FIBA Asia Cup: Japan edges China in a thriller

Defending champion Japan and powerhouse China put on a scintillating show in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup semifinal here on Friday, with Japan emerging a close 74-71 winner.

Japan's Fujioka Manami (1-red), in action against China, during the Division A semifinal match at FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2017, at Sree Kanteerava stadium.   -  K. Murali Kumar - THE HINDU


Defending champion Japan and powerhouse China put on a scintillating show in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup semifinal here on Friday, with Japan emerging a close 74-71 winner. The game had quality written all over it - lightning fast-breaks, bullet passes, tough rebounding and so much more.

In the absence of injured star point guard Asami Yoshida, it was up to Manami Fujioka to lead the Japan side. Equipped with the acceleration of a sprinter, to go along with dazzling ball-handling skills, Manami (19 points, 14 assists) proved to be unstoppable. The 23-year-old ran up and down the court with manic energy, and found her open teammates with a pin-point assists. If China posed a threat as the bigger team, Manami and her teammates nullified it with speed.

On the other side of the fence, China had its own set of skilled hoopsters. Southpaw Shoa Ting, the quintessential forward, skipped through the lane and finished near the rim. When left unmarked, she took clean jump-shots. She was not afraid to get physical either, using a sharp shoulder charge or two to clear some space.

When Ting drew a double-team, Li Yueru stepped up. The 6’7” centre scored easy buckets with a neat hook-shot from under the board.

The two evenly-matched sides went toe-to-toe throughout the encounter. The Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium crowd - comprising of several groups of Chinese and Japanese expats – enjoyed every second of the action.

From being down 60-69 in the final quarter, Japan brought it to 68-69 through some electric fast-breaks from Nagaoka Moeko. A no-look pass from Manami to Takada Maki then made it 71-69 in Japan’s favour. On the last play, with Japan up 74-71, China’s Shi Xiufeng missed a corner three-pointer.

Former NBA star and current Chinese Basketball Association President Yao Ming, who was present at the venue, afforded a smile at the end of the tough battle. Despite aligning himself with the losing side, Ming showed his appreciation for quality basketball.

Japan takes on Australia in the Division A final on Saturday.

In Division B, India edged out Lebanon 79-69. P.S. Jeena (20 points), Raspreet Sidhu (17 points) and Anitha Paul Durai (13 points) allowed the host to claw its way back from a precarious position. Lebanon led 58-56 at the end of the third-quarter, but crumbled under sustained pressure in the final period.

India takes on Kazakhstan in the summit clash on Saturday. If the home side emerges victorious, it will qualify to Division A for the next edition of the championship.

The results (semifinals):

Division A: Australia 81 (Kelsey Griffin 16, Alanna Smith 12, Lauren Mansfield 10, Sara Blicavs 10) bt South Korea 64 (Sungyoung Sim 14, Leeseul Kang 14, Hui Lim Lung 12); Japan 74 (Manami Fujioka 19, Yuki Miyazawa 16, Nagaoka Moeka 14, Takada Maik 13) bt China 71 (Shoa Ting 16, Li Yueru 13, Gao Song 13).

Division B: Kazakhstan 77 (Zalina Kurazova 24, Nadezhda Kondrakova 18) bt Uzbekistan 51 (Anastasiya Sevastyanova 19, Irina Averyanova 13, Aliya Samatova 10); India 79 (P.S. Jeena 20, Raspreet Sidhu 17, Anitha Paul Durai 13) bt Lebanon 69 (Akl Rebecca 20, Charif Chirine 17, M. Lama 16).

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