Gifu Girls High School exhibited produced impressive second-half comeback to end Oka Gakuen High School’s dominance with a 54-49 win in the girl’s championship game at the All-Japan High School Basketball Tournament at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Monday.
Gifu Girls, which had two runnerup finishes in the annual championship, captured its first-ever Winter Cup, while Oka Gakuen failed in its bid to end up on top for the fourth straight year.
Trailing 24-12 at halftime, Gifu Girls staged a resilient rally in the second half.
With 1 minute, 42 seconds left, Gifu Girls’ Yoko Tanaka hit a 3-pointer to give the team a 49-47 lead. Ayumu Fujita nailed a jumper later to make it a five-point lead, sealing the win with 29 seconds left.
Fatou Ndiaye, a center from Senegal, led the game with 20 points and 20 rebounds. Forward Kumi Murase followed with 10 points and eight boards.
The Gifu Girls players exploded in joy at the final buzzer.
“When we won the championship, my mind went blank and I couldn’t believe we did it,” guard Rina Ito said. “But we’ve received so much support from people around us, and it feels great that we were able to pay them back on the court today.”
Gifu Girls coach Mitsuo Yasue seemed to be very emotional after his team finally earned its first national title by defeating its archrival and 20-time Winter Cup champion Oka Gakuen.
“When we started this team back in (1977), we didn’t even have a gymnasium to practice in, but we’ve played with the lofty goal of playing at a national tournament one day,” Yasue, 62, said. “Oka has always won national championships, and we thought we needed to produce more effort than the best team in Japan.
“We don’t necessarily have players with great potential, but having played with strong attitudes has paid off for us.”
Oka Gakuen had won all three major national high school tournaments the last two seasons and had won the other two coming into the Winter Cup in 2015. The Nagoya school has collected six All-Japan championships since 2007.
For Oka Gakuen, forward Yukino Awatsu racked up 16 points and seven rebounds.
In the girl’s third-place game, Chiba Prefecture’s Showa Gakuin High School crushed Ehime Prefecture’s St. Catalina High School 95-57.
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