SURAT THANI, Thailand (20th FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women): China won the crunch points with composure, grew in confidence as the game progressed before tightening the screws to beat Japan 122-78 in the gold medal game on Wednesday.
China who lost to Japan in the final at Medan two years ago thus regained their position on top of the podium. It was China’s 12th gold medal in this Championship’s history.
For Japan coach Tatsushi Isshiki, it was the first defeat in competition over two years after 13 wins in a row, including the 73-72 triumph his team scored against China, on the opening day here.
Both teams had already qualified for the 9th FIBA World U19 Championship for Women to be held in Chile next year.
“It had to come to a stop some day,” Isshiki said.
“We played at our best today,” said China coach Wang Guizhi.
“The girls had told themselves to give the best shot, and it worked for us,” she said.
“It’s a tribute to the skills and smartness of the girls,” Wang said.
“The girls played remarkably and handled the pressure very well,” she added.
“There is a significant improvement in the team with every game we played. That showed today,” Wang said.
The teams were evenly matched in exchanges as well as scoring for the better part of the first quarter. China, however, made their move towards the end of the first ten minutes.
Gao Song’s three-pointer interspersed by Sun Mengran’s drive in the lane and Ma Xueya success on the paint helped China outscore Japan 11-4 in the closing moments of the first quarter.
And when Japan hit back to level the score at 40, China again tightened their defense and provided their offense a spark. China unleashed a 10-0 run to surge ahead, which helped them go into the changing room with an eight-point lead.
A lead that grew in proportion, which helped the team grow in strength, as the game progressed.
From a position of 40-40, China pulled away to outscore their rivals 38-10 over ten minutes –cutting through the first half break – and eventually finished with a 44-point win.
Gao Song, a member of the China team which played in the 8th FIBA World U19 Championship for Women at Bangkok last year, returned an incredible 73% field record (16/22, including converting three of her five three-pointer attempts) in her game-high 37 points.
Yu Dong pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with her 16 points for a double-double.
“Probably that was our problem,” said Isshiki talking about the pressure of the gold medal game.
“Well, we are going back with the silver. That’s not too bad for these girls,” he said.
Saki Kanehara was the highest scorer for Japan with 14 points.
For Game Statistics and Detailed scores click here
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia