Ohka Gakuen survived reigning champion Gifu Girls’ late surge and recaptured the Winter Cup title with a 72-67 victory on Saturday at Musashino Forest Sports Plaza.
For Ohka Gakuen, the All-Japan High School Tournament crown was the 22nd title — and first in three years — for the Aichi Prefecture school, and it completed the sweep in the three major national championships (along with the National Athletic Meet and Inter-High School Championship) this year.
“We hadn’t won the championships in two years,” Ohka Gakuen veteran head coach Shinichi Inoue said after the showdown between the two powerhouse schools. “And these two years felt like 10 years.”
Led by 186-cm Nigerian center Okonkwo Susan Amaka, Ohka Gakuen took the pace early, but Gifu bounced back with its ferocious defense.
Early in the third quarter, Gifu held a 36-34 advantage.
But Ohka, which has produced numerous players who have become Women’s Japan Basketball League standouts, including Ramu Tokashiki, started building a cushion from that point on.
Gifu threatened Ohka again with under two minutes left in the game, knocking down some desperate shots and displaying an aggressive defensive effort.
As a result, Gifu pulled within three with about 14 seconds left, but Ohka managed to retain the lead until the final buzzer.
Amaka, a second-year student-athlete, had game-high totals of 25 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks for Ohka. Captain Aika Hirashita chipped in with 19 points and six boards.
“Having watched Gifu playing (in this tournament), they have played nearly perfectly,” said Inoue, whose team had defeated Gifu in the inter-high school meet championship contest. “So we thought we would not beat them easily at all.”
Gifu Girls head coach Mitsuo Yasue held his head up high, saying that his team would like to return to the big stage next year.
“We failed to become the best in country,” Yasue said. “But objectively speaking, our players are capable of doing it.”
For Gifu Girls, senior forward Maho Hayashi racked up 24 points and three steals.
Ohka senior forward Miyu Okamoto could not have been happier to leave the school with the title, which none of its current players previoulsy accomplished.
“We, the current seniors, had not stood on the court in the final,” said Okamoto, who finished with 10 points. “We achieved that today plus accomplished the three major titles. It will certainly be great memories for us.”
Hirashita said: “We’ve been aiming at the Winter Cup title all year. There’s been tough times, but we could gain great experience in the end.”
Ohka’s Hirashita, Okamoto and Amaka and Gifu Girls’ Hayashi and Nodoka Fujita were named to the all-tournament team.