Hachimura powers Meisei High to Winter Cup title

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Freshman sensation Louis Hachimura scored 32 points to guide Sendai’s Meisei High School to its second-ever Winter Cup title with a 92-78 victory over Fukuoka University Ohori in the boys’ final of the 44th All-Japan High School Tournament on Sunday.

“I was so moved,” Meisei’s veteran head coach Hisao Sato said after the game at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. “I’d just like to appreciate our players.”

The Miyagi Prefecture school triumphed in the yearend championship, which is one of the three major titles in high school basketball, in 2009.

Meisei held the momentum early with Hachimura, a 197-cm inside player, to the fore, and entered halftime with a 49-38 lead.

Ohori found its rhythm and cut the deficit to one point in the middle of the third quarter, but Meisei kept its cool and regained the momentum.

“That time, (Ohori) had the momentum,” Sato said of Ohori’s run in the third. “And it was just their time to get it. We just thought it was what it was. In a basketball game, there are always occasions for both teams to have the momentum.”

Senior forward Koki Miyamoto followed Hachimura with a double-double performance. He had 22 points and 13 rebounds.

For Ohori, Shota Tsuyama scored 28 points and Yusuke Sugiura racked up 22 points and 12 rebounds. The Fukuoka Prefecture team sought its first Winter Cup since 1993, but came up short.

“For sure, it was disappointing,” Sugiura, a senior, murmured. “But I enjoyed the tournament and I still have a lot of time left in my basketball life. It’s not over yet.”

Though it’s been just four years since he began playing the game, Hachimura, who was born to a Beninese father and a Japanese mother, was the guy to watch in the championship game.

The former Under-16 Japan national team player came through early and put up 24 points in the first half alone to give a boost to the Meisei squad.

“It was pretty fun to be out there,” Hachimura said with a smile. “You’ve got to have fun when you play the game.”

Now a dominant big man on the wooden floor, Hachimura preferred the diamond in elementary school in his hometown in Toyama Prefecture. He played baseball, mainly as a catcher and pitcher.

“I still miss the game sometimes,” he joked.

Hachimura said that he was the kind of a child who would always have big dreams. When he played baseball, his goal was to play in the major leagues.

What is the target for him now? To play in the NBA.

Hachimura said he hopes to go to a university in the United States after his graduation from Meisei.

His outspokenness didn’t stop there. Hachimura added that he wanted to be on Team Japan at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

“If I’m selected, I’d like to beat the United States,” he said.