Basketball / B. League

Japan pounds Hong Kong to clinch spot in FIBA Asia Cup quarterfinal qualifier


Japan won its second game of the FIBA Asia Cup Saturday, beating Hong Kong 92-59 to secure a place in a quarterfinal qualifier by finishing second in its group.

Never troubled by a Hong Kong team that ended the preliminary phase with an 0-3 record at Beirut’s Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex, Japan established early dominance and ran away with the game to secure a spot behind Group D winner Australia.

Japan forward Ira Brown, who played college ball at Gonzaga, led the way against Hong Kong, scoring 11 points, punctuated by a spectacular third-quarter, fast-break windmill dunk, while adding eight boards and six assists.

Yudai Baba, the team’s youngest player at 21 years of age, had an excellent first half after Japan coach Julio Lamas inserted him into the starting lineup for the first time. He showed great versatility and took advantage of his youthful bounce to finish with 12 points, five rebounds, five assists four steals and a block.

Three other Japan players reached double figures in scoring, including Makoto Hiejima, who had a team-best 15 points.

Lee Ki did all he could to keep Hong Kong in the game. He scored a game-high 20 points, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range.

Japan did well to keep Hong Kong’s most dangerous player, Duncan Reid, in check. The starting center only managed six points on 27.2 percent shooting from the floor.

The win means Japan will likely play South Korea for a place in the quarterfinals.

The Koreans have to beat Group C leader New Zealand later on Saturday to avoid Japan, while also seeing Kazakhstan beat current second-ranked team Lebanon.

If Japan can advance into the quarterfinals, the Philippines, the likely Group B winner, having cleared a pool containing China, Iraq and Qatar.

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