JINAN, China (2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women): Korea used the pressure defense to good effect to break the offense rhythm of hosts and red-hot favorites China and then held fort with impressive gusto to eke out a 79-78 win in the first semifinal at a stunned Jinan Olympic Sports Center on Saturday.
Kim Sion had a game-high 28 points, but scored the most important of them on a drive in following a time-out after Yang Liwei had converted two free-throws, to clinch the issue for Korea after an emotionally charged battle of wits.
Kim also pulled down a team-high 7 rebounds.
Shin Ji-hyun, who sparkled a Korean run in the second quarter had 24 points.
The result left China out of a gold medal game in FIBA Asia competitions for Women for the first time in a decade.
The last time China did not figure in a gold medal game was in the 18th FIBA Asia Championship for Women at Shizuoka in 1999.
In age-group competitions, China’s last non-appearance in a gold medal game came even earlier when they failed in the semifinals of the 11th FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women at Nagoya in 1990.
Such was the impressive record of China in semifinal games of FIBA Asia women’s competitions. More recently, China had beaten Korea 111-58 in a Prelim Round game here.
All that trend seemed to continue when China looking confident as ever closed the first quarter with a 12-8 run, but that only proved to flattery to deceive the local fans.
Shin Ji-hyun accounted for a dozen points during the period as Korea outscored their rivals 17-2 to close the first half with a 15-point lead, from where China were always left to fight back.
“We really put pressure on them during this period,” said Korea coach Hu Man Dug.
“In the first game (Prelim Round), we let them get away in the second quarter. We had learnt our lesson, and we tightened the screws on them,” he said.
China were not be blown away.
With Hu Yueming and Gong Li firing in frequently, the hosts raised the hopes of a rally cutting down the deficit to five point by the end of the third and even going ahead 67-66, which only added edge to the encounter.
But Hu’s ejection for five fouls left them without the necessary size to take any sizable lead.
And with Kim and Shin in their elements till the end, Korea’s win was always a possibility.
A possibility that became a reality when Kim drove in home to take Korea to the final, and to the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Women in the Netherlands.
Play by Play
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photo: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia