Read the full story on SportsLook - Japan Women Edge Canada to Book a Spot in Paris Olympics
It all came down to the last day of qualifying. The Japan women's basketball national team needed a victory over Canada on Sunday, February 11 in Sopron, Hungary, to clinch one of 12 tournament berths for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Mission accomplished. Akatsuki Japan earned a gritty 86-82 win over Canada on the final day of the 2024 FIBA Olympic Women's Qualifying Tournament. China, Belgium and Brazil also hosted qualifiers from February 8-11.
And now the 12-team field is set: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Tokyo 2020 runner-up Japan, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Spain and the defending Olympic champion United States.
In an inspired, determined performance, Japan coach Toru Onzuka's squad bounced back from a disappointing 81-75 defeat to Hungary on Friday. Mai Yamamoto and Evelyn Mawuli paced world No 9 Japan with 21 points apiece.
"I would like to thank the fans who were watching inside the arena and also the fans watching on TV in Japan," Onzuka commented after the back-and-forth match, one that had 12 lead changes.
The coach added, "I also want to thank Canada as they are such a tough team to beat. [And] I am so happy also."
Japan led 50-46 at halftime.
Yamamoto Named Sopron Tournament MVP
Yamamoto, a 24-year-old guard for the WJBL's Toyota Antelopes, was named MVP of the Sopron tournament, averaging 17.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 62% from the field in Japan's three games.
The rising star gushed with joy after the final buzzer.
"Of course I am so happy," Yamamoto told reporters. "We played together for 40 minutes as a team."
What were Yamamoto's general impressions of the game?
"Canada was also a strong team, so we expected a difficult game," she said, according to Kyodo News. "Everyone believed in each other and fought with determination."
Summing up the team's performance in the high-pressure contest, Yamamoto acknowledged it took a cohesive team effort to accomplish its goal.
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- [JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Japan Women's Basketball Team Faces a Must-Win Game to Qualify for the Paris Olympics
Author: Ed Odeven