CANBERRA (Australian tour) - It's a tall order to cross the equator, arrive in Sydney, bus it to Canberra and then suit up for game one of an international tour. However, that was exactly the regime the touring Japanese Under 19 National Women's team had undertaken prior to tip-off on Monday night against the Canberra Under 18 Women's squad.
The Japanese ladies were struggling to find their legs throughout most of the first half and before they could blink they were down 12-3 as AIS and Canberra centre Caitlin Rowe piled on seven quick points. Nonetheless, ever so gradually the visitors from the Northern hemisphere settled into their work and with no particular focal point began to eat into the home side's advantage.
It was 19-17 at the quarter in favour of Canberra but they were starting to leak turnovers and allow too many running opportunities for the Japanese side. On the stroke of half time Hitomi Shibata scored to inch her team into the slenderest of leads at the main break 37-36.
A brace of triples from Japanese captain Eri Nakahata keyed a decisive run from the visitors to open the second half and they quickly raced to a double figure advantage. At this stage it was the Canberra girls who were looking a little sea-sick as every passing lane was contested and anything errant went skating back down the other end for a high percentage shot.
Canberra's other AIS representative Sarah McAppion demonstrated the progress she has made in her new full-time environment but it was all one way traffic as the Japanese piled on a 31-11 quarter to put the game effectively out of reach.
It finished in an 80-58 win for the Japanese girls and set the stage nicely for the encounters with the Gems/AIS to follow over the next three days.
Of particular note was the refreshing respect the visitors reserved for the referees and scoretable officials. Each substitution in and out was prefaced and completed with bows and nods of acknowledgement for the engineers helping to run the contest.
Japan Under 19 Women 80 (Naomi Hayashi 13, Eri Nakahata 13, Hitomi Shibata 10, Rina Tomizaki 9) defeated Canberra Under 18 Women 58 (Caitlin Rowe 14, Sarah McAppion 13, Annie Tuionetoa 11, Brianna Moyes 7) at AIS Training Hall
A Gutsy performance from both sides