• Kyodo

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Japan’s hopes of sending a men’s basketball team to the Rio Olympics ended on Wednesday when it suffered its second defeat in as many games, losing 87-71 to the Czech Republic at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade.

The loss means that Japan won’t progress from its group to the semifinals.

Coach Kenji Hasegawa said after the game that his team lacked the defensive fortitude required, but “we were able to show some of the positives about Japan basketball.”

For Japan, one bright spot against the Czech Republic was the fine performance from 26-year-old backup point guard Naoto Tsuji. The Kawasaki Brave Thunders’ 2016 NBL Finals MVP finished the game with 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the floor, including five 3-pointers, in just 20 minutes of playing time.

Makoto Hiejima finished with 16 points, Joji Takeuchi had 13 and the up-and-comer Yuta Watanabe added 10 with seven rebounds and three blocks.

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