Basketball

Hachimura guides Meisei High to impressive victory in Winter Cup opener

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Japan’s best high school player Rui Hachimura racked up 30 points, 14 rebounds and four assists and two-time defending champion Meisei High School cruised to a 100-81 win over Gunma Prefecture’s Maebashi Ikuei High School on Friday in the All-Japan High School Tournament.

For Meisei, it was a strong start at the annual tournament.

“In your first game, it’s important to come away with a win whether you play good or bad,” Meisei’s veteran coach Hisao Sato said after the game at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. “Hopefully, we are gradually going to play our game going forward. The Tokyo gymnasium wasn’t ‘our gymnasium’ today, but we want to make it ‘our gymnasium’ from tomorrow.”

Meisei, which had a first-round bye, will face Kanagawa Prefecture’s Aletheia Shonan High School in the third round at the same venue on Saturday.

The majority of the attention in the Christmas Day contest went to Hachimura, who signed a national letter of intent in November to play for NCAA Division I Gonzaga University. The dominant player was frequently double-teamed, but still managed to come through with impressive numbers.

Hachimura, 17, made 15 of 21 shots from inside the 3-point arc while playing for 36:43 of the game’s 40 minutes.

“We had some nerves because it was our first game, but I think we were able to play with composure from the beginning,” Hachimura said.

Meisei, a Miyagi Prefecture school, is aiming to become the first boys team to complete a three-peat since Kyoto’s Rakunan High, which did it between 2006 and 2008.

The national championship, also dubbed the Winter Cup, is one of three major high school tournaments in Japan.

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