JINAN, China (2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women): It’s the first final of this Millennium that Korea and Japan will clash in the gold medal game in a FIBA Asia women’s competition.
The former’s ouster of the seemingly mighty China in the semifinal with panache and persistence in equal measure has facilitated this.
In a manner of speaking, it is the defeat of the Chinese by Korea that has engulfed the thought process in the Jinan Olympic Sports Center and the other locations associated with the 2nd FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women, more than the gold medal game itself.
“If we can beat them (China), we can win against them (Japan) too,” said Korea coach Hu Man Dug.
“I was more worried about the girls thinking about that game (Korea beating China) when we started (the semifinal against Chinese Taipei),” said Japan coach Hayashi Shinichiro.
Korea lost to Japan 67-83 in the Prelim Round, but then they had lost 58-111 to China too before winning the semifinal.
“Each game is a new and fresh game. Unless and until we approach the game like that, we are likely to be disappointed,” said Shinichiro.
“And Korea have shown that they are capable of pulling themselves up.”
Hu too didn’t read too much into the defeat to Japan in the Prelim Round.
“We have bounced back well from the defeat. The most heartening aspect of my girls is that every player is improving in their roles with each game,” Hu said.
Japan were solid in their defeat of Chinese Taipei in the semifinals and Shinichiro was satisfied with the way his girls were showing the determination to progress.
“Our target when we came here was to do better than last time,” Shinichiro said.
Under Shinichiro, Japan had finished runners-up to China at 1st FIBA Asia U16 Championship for Women at Pune (India) two years ago, where Korea finished a mere fourth.
“Our players are gelling well and doing their jobs in the way we need,” Shinichiro said.
“And Korea beating China has woken us up. We won’t take them lightly now,” he said.
Korea have shown that they are unflinchable to any challenge in beating China. Now, can they pull themselves up and hand Japan their only defeat in Jinan? We’ll know the answer in less than 24 hours!
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photos: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia