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Basketball - 06. June 2007.

Japanese sun rises over China

 In what otherwise will be remembered as one of the most ding-dong battles, with leads changing sides like a ball on the ping-pong table, Japan prevailed showing stronger nerves and better control of the pressure cooker situation.

Pocket-sized dynamo Yuko Oga was the conductor of this Japanese mellifluous orchestra. Together with Noriko Sakakibara and Ai Mitani the 25-year-old worked together some sparkling plays that roused the interest of the crowd.

Japanese coach Tomohide Utsumi attributed the win to Oga and the manner in which her teammates rallied around. "The way she played has really impressed me. Not only the way she scored, but more importantly she controlled the game according to our plan. That's very heartening especially with many tougher matches ahead," he said.

Utsumi, however, did not count too much on his team beating the defending champions. "They had not anyway come with their best possible team. Therefore, I wouldn't read too much into beating China. A win is a win at this level of the game. That's it, nothing more," he said.

"We were not quite as good as we thought in our defensive rebounds. That's an area we have to work on a little more."

China had come into this Championship with only one player - Jia Guang - from the team that won the gold medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games. The second string outfit, their inexperience notwithstanding, did manage to keep their rivals on their toes throughout.

Chinese coach Sun Fengwu expressed satisfaction in the way his wards played. "Although there were a few chinks, I must say that the girls played well within themselves."

"We had come with a much younger line-up. So we knew it won't be easy. The Japanese are definitely more experienced. That's the reason I'd be happy the way our team ran them close," Sun said.

"I thought our center (Xiao Li Wang) could have played a lot better. Anyway, we are all looking at every tournament for working out various combinations for the Beijing Olympics."

Scores
Japan 72 (Kumiko Yamada 20, Yuko Oga 19, Ai Mitani 11) bt China 65 (Xin Guan 16, Jia Guang 13, Zheng Yu Ma 11). (Quarterwise: 20-22, 39-39, 56-53, 72-65).

S Mageshwaran
FIBA Asia

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