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Japan salvage podium finish at EABA Championship 2017
The Akatsuki Five stepped up in the tournament's final game to throttle past a lethargic China, 76-58. Naturalized player Ira Demon Brown made up for his lackluster showing in the Semi-Final against eventual champions Chinese Taipei by putting in the work against the much taller Chinese. Brown was aggressive and active all throughout this match, eventually putting up 21 points, 11 rebounds and 2 steals to lead the way for the home team.
The Japanese had a hot start here, outscoring China, 26-9, in the first quarter to underscore their desire for redemption. They maintained their advantage in the remainder of the game, keeping the Chinese at bay till the final buzzer sounded. Despite being the smaller side, coach Luka Pavicevic's squad managed to out-rebound China, 37-32, and outscore them in the paint, 30-24. The Japanese also shot well from long range, hitting 8 triples compared to just 5 for their opponents. Brown, Daiki Tanaka and Makoto Hiejima each hit 2 three-pointers to headline the Japanese barrage.
China were just out of it and were apparently not their usual selves. They didn't have full energy in this one, and appeared to simply go through the motions. The dynamic duo of Zhao Yanhao and Hu Jinqiu still recorded impressive numbers, though. Zhao scored 20 points and hit 3 triples, while Hu managed a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double.
Japan will carry the momentum of this win to the FIBA Asia Cup 2017, where they will meet Chinese Taipei again in Group D. China, meanwhile, will have to regroup as they prepare for the continental tournament in August while also looking forward to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asia Qualifiers in November.