China played a tactically superior game to outsmart Japan 54-51 in a semifinal match of the FIBA Asian women’s u-18 basketball championship here on Saturday.
After a patchy show in the Group matches, China pulled itself up magnificently in the knockouts, and set up a final clash with Australia, the top seed and World No.4, on Sunday. Earlier, Australia was ruthless in its 70-61 victory over Taipei in the other last-four clash.
From the last five minutes of the second quarter, China strengthened its defence, screening well and seldom giving Japan easy chances to score. It effectively shut out Japan’s key player Chinami Yokoyama from scoring, and that was the key in the end analysis.
China maintained a handy nine point-lead till the first four minutes of the final quarter. The tide began to change. With hardly two minutes remaining, Yokoyama and Nanami Tsuno scored a two-pointer each and Japan further reduced the lead to two points (51-53). But China held on till the end and after the final whistle, the team was obviously cock-a-hook.
The major difference between Australia and Taipei (WR 30) was undoubtedly the height factor. The Taipei players are arguably faster and quicker on the counters, but with few tall players, Yu Wen Hsiao (6’0’’) and Yu China Hua (5’12”), it couldn’t score much from rebounds. Statistics-wise, Australia (20) edged out Taipei (13) on offensive rebounds.