FIBA Women's Asia Cup: Japan becomes third nation to complete a four-peat

After a stellar show against Australia, Nako Motohashi starred for Japan once more with 24 points and eight assists.

Japan's title win is a big step towards doing well at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Japan become the third nation to complete a four-peat in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup Division-A basketball tournament, with an exciting 71-68 victory over China in the final at Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium on Sunday.

South Korea and China are the other two nations to have achieved this feat.

The summit clash went down to the last play, with Japan leading by three points. Chinese forward Shao Ting failed to convert a rushed three-point attempt, sending the Japanese expats in the big crowd into raptures.

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Japan point guard Nako Motohashi (24 points, 8 assists) was at her best once again, weaving in and out of the Chinese defence and making crucial plays. Once Motohashi got the first step on her marker, there was no stopping her.

Captain Maki Takada (14 points, 9 rebounds) was effective on both ends of the floor. It was a Takada three-pointer in the third quarter which gave Japan its first lead of the match.

Shooting guard Saki Hayashi made an instant impression coming off the bench, nailing three shots from beyond the arc to reduce China's early lead.

Chinese centre Xu Han, who will feature for New York Liberty in the upcoming WNBA season, showed wonderful shooting touch and footwork to record 18 points. The 6' 9" hoopster was an intimidating presence on defence, making four thunderous blocks.

The night, and the tournament, belonged to Motohashi, who was named the 'Most Valuable Player'.

READ : Motohashi's heroics help Japan down Australia

Around 18 months ago, she was not part of the national team set up, and played for a unheralded club. In a short space of time, she has transformed into a pure scoring machine.

"I'm happy that everyone has now got the chance to see how good Motohashi is. She has a wonderful story of overcoming a lot of hardships," Japan coach Tom Havasse, who along with his players wore 'Japan four-peat champion' T-shirts at the post-match press conference, said.

The former Atlanta Hawks player added that this title win is a big step towards doing well at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

China coach Limin Xu said, "We brought a young team to Bengaluru. We managed to defeat a strong Australian in the group stage, and ran Japan close. We're proud of our performance. The future of Chinese basketball is bright."

The results:

Final: Japan 71 (Nako Motohashi 24, Maki Takada 14) bt China 68 (Xu Han 18, Li Yuan 10).

Third-place playoff: Australia 98 (Bec Allen 20, Darcee Garbin 13, Katie Ebzery 11, Ezi Magbegor 11) bt Korea 62 (Park Hyejin 13, Kim Minjeong 13, Ku Seul 12).

All-star team: Rebecca Allen (Australia), Xu Han (China), Nako Motohashi (Japan), Shao Ting (China), Yuki Miyazawa (Japan).

Most Valuable Player (MVP): Nako Motohashi (Japan).

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