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Japan v Qatar, 2015 FIBA Asia Championship Quarter-Final
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Japan start to turn things around

TOKYO (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament) - If China reasserted themselves as a basketball power in their region by winning the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, another team from the Far East also raised eyebrows at the event.

That team was Japan, who beat Qatar 81-67 in the Quarter-Finals to reach the Semi-Finals in Changsha-Hunan and clinch a spot in one of next year's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).

The Japanese finished fourth and it was a significant achievement.

It marked their highest finish at the event since 1997, when they were runners-up to Korea.

The Japanese accomplished this just several months after the country's basketball federation had its suspension lifted by basketball's world governing body, FIBA.

The OQT will be a huge opportunity for Team Hayabusa.

There were no celebrations in Tokyo, though, despite the team's positive summer.

Japan had wanted to reach the podium but came up just short as Iran edged them in the battle for third place, 68-63.

Keijuro Matsui, who hit six three-pointers in the Third-Place Game against Iran and scored 18 points, said: "We lost the third-place match, but I enjoyed the Championship.

"We were able to qualify for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but we had the chance to finish on the podium."

Makoto Hiejima distinguished himself as a bright talent for Japan.

The 25-year-old point guard averaged more than 18 points in the last seven games.

He distinguished himself as one of the top free-throw shooters in the competition by nailing 23 of his 25 attempts (92 percent).

"We are not satisfied with fourth place and there is hope that we could finish at higher if we continue to work hard," said 30-year-old power forward Joji Takeuchi.

"Young players such as Hiejima have showed great improvements, and I believe that not only myself but fans in Japan also saw a bright future of our national team."

All of the Japanese players were in agreement when the tournament was ever.

There was cause to be proud, but also plenty of hunger still to be satisfied.

Japan's men's team had an awakening in Changsha-Hunan.

They could end up being very dangerous opponents in an OQT next year.

Our future challenge is to finish strong and win the games. - Ono

"We were completely beaten by Iran (86-48) in the first game, and started over again from the beginning on defense and rebounding," captain Ryumo Ono said.

"That has led us to the final four.

"The team chemistry became stronger as the tournament advanced and we were able to compete with Iran in the last game.