ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia (22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship): Mashahiro Narita (pic above) reeled in seven three-pointers in all in Japan’s quarterfinal game against Chinese Taipei on Friday. But the most important and decisive of them all came with 22 seconds left on the clock in the protracted battle of wits between the East Asian teams, which took Japan to a 68-67 win a place in the semifinals.
Click here to read Narita’s exclusive interview
Japan thus made a comeback to the last four stage – the 10th time they have done so in the history of the competition – having failed to do so in the 21st FIBA Asia Championship at Sana’A (Yemen) in 2010.
Narita’s effort of 31 points with a 12/29 shooting in field overall was not only a game-high for Japan came in a game when their spearhead Yuta Watanabe returned only 2 points.
Kazushi Mori had 15 points and Shuto Terazono 11 points.
Fan Shih-en was the only Taipei player to score in the double-digits with all his 18 points coming in the first three quarters.
For the first two quarters of the game the scales tilted to one side firmly – one side in each period – but post the half-time break neither sought a quarter nor gave any.
Japan had opened the scoring the game and then raked up a double-digit lead in the first five minutes to look strong at the end of the first quarter. Narita had accounted for a dozen points in the opening period.
But Taipei returned the favor in kind – an 8-0 run helping them bridge the gap before Fan Shih-en’s drive in the lane leveled the scores for the first time in the game.
Chiu Jih-Cheng and Huang Hung-han each scored 6 points to as Fan led Taipei’s resurgence with 8 points in the second quarter.
Then came the protracted battle which Narita clinched in Japan’s favor.
Japan coach Sato Hisao was happy that the team won, but was far from satisfied in the manner in which it was achieved.
“I think Narita was brilliant as I had expected, but Watanabe left a lot desired. I’m not worried about his form, I’m sure he’s just had an off-day and he’ll be back soon. Just that he didn’t play as we had expected,” Hisao added.
Hisao’s opposite number Yen Hsin-shu was lost for words.
“I can say nothing. We made too many mistakes.”
“Our guards were just too timid and slow to react,” he said about Narita’s long-ranger which sealed the issue.
“We did alright, but against good teams the difference between winning and losing depends upon how well we perform under pressure. It all depends upon how we play in the crunch moments,” he added.