New Zealand edges Japan in women’s basketball exhibition opener

SAPPORO (Kyodo) New Zealand defeated Japan 77-74 in their first match of a women’s basketball exhibition series on Saturday.

Japan, which is ranked 14th in the world and has booked a spot in the 2010 FIBA Women’s World Championship being held from Sept. 23-Oct. 3 in the Czech Republic, took a 43-30 lead at halftime, thanks to some handy defense from guards Yuko Oga and Asami Yoshida at Hokkaido Sports Center.

But New Zealand closed the gap in the third period when Japan saw its offensive attack grind to a halt after the host brought in many of its substitutes.

Japan used several of its starters in the fourth period, but the Kiwis had already gained control and pulled ahead near the end.

The second match is slated for Sunday at Aoba Gymnasium in Sendai.