China successfully returned to international play following a long hiatus by way of a wire-to-wire conquest of Japan, 66-57, in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, Wednesday at the AUF Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.
Team Dragon has finally come back into action since hosting the prestigious 2019 World Cup but they were quick to shake off some rust, seizing control of the match early before withstanding a late uprising for a victorious debut.
Zhou Peng top-scored for the Chinese with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while Shen Zijie produced 11 markers and five rebounds as all but two of Coach Du Feng’s chargers chipped in at least three points in the victory.
“In the first half, we were a solid team. However, in the second half, we made unnecessary turnovers, so they caught up. But in the end, we won the game,” said Du through a translator post-game.
China began pulling away in the second half, and a dunk by Shen off a Zhao Jiwei assist gave them a comfortable 55-35 lead early in the final frame.
But the Akatsuki Five got the rhythm it was looking for in the first three quarters, unloading 13 consecutive points — capped by a Makoto Hiejima three-pointer — to trim the gap to just seven, 51-58, with 4:08 on the clock.
The breaks, however, just could not go their way. Hugh Watanabe was called for a foul on Shen, and the latter split his freebies.
And the toughest blow came when naturalized forward Gavin Edwards fouled out with 3:11 to go, leading to another split from Shen.
The Japanese faltered since. It could not buy a basket, and the opposition took advantage as Peng swished in a jumper before Zhao sank a breakaway lay-up to bring China’s lead back to 13, 64-51, with 1:46 left to play.
“This is only the first game and we have to adapt to the pace,” said Du, who has been with the Chinese men’s program since 2017.
Japan was led by Hiejima and Kosuke Kanamaru with 12 points apiece, while Tenketsy Harimoto chimed in 11 in their first game back since beating Chinese Taipei in the Qualifiers’ first window last February 2020.
It was a foul-plagued debut for Edwards, who had eight points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block in 21 minutes of game time.
The East Asian rivals are set to meet once again in the tilt’s penultimate game date on Saturday, June 19, at 2:30 p.m. But before that China takes on Chinese-Taipei tomorrow while Japan takes on the same opponent on Friday.
China 66 – Zhou 16, Shen 11, Hu 6, Ren 6, Zhao JW 6, Xu 6, Wu 4, Lu 4, Zhao YH 4, Zhang 3, Wang 0, Liu 0.
Japan 57 – Hiejima 12, Kanamaru 12, Harimoto 11, Edwards 8, Ando 6, Watanabe 3, Vendrame 2, Takeuchi 2, Schafer 1, Togashi 0, Ando 0, Takeuchi 0.
Quarterscores: 20-12, 32-20, 50-35, 66-57.