NeoPhoenix roll past lethargic Sunrockers


There wasn’t a way to sugarcoat the facts.

The final score — San-en NeoPhoenix 64, Sunrockers Shibuya 54 — spelled out the fact that the hosts didn’t do enough on offense to win Sunday afternoon’s game at Aoyama Gakuin University Memorial Hall.

The facts were the facts.

When it was over, first-year bench boss Geoffrey Katsuhisa spoke bluntly about his disappointment in Shibuya’s second defeat of the weekend to San-en.

The first word of the head coach’s response to the press conference-opening question about his team’s lethargic performance was “intensity” — as in a lack of it. He repeated the word several times for emphasis.

Katsuhisa added that the team’s mental focus wasn’t satisfactory. He also noted that Shibuya’s help defense was subpar and players were “moving too slow,” not crossing the length of the court length-wise or laterally fast enough to be effective on offense for key stretches.

The NeoPhoenix (2-2) capitalized on the Sunrockers’ sluggish outing, making 19 of 33 2-point shots (57.6 percent). They got to the free-throw line for 23 attempts (14 makes), or 18 more attempts than the hosts, who made all five of their foul shots.

“Everybody’s talking ’bout the new kid in town,” The Eagles first sang in the 1970s.

And for the second straight game, the NeoPhoenix’s new kid, er, veteran swingman Cartier Martin, an NBA journeyman, lit up the scoreboard, pouring in a game-high 17 points after putting up 26 in the Saturday lid-lifter. It was just his second game for San-en, and already the synergy he has with point guard Tatsuya Suzuki exhibited flashes of brilliance with both men executing the pick-and-roll effectively and creating quality scoring chances and open looks for their teammates.

Suzuki contributed 13 points and seven assists with just one turnover.

Early on, Martin and Suzuki looked inside to big man Scott Morrison, who had seven of his 12 points in the first quarter. Morrison collected 12 rebounds to complete the double-double.

Hayato Kawashima and Atsuya Ota added eight and seven points for San-en, which used a 12-0 run capped by back-to-back buckets by Kawashima to pull ahead 50-41 with 6:37 left in the final stanza.

For NeoPhoenix coach Hiroki Fujita, in his second season at the helm, the operative word of his post-game interview with reporters was “patience.”

Fujita spoke of his players’ patience at both ends of the floor, and the fact that he was particularly pleased with their defensive intensity and effort. He said their overall execution in the fourth quarter, when they outscored the Sunrockers 23-13 pleased him.

The NeoPhoenix took a 17-10 lead into the second quarter, getting five points apiece from Morrison and Suzuki in the opening period.

San-en shot 58.3 percent from the floor in the first quarter and held Shibuya to 4-for-15 shooting (26.7). It was a sign of things to come.

Only backups Josh Harrellson, who had 14 points and 17 rebounds, and Morihisa Yamauchi, who added 11, reached double figures in points for the Sunrockers. Overall, they shot 33.3 percent (23-for-69, including 3-for-19 from beyond the 3-point arc).

The game featured three ex-NBA players — Martin, Harrellson and Shibuya big man Robert Sacre — and the up-tempo style of both teams.

Veteran Takashi Ito contributed five assists for the Sunrockers. Like many of his teammates, Ito’s shots didn’t sail through the rim with any regularity on the afternoon; he made 2 of 8.

Shibuya’s Leo Vendrame, who scored 18 on Saturday, was held to three in the rematch, making 1 of 11 shots, a 3-pointer.

Sacre poured in 19 on Saturday, but never got into a shooting groove a day later (2 of 9 from the floor).

In short, the defensive adjustments that San-en made after its 72-66 victory paid off on Sunday.

NeoPhoenix defenders gave little room for Sunrockers players in the paint or on the perimeter. Utilizing speed and high energy, San-en never gave Shibuya a chance to get into a prolonged comfortable rhythm on offense.

Suzuki commended his teammates for chasing after loose balls and rebounding with persistence.

“Today, our defense was excellent,” he said.

The key, Suzuki told reporters, “was playing team basketball.”

Harrellson pulled the Sunrockers within 53-50 on a 3-pointer with 3:18 left, so it was still a game for both teams to vie for victory at that point.

Down the stretch, the NeoPhoenix were the stronger team.

On their next possession, Suzuki canned a clutch 3-pointer with 2:51 to play to stretch the lead back to six. That made it 56-50.

The Sunrockers never got closer the rest of the way.

After the game, Martin, a Kansas State alum, reminded reporters that his “ability to shoot the ball” is his strong point. He sank 8 of 18 3s over the weekend, including 5 of 11 in the series opener.

With shooting skills that require defenses to pay attention, Martin said he’s focused on making “the guys have to respect the shot . . . (and) when they have to get close, I have the ability to drive and be a playmaker.”

Martin had two assists and two steals in the game, and demanded nonstop attention during his 26-plus minutes of court time. He was aggressive and calculated in making plays and getting his teammates involved in an impressive all-around performance.

Brave Thunders 81, Lakestars 78

In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, Nick Fazekas scored a game-high 26 points, including 11 of 13 at the free-throw line, as Kawasaki edged the hosts to complete a two-game sweep.

