Friday, March 26, 2010

Sendai 89ers 89 at Tokyo Apache 85 - March 25, 2010


OK, I'm going to try to see more games in Japan when I'm here. To that end, I went back to the Yoyogi #2 gym last night to see the Sendai 89ers take on the Tokyo Apache in bj League action. When I saw them in December, the Apache were in last place, but they have improved slightly, winning 4 in a row to move into a tie for 4th in the East with a 14-24 record. Nothing to write home about, but it is a playoff spot. Sendai is the second best team in the league at 26-12 and were enjoying a 9-game winning streak as they visited Tokyo for the second time this season.

The Game

The first quarter was great - back and forth action, lots of good shots with little defense, and only 4 fouls. The 10 minutes of game time took maybe 12 minutes to play, and Sendai had a 23-21 lead. The second quarter was more of the same and we entered the half with Sendai up 45-42.

The halftime chat must have stressed defense because when the teams began the 3rd quarter, there was a noticeable difference in the play. Shots were contested, fouls were called more often, and points were harder to come by. Tokyo had trouble adjusting to the extra pressure and fell behind by 10, but Sendai couldn't deliver the knockout punch and the Apache ended the quarter on an 11-2 run to the final stanza down just a point at 62-61.

Julius Ashby gets by Chris Holm while Josh Peppers watches

In the 4th, Sendai used a couple of threes from Josh Peppers to take a 7 point lead which they maintained until the last couple of minutes. But Apache guard Cohey Aoki grabbed an offensive rebound off a free throw miss and sank a quick jumper to narrow the deficit to 4. After Peppers missed a three, Aoki was fouled attempting a trey of his own. Although he's one of the best free throw shooters in the league at 86.5%, Aoki botched two of his three chances and Tokyo trailed by 3 with a minute to go. That's Aoki in purple below with fellow shrimp Takehiko Shimura, who is only 160cm tall (even shorter than I am!)


Sendai missed a two on their trip down but center Chris Holm grabbed a critical offensive board (his game-leading 16th rebound) and Peppers converted a lay-up to make it 85-80 with just 17 seconds left. Although Tokyo's Michael Chappell sank a desperation 3 to make it close, Sendai didn't miss their free throws after being fouled and went on to win 89-85. The 89ers score 89 points!

There's no doubt that Sendai were the more polished team and that was shown by their 19 assists and only 7 turnovers. Tokyo kept it close but were undone by poor free throw shooting down the stretch and some poor turnovers. Gyno Pomare (pictured below) of Sendai led all scorers with 26 points while Julius Ashby paced the Apache with 20.


This was a great game, with both teams shooting 50% or better, but what I liked most is that it was close, so the last few minutes did not degrade into a foul-shooting contest. I really like the layout of the stadium here; the closest seat is right at the corner of the court which provides a unique view of the game as you can see in the picture below. Unfortunately only 955 other people attended the game which amazes me. In a city of 15 million, why can't they get a few more people to something this interesting.


bj League now officially recognized

The Japanese Basketball Association, which is the sports governing body and not a league, has finally recognized the bj League as an official league. This means that players in the league are now eligible for the national team. It may not sound like much, but it could be the first step in giving the league the additional publicity it deserves.

Tap Room Harajuku

If you are looking for a place to enjoy a couple of beers after an Apache game, try the Taproom which is just a few minutes walk from the stadium. Baird Beer is a microbrewery in Shizuoka prefecture, run by American Bryan Baird and his wife.

In the last couple of years, they have opened a two pubs in Tokyo which they call Taprooms. The first Taproom was launched in Nakameguro in May 2008 and quickly became a favourite of the local crowd, as the wide variety of home-crafted brews is so much better than the typical Japanese beers offered by other pubs. The highlight of this place is the frequent-drinker card, which allows you to enjoy 12 pints for 9,000 yen.

In August of last year, the Harajuku Taproom was opened. It has more of a Japanese style to it with the culinary choices lying towards local foods such as yakitori. Even the beers are different, with some selections only available at this location, such as the Harajuku Ale. Definitely worth visiting either of these places if you are in the mood for top-quality brews.

Next up

Baseball season is back in Japan and I'll try to head to one minor league game next week at Giants stadium when the Fighters are visiting. After that I'm off to Malaysia where I hope to catch the Formula 1 race and then Singapore, where I'll watch an AFC Champions League game. After I'm back, I'll watch one more Apache game, but this one will be played in the new Sumida City Gymnasium, which is just a few minutes from where I live. The rest of April will be spent watching the NHL playoffs in Tokyo before the big trip in May to California, Nevada, and Arizona for plenty of baseball, including the Jays in Phoenix. The full schedule for that journey is still being decided, but once it is set, I'll post it here.

Best,

Sean

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