Japan defeat France 87-71 to reach gold medal opener – .

Japan defeat France 87-71 to reach gold medal opener – .

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) – Japan will play for the first time in the women’s basketball tournament at the Tokyo Games.

Just as coach Tom Hovasse predicted when he was hired in 2017.

Himawari Akaho scored 17 points and Japan beat France 87-71 on Friday night to advance to the women’s title game on Sunday.

Japan will face the United States, winning 79-59 over Serbia, also as Hovasse predicted in 2017. He said beating the Americans would be the best game the Japanese have ever played.

“We have to cook on all the cylinders of the jump at the end of the game,” said Hovasse. “We have a shotgun chance. We certainly have a chance. These are contrasting styles. Can we stop them inside? No. Can they keep us outside for 40 minutes? We will see. ”

This victory continues an incredible race for the host country, which entered the Tokyo Games ranked 10th in the world. Even without fans allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic, volunteers and other supporters found their way to the stands of the Saitama Super Arena to witness this historic moment.

Fans stood up and started cheering in the dying seconds, although the players’ celebration was more low-key than after their quarter-final victory. The players kissed before snuggling up to the logo in the middle of the pitch, where they danced before turning around, bowing and cheering their supporters. They then posed for the photographers at their end of the court.

Hovasse said his players believe they can win and get better with every game.

“Everyone is clicking right now,” Hovasse said. “We’re just confident. We are not at all too confident. We are not nervous. I didn’t see any nervousness at all.

Just reaching the semi-finals was a first for Japan, which is competing in the country’s fifth Olympics. Hovasse, the first foreign-born coach from Durango, Colorado, was hired as the head coach in 2017 after serving as an assistant to the team that finished eighth at the Rio 2016 Games.

This semi-final was a rematch of the Olympic opener for both teams which Japan won 74-70.

It wasn’t that close that Japan took control in the second quarter once the 3 points started to drop. Japan finished 11 of 22 in a 3-point range. When France attempted to defend long shots, Japanese players continued to make cuts in the basket and overtake French defenders.

“We let them play their game with the 3 points,” said French striker Endene Miyem. “We knew it but we still couldn’t stop it. ”

Japan improved to 6-1 against France, including 3-0 at the Olympics. Japan’s only loss to France came at the 1994 world championships in the semi-finals.

Yuki Miyazawa scored 14 points for Japan, who scored 10 players against France. Rui Machida came into play at the top of the tournament with an average of 12.8 assists; she set the Olympic record with 18.

“Isn’t that beautiful? said Hovasse. “Now she’s ranked 1-2-3 in Olympic history, 18-15-14. “

Sandrine Gruda led France with 18 points. Marine Fauthoux scored 13.

France, silver medalists in 2012, will face Serbia for bronze on Saturday. Coach Valérie Garnier has said his team must now focus on a game with just 17 hours to recover and refocus before kick-off. She wants all the frustration to be funneled into this game with bronze on the line.

“Of course we’re going to give our all because that’s the goal,” said Garnier, “to end this competition with an Olympic medal. ”

The teams took turns getting to the basket early in the match for lay-ups, and France led 22-14 after the first quarter. Japan, who missed five of six 3-pointers to start the game, went 5 of 6 over the arc in the second – edging France 27-12 for a 41-34 lead at halftime .

Japan led 68-50 in the third and extended their lead to 27 in the fourth.

Now Hovasse and Japan get what they wanted, a title shot in the United States.


More AP: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


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