Japan secured its ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics by defeating Cape Verde 80-71 in the classification round of the 2023 FIBA World Cup on Saturday at the Okinawa Arena in Japan.
This victory marked the Akatsuki’s second consecutive appearance at the Olympics and their eighth overall.
Despite a quiet performance from Yuta Watanabe, Joshua Hawkinson and Keisei Tominaga stepped up to lead Japan with 29 and 22 points, respectively.
The Phoenix Suns sniper struggled on offense, scoring only five points on 2-of-11 (18%) shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three-point territory.
The Akatsuki thwarted an attempted comeback by the Blue Sharks, managing to reduce the deficit to five points, 73-68, via a 15-0 burst with 3:38 remaining in regulation after trailing by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
“The fourth quarter was hectic and could have been disastrous. We avoided that, thankfully, and we’re going to Paris,” Japan head coach Tom Hovasse said in the post-game interview.
“These are the moments where you really get a chance to prove yourself but also improve yourself,” he added.
Prior to the third-quarter spurt, Japan also unloaded a 33-point second quarter to respond with more formidable momentum, closing the first half at 50-37 after being down by two (17-19) in the opening frame.
Yuki Kawamura also provided a boost for Japan with 14 points and eight assists.
On the other end, Edy Tavares led Cape Verde with a double-double, tallying 11 points and 14 rebounds. Shane da Rosa also contributed 11 markers, while Ivan Almeida and Patrick Lima both added 10 points.
Meanwhile, Finland dropped Venezuela to the bottom four of the global table with a 90-75 blowout in the preceding match.
Lauri Markkanen exploded for 32 points and nine rebounds to lead the Wolfpack.
Trailing 13-7 at the 4-minute mark of the first quarter, the Squadra Criolla rallied with a 10-0 run to end the frame at 17-13.
However, Finland launched an impressive scoring display in the second quarter, outscoring Venezuela 35-18, and closing the half at 48-35.
The Squadra Criolla tried to mount a comeback, ending the third quarter with a 14-7 run to narrow the lead and close the period with a two-possession game at 67-62.
Finland did not allow Venezuela to maintain momentum as they ignited a commanding 20-8 run, pulling away at 87-70 with under two minutes remaining in the deciding frame.
Elias Valtonen and Sasu Salin both contributed 11 points to help Finland secure the win.
On the other side, Pedro Chourio led the scoring for Venezuela with 17 points.
The Wolfpack concluded their campaign with a 2-3 record. (Jose Gabriel Ignacio)
Finland 90 — Markkanen 32, Salin 11, Valtonen 11, Madsen 8, Little 7, Jantunen 7, Maxhuni 6, Nkamhoua 6, Seppala 2, Kantonen 0
Venezuela 75 — Chourio 17, Materan 14, Sojo 11, Guillent 9, Sifontes 8, Cubillan 8, Colemnares 6, Ruiz 2, Zamora 0, Graterol 0
Quarterscores: 13-17, 48-35, 67-62, 90-75
Japan 80 — Hawkinson 29, Tominaga 22, Kawamura 14, Watanabe 5, Togashi 3, Hiejima 3, Baba 2, Yoshii 2, Hara 0
Cape Verde 71 — Da Rosa 11, E. Tavares 11, Lima 10, I. Almeida 10, B. Gomes 9, W. Tavares 7, Mendes 6, Correia 5, K. Gomes 2, J. Almeida 0, Mendonca 0
Quarterscores: 17-19, 50-37, 73-55, 80-71