Basketball

Japan women defend FIBA Asia title, punch ticket to Rio

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

After holding off China by one point on Tuesday, the Japan women’s national team provided a different type of drama on the basketball court during their high-stakes Saturday showdown: an old-fashioned blowout victory.

Japan routed China 85-50 in the FIBA Asia Women’s Championship final in Wuhan, China, to capture back-to-back continental crowns.

Coach Tomohide Utsumi’s team won the 2011 title, doing so for the first time since 1970, and the champions became the first Japan team from any sport to clinch a spot in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

After placing 10th overall in the women’s competition at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Japan failed to qualify for 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Games.

Shooting guard Sanae Motokawa paced Japan with a game-best 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting, including 4-for-7 on 3s. Motokawa made three steals.

Captain Asami Yoshida had 11 points, seven assists, five rebounds along with four steals on the night, while Ramu Tokashiki, a rising standout for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, had 18 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Chinatsu Yamamoto poured in 16 points, and frontcourt anchor Yuka Mamiya chipped in with six points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

Tokashiki, who averaged 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, was named the tournament MVP. Yoshida, the team’s steady floor leader, was also picked for the all-tournament team.

In the title game, four Chinese players shared the team lead in scoring with seven points apiece.

Japan shot 54.7 percent from inside the arc and 47.1 percent (8-for-17) from 3-point range. What’s more, the Asian champion outscored the tournament host 42-14 in the paint.

China turned the ball over 18 times, while Japan had just six.

Japan led 23-11 after one quarter and 44-22 at halftime.

China out-rebounded Japan 43-36, but shot 23.8 percent on 2-point attempts.

Motokawa had 14 first-half points and Tokashiki poured in 12 on 6-for-8 shooting. Yoshida dished out five assists before intermission.

Utsumi’s squad extended its advantage in the third quarter, pulling in front 50-24 on a Yoshida jumper at the 8:11 mark and 56-27 with 5:41 left in the period.

China trailed 68-34 entering the fourth quarter.