FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2021 semi-finals wrap
JUST one game remains for the teams who are still in the hunt for a grand final triumph after a day of thrilling basketball action saw two teams advance to the big dance. The semi-finals delivered some dominant performances and some heart-stopping finishes, with all four teams leaving nothing in the tank. The two advancing sides will face off tonight in the final, with both sides looking for a win after contrasting droughts between titles. The final will take place tonight at 11pm AEST, while the third place qualification game between the two defeated sides will occur at 8pm AEST tonight.
China (93) def. Korea (69)
It was a flexing of the muscles from China, who delivered a powerful performance in the first three quarters, with the game fully out of reach for Korea by the time the last break rolled around. China opened the game in about as dominant a fashion as you could ask for, outscoring their opponents by 14 in the first term, as Korea found themselves trying to find new ways to generate their offence without sacrificing their defence. The second quarter saw Korea once again on the back foot, as China stretched their lead out to 25 by half-time, and the game looked over already. The third quarter was a slightly more tense contest, with China only outscoring their opponent by four points. By the time Korea were able to deliver a strong quarter in the fourth, the result had already been decided and China had already put their side into cruise control.
The two sides struggled with efficiency from behind the three-point line, both shooting just 28 per cent, but China were the stronger side in scoring the ball from inside. The victors scored 24 more points from in the paint than their opponents and were also better on the fast break, frequently turning fast plays into crucial scores. China’s Yueru Li delivered a tremendous performance, pouring in a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, with Korea delivering no answer to her impressive play on both ends of the court. China will be looking for their first title win in 10 years as they prepare for tonight’s final against a tough opponent.
Japan (67) def. Australia (65)
In one of the games of the tournament, Japan held off a gallant Australian side to keep their hopes of five title wins in a row alive with a two-point semi final triumph. The lead went back-and-fourth all day, but Japan were able to deliver in the clutch moments as they advanced towards dynasty status. Japan opened the match with an impressive first quarter, scoring with ease to take an eight point lead into quarter time, with the Aussies struggling to get going offensively. This flipped in the second term, as the Opals came out guns blazing to turn their eight point deficit into a five point lead, and suddenly it was game on. The third term saw Japan recapture the form of their third quarter, but the Aussies were able to match this offensive flow, taking a narrow two point lead into the final term. The thrilling final quarter saw Japan regain the lead deep into the term, and the Aussies were unable to answer as scoring was halted in the final minutes of the game. Australian captain Sami Whitcomb looked to be the hero once again, but her game-winning three point attempt was blocked by Japan’s Himawari Akaho, who then snatched the rebound and sealed the win for her side.
Surprisingly, the Aussies won most of the crucial stats, including the rebounding battle and shooting percentage, which is a testament to how close the contest was in the end. Japan did score more points from turnovers, which was a telling category in the end as they punished Australia for not maintaining control of the ball. For Japan, Saki Hayashi was a powerful force on the offensive end, delivering 17 points and seven rebounds in a crucial role for her side. For Australia, Lauren Marie Scherf was a force on the boards, pulling down 15 rebounds to go with 12 points on her way to a double-double. Japan will play China in the tournament final, while Australia will take on Korea in the qualification match.
Image Credit: FIBA website