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Hot-shooting Japan foils Filipinas

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF LUIS VENIEGRA JACK Animam gets trapped by the defense of Maki Takada of Japan in the preliminaries of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup. The Japanese prevailed, 97-57.

Japan’s red-hot shooting and rebounding prowess were in full display as it dealt Gilas Women a 57-97 beating in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup on Tuesday at the Sydney Olympic Park in Australia.

The Japanese were on fire, dropping 18 three-pointers while shattering the Filipinas’ defense with crisp ball movement en route to collecting their second win that sent them to the next round of this prestigious continental tournament.

Japan’s firepower was so superior that it drew 42 markers from its bench players.

On the contrary, the Filipinas were able to generate only 14 markers from their second stringers to absorb their second straight loss after opening their campaign with a dismal 34-105 setback to Australia late Monday.

“It’s a tough team to beat,” Gilas coach Patrick Aquino said, referring to Japan, which was bannered by Himawari Akaho, a two-time Asia Cup gold medalist who was part of the team that emerged as runner-up in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“But I’m happy as we continue to learn and hopefully we could get stronger each day. We just have to keep on competing and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

The 24-year-old Akaho, who plays for Denso Iris in the Women’s Japan Basketball League, fired 16 points on an impressive 5-of-7 field goal shooting topped with four rebounds and three blocks.

Mai Yamamoto, a deadly gunner who rose to prominence when she led Japan to the gold medal of the FIBA U23 World Cup 3×3 tournament this year, chipped in 15 markers while Saki Hayashi, also an Olympian, and Aika Hirashita added 11 and 10 markers, respectively, for the Japanese, who ranks ninth in the latest International Basketball Federation ranking.


‘We did some adjustments playing them, but they were such a great team and they adjusted so well.’


All 12 players fielded in by Japan coach Toru Onzuka produced points for the reigning champions.

Still, defense had been the problem of the Filipinas as they allowed the Japanese to hit 40 percent from the three-point territory and close to 50 percent from the two-point region.

The Japanese, who already won this tournament six times, also lorded it over in the rebounding department, 45-30, and produced more second chance points, 22-4.

“We did some adjustments playing them, but they were such a great team and they adjusted so well,” Aquino added.

“But we made some good adjustments compared to the way we played yesterday (against Australia) and hopefully, we can continue.”

The Philippines made some good run several stretches in the game, particularly in the third period.

A three-point basket from Khate Castillo off a feed by Afril Bernardino pushed Gilas to within 16, 46-62, with still 2:39 left in the quarter to gain a handsome chance of pulling off a gigantic upset.

But the Japanese bounced back with Azusa Asahina and Saori Miyazaki hitting three-pointers apiece to regain control and crush whatever hopes the Filipinas, who are at No. 42 in the FIBA ranking, have.

As expected, Duke standout Vanessa de Jesus paced Gilas with 12 points while getting plenty of help from Afril Bernardino, who also registered 12 points laced with eight rebounds.

Janine Pontejos contributed 11 markers and Jack Animam produced eight on top of seven boards.

The Philippines will be in a must-win situation when it battles Chinese Taipei on Wednesday to wrap up its campaign in the group stage.

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