The Eneos Sunflowers overcame the loss of their star player Ramu Tokashiki to successfully extend their title streak to eight at the annual single-elimination All-Japan Championship with an 87-80 win over the Toyota Antelopes at Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Sunday.
It was the 25th Empress’ Cup that the Sunflowers hoisted, the most of all time. With eight straight titles, the Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture-based club has also drawn even with Nichibo Hirano, whose record started in 1965, for the tournament’s longest championship streak.
It was an emotion victory for the Sunflowers, who competed without ace forward/center Tokashiki. The team announced on Saturday that the 29-year-old, considered a key part of Japan’s hopes of medaling at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, had torn her right ACL.
The Sunflowers were also missing another inside player in Kadysha Juna Umezawa, their second-leading scorer behind Tokashiki.
Eneos, the 11-time defending Women’s Japan Basketball League champion, came through in the second half and took their first lead of the game in the final moments of the third quarter.
The final stanza completely belonged to the Sunflowers, who kept scoring through quick guards Sayaka Okamoto and Saori Miyazaki — the two racked up nine and 10 points in the quarter alone, respectively.
“We’ve had so many injured players and had to play with whom we have. But we were still sticking with winning this game,” said forward Yuki Miyazawa, who scored 18 points for Eneos and was named the tournament MVP.
The Antelopes failed to capture their first trophy in eight years at the event.
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