Basketball

Fujioka shines as Japan stuns China to make final

Kyodo

Japan’s women’s national team has continued its meteoric rise at the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, beating 11-time champion China on Friday to set up a meeting with Australia in Saturday’s final.

All looked lost for Japan when China opened the first four minutes of the final period on a 12-4 run to take a nine-point lead. But a series of super plays by Manami Fujioka brought Japan back into the game, and then defense carried it over the line for the 74-71 win.

Fujioka has proved a real find for coach Tom Hovasse at this tournament in Bangalore, India, and she again proved her worth, finishing with an incredible 19-point, 14-assist, eight-rebound effort to help the Japanese escape the semifinal round.

At just 170 cm, the 23-year-old point guard has personified two-time reigning champion Japan’s ball movement-focused offense, showing such promise that she has all but usurped Asami Yoshida’s place on the team.

In the semifinal, Fujioka played point from the opening tip and took the majority of the minutes, with Rio Olympic star Yoshida not seeing the court.

Moeko Nagaoka scored 14 points and again played a vital part in a Japan win, as did Yuki Miyazawa whose 16 points and four boards were key.

Shao Ting led China with 16 points and five assists, while Gao Song scored 13, as did the team’s go-to option, Li Yueru.

In the other semifinal, Australia beat South Korea 81-64.

The world No. 4 and five-time Olympic medalists overwhelmed the Koreans, with Kelsey Griffin leading the way with 16 points and nine rebounds.