FIBA Women's Asia Cup: Motohashi's heroics help Japan down Australia

Nako Motohashi scored 22 points and 6 assists as Japan defeated Australia 76-64 in the semifinal of the FIBA Women's Asia Cup basketball tournament on Saturday.

Japan's Nako Motohashi (15-white) in action against Australia in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup Division A, at Sree Kanteerava Indoor stadium.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

An outstanding performance from Nako Motohashi (22 points, 6 assists) helped defending champion Japan defeat Australia 76-64 in the semifinal of the FIBA Women's Asia Cup Division-A basketball tournament, at Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium, Bengaluru on Saturday.

Diminutive point guard Motohashi used her speed to stun the Australians, regularly zooming past the defence for the lay-ups. She was in good shooting form as well, making three crucial three-pointers. The 25-year-old used the pick and roll well to keep the rivals out of position.

Forward Yuki Miyazawa (19 points, 15 rebounds) also played a big role, excelling on both ends of the court. Miyazawa sunk five of 10 shots from beyond the arc, and muscled out the Aussies to collect the rebounds.

The Australians started brightly, taking a 23-15 lead at the end of the first quarter. Things fell apart in the second period, with Australia managing to score only five points.

The taller, stronger Australians missed a trick by not employing the post position often enough. The Aussies unwisely tried to match the Japanese in speed, and were clearly outmatched.

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“You can’t score five points in the second quarter and expect to win a match. We made bad decisions," experienced Australia coach Sandy Brondello said.

A pleased Japan coach Tom Havasse stated, “We had a poor start, but once a few shots started going in, everyone calmed down. Going into half-time with a 35-28 lead gave us confidence.”

Japan will take on China in the final on Sunday. China cruised to a 80-52 win over Korea in the second semifinal. Chinese centre Han Xu, a second round pick in the 2019 WNBA draft, dominated under the board to score a game-high 17 points.

 

The results:

Semifinal: Japan 76 (Nako Motohashi 22, Yuki Miyazawa 19, Ramu Tokashiki 10) bt Australia 64 (Jenna O’Hea 12, Leilani Mitchell 10, Bec Allen 11); China 80 (Xu Han 17, Liwei Yang 16, Yueru Li 11) bt Korea 52 (Hyeyoon Bae 10).

Fifth-place playoff: New Zealand 71 (Micaela Cocks 18, Natalie Taylor 12) bt Chinese Taipei 56 (Huang Ping-Jen 13, Tsai Pei-Chen 10). HT: 36-27.