Center Noriko Koiso scored the game-winning basket in the closing seconds of Japan’s 71-69 victory over Senegal in the first round of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Women on Tuesday in Madrid.
With the win, Japan qualified for the quarterfinals of the 12-team tournament. The top-five finishers will advance to the Olympics.
In Wednesday’s Group A competition, Japan (1-0) faces Latvia, which trounced Senegal 94-34 in its opening game.
Koiso, a native of Nagasaki, scored a team-high 18 points, including a 10-for-11 effort from the free-throw line, and pulled down 10 rebounds. Forward Ryoko Yano, who delivered the ball to Koiso for the aforementioned clutch hoop, added 13 points and eight boards.
Starting point guard Yuko Oga, who now plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, finished with 13 points and four assists. She also turned the ball over five times.
Coach Tomohide Utsumi’s squad secured the tense triumph at the foul line, where it knocked down 27 of 31 shots. Senegal, on the other hand, was 8-for-9 from the line.
Japan led 59-47 after three quarters, seeing its lead vanish over the next 9-plus minutes. Senegal’s Fatou Dieng tied it at 69-69 on a pair of free throws with 44 seconds to play. Japan scored on its next possession.
Senegal missed its final shot, a jumper that ricocheted off the rim. Yano grabbed the final defensive rebound for the victors.