Josh Davis put 16 points on the board and Naoto Tsuji finished with 14 for the Brave Thunders (3-1). Yuma Fujii added seven points and five assists.

Lakestars floor leader Narito Namizato had 19 points and five assists and Yusuke Karino scored 13 points. Tomonobu Hasegawa had a 13-point outing and Omar Samhan chipped in with 11. D’or Fischer added 10 points, 13 boards and five blocks for Shiga.

Levanga 86, B-Corsairs 67

In Sapporo, Canadian big man Marc Trasolini’s 23-point, eight-rebound effort helped carry Hokkaido past Yokohama in the series opener.

Greg Whittington had 14 points and eight boards for the Levanga, who outscored the B-Corsairs 18-8 in the pivotal third quarter.

Hokkaido’s Takehiko Orimo, 47, delivered a turn-the-clock-back performance, scoring 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including 2-for-3 from long range. Twenty-three-year-old swingman Koehi Sekino chipped in with eight points and five steals for Hokkaido (2-1).

For Yokohama (1-2), Takuya Kawamura scored 23 points, draining four 3s. Jason Washburn added 11 points and Jeff Parmer finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Alexis Minatoya handed out seven assists.

Brex 75, Susanoo Magic 68

In Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, reigning champion Tochigi secured the victory at the free-throw line and salvaged a series split.

The Brex sank 20 of 21 foul shots in the series finale.

Ryan Rossiter paced Tochigi (2-2) with 23 points and hauled in eight rebounds. Shusuke Ikuhara chipped in with 15 points and Kyle Richardson scored 10 points. Shuhei Kitagawa and Yusuke Endo added eight and seven points, respectively, while Yuta Tabuse dished out five assists. Kosuke Takeuchi finished with zero points, but made a sizable impact with 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal.

Garrett Stutz had 16 points and seven rebounds for Shimane (1-3) and Shota Watanabe scored 11 points. Takuya Soma finished with nine points, Edward Yamamoto had eight and Josh Scott, Kimitake Sato and Akihisa Kosaka all scored seven.

Grouses 73, Storks 68

In Toyama, veteran sharpshooter Yuto Otsuka sparked the hosts with six 3s in an electrifying 20-point performance and Sam Willard posted a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) as they defeated Nishinomiya for the second straight day.

Naoki Uto contributed 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals for the Grouses (3-1), while Yuki Ueta scored 10 points.

Jordan Vandenberg had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Storks (0-4). Tadahiro Yanagawa provided 13 points and four assists (sharing the team lead with Draelon Burns) and Yuya Ishitsuka had 11 points.

Hannaryz 77, Jets 68

In Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, Kyoto held the hosts to 1-for-13 shooting and six points in the fourth quarter, earning a bounce-back victory.

The Hannaryz (3-1) erupted for 26 fourth-quarter points. They outrebounded the Jets 41-25 in the series finale.

Joshua Smith scored 15 points and Julian Mavunga had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists for Kyoto. Yuya Nagayoshi poured in 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting.

Ryumo Ono scored 18 points, including four 3s, and Yuki Togashi had 17 points, seven assists and six turnovers for Chiba (3-1). Gavin Edwards and Aki Chambers chipped in with nine and eight points, respectively.

Golden Kings 85, Diamond Dolphins 81

In Nagoya, key contributions from several players carried Ryukyu past the hosts, giving coach Norio Sassa’s club a weekend sweep.

Ira Brown contributed 20 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals and fellow newcomer Hassan Martin scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Golden Kings (3-1).

Ryukyu’s Kohei Ninomiya and Ryuichi Kishimoto had 11 points apiece, Hilton Armstrong finished with 10 and Shigeyuki Kinjo had eight.

Taito Nakahigashi paced the Diamond Dolphins (1-3) with 17 points and Craig Brackins added 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Shuto Ando scored 14 points and Jerome Tillman and Tenketsu Harimoto both had eight.

SeaHorses 81, Evessa 69

In Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, the hosts took a 45-30 lead into the locker room at halftime and defeated Osaka for the second time in as many days.

Makoto Hiejima ignited the SeaHorses (3-1) with 23 points and five assists and Kosuke Kanamaru had a 17-point performance.

Isaac Butts added 15 points and 13 boards for Mikawa, which outrebounded the visitors 42-27. Teammate Ryoma Hashimoto scored 12 points and J.R. Sakuragi grabbed 10 rebounds.

The SeaHorses converted 26 of 41 2-point shots (63.4 percent).

Gyno Pomare and David Wear both scored 12 points for the Evessa (0-4), while Shota Konno and Naoya Kumagae had 10 apiece.

B2 update

Here are the results of Sunday’s games:

Brave Warriors 75, Bambitious 71

Five Arrows 74, Firebonds 67

Fighting Eagles 94, Orange Vikings 88

Dragonflies 93, Big Bulls 54

Rizing Zephyr 84, Wyverns 81

Crane Thunders 93, Wat’s 74

Volters 73, Robots 67

Northern Happinets 73, Robots 67

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