simpson, the Ryukyu forward, tallied 14 points and a dozen rebounds, while Anthony McHenry contributed another 12 points and four rebounds, and Tsubasa Yonamine scored eight while aiding the cause with eight rebounds and five assists.

Assistant Coach Kevin Richardson says it was a good start, consistent with the team’s “One Game At A Time” philosophy. He predicts the western division will be the league powerhouse this season, and thinks the addition of Tsubasa Yonamine and George Leach will contribute to the already strong squad Okinawa’s assembled.

Elsewhere in weekend league action, the Shiga Lake Stars bumped their record to 3-1 with a strong 92-62 home court win over the Takamatsu Five Arrows. The Five Arrows fall to 0-4, having fallen opening weekend 103-56 and 87-69 to the Sendai 89er’s, followed by a 120-72 loss to Shiga in their first game Saturday.

Okinawa takes on the Shiga Lake Stars this weekend at the Naha City Gym. Saturday’s game starts at 7 p.m., while Sunday’s contest is an afternoon meeting at 2 p.m. The Golden Kings will stay at home through the end of October, facing the Kyoto Hannaryz on Saturday the 31st and Sunday, November 1st.

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