Basketball

Japan sweeps Belgium; Saki Hayashi named series MVP

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Japan’s women’s basketball team concluded a two-game exhibition series sweep of Belgium with a 84-71 win at Adastria Mito Arena on Sunday.

Newcomer Saki Hayashi was the heroine for the second consecutive game as she knocked down five 3-pointers for the Akatsuki Five.

“I had a lot of high expectations after I played well on Friday and I was a little nervous today,” said the 24-year-old Hayashi, who was named the series’ Most Valuable Player. “But what I had to do was the same and I just did that.”

Hayashi was Japan’s only player with double-digit points. But the team showed its depth with 11 more players scoring in the game. Forward Moeko Nagaoka was the squad’s second-best scorer with nine points.

Japan, which nailed 18 3-point shots in its 91-75 win on Friday night, sank 12 from behind the arc in the second contest.

“We have about a year to go,” Japan head coach Tom Hovasse said of next year’s Tokyo Olympics, in which the team hopes to win gold. “We are working extremely hard, and want to win the gold medal in front of (the fans) by any means.”

For Belgium, which advanced to the semifinals at last year’s FIBA Women’s World Cup in Spain, Antonia Delaere led the team with 15 points and seven assists.