JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women): China muscled their way, using their size and strength advantage to good effect to beat Japan 73-67 (Game Details) in a Level I game on Monday, in a repeat clash of last edition’s gold medal game, incidentally also ending with the same result.
It was China’s third successive win in as many games, while Japan suffered their first reverse in as many outings.
China did stand much taller than their fellow East Asian rivals and seemed to hold the edge in the early part of the entertaining encounter with the gangling Gong Li calling the shots.
But the induction of Saori Miyazaki and Yunika Nakamura by Japan coach Tatsushi Isshiki changed the tone and tenor of the game. The two did some brisk acts opening up the space on the outside as China persisted with their zone defense a little obstinately.
It required the perseverance of Yang Liwei and the resolve of Hu Yaoming – who played braving a painful ankle – for China to regain control of the proceedings, and eventually the scoreboard. Which they did with elan in the third quarter.
Not that Japan were blown away after that, but the lopsided match-ups especially when Miyazaki was pitted against the much taller Chinese opposite numbers, forced Japan into foul trouble a little too early.
The fight for Japan was always going to be uphill after that.
Zhang Liting’s free-throw gave China their biggest lead in the game with about two minutes left, but Nakamura’s drive in the lane followed by Yuki Kitamura’s fiery three-pointer and her own free-throw made it a 3-point game for Japan.
It again required the ingenuity of Yang Liwei to steer China clear of danger.
Yang Liwei set up Zhang Liting to thump the basket and then forced a jump ball. With possession thus retained, Yang Liwei once again Zhang Liting, this time for good.
“I think our shooting let us down at the crucial junctures,” bemoaned Japan cpach
Gong Li went on finish with 17 points as China’s leading scorer, but it was Zhang Liting’s timely success that gave them the win.
Kitamura had a consolatory game-high 26 points for Japan.