25 August, 2023
10 September
Game Report
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Japan top group at home, qualify for Paris 2024

OKINAWA (Japan) - Japan rode Joshua Hawkinson's endgame heroics to withstand the gritty Cape Verde, 80-71, to secure their flight to next year's Paris Olympic Games by way of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, Saturday night at the sold-out Okinawa Arena.


The home team went cold in the final frame and witnessed what was once a 20-point lead become just three, 74-71, with 1:12 left to play. But the versatile big man came to the rescue, scoring their last six points to bring them home - and book a return trip to the Olympiad.

Hawkinson finished with 29 points and 7 rebounds as Akatsuki Japan booked the direct qualification spot to Paris as the highest-ranked Asian team in the global hoops meet.

The Japanese finished the tournament as the no. 1 team of Group O with a 3-2 record, indeed an improvement from their winless five-game run in the 2019 edition in China.

Turning point: Japan already held a 73-55 advantage entering the fourth but could not get anything to drop, while Cape Verde got their groove on and scored 13 consecutive to cut the gap to five.

Anxious moments filled the venue, especially when Edy Tavares got the African side to within just three following a split from the foul line. Lady Luck smiled on the hosts, though.

Hawkinson came through with the most important play of the night: a three-point play conversion to give themselves a six-point breathing room with 49.9 seconds left to play.

Then came the dagger shortly after, which he struck by nailing a three-pointer from the corner with less than 20 ticks left to deal the killer blow - much to the joy of the crowd.

TCL Player of the Game: Keisei Tominaga was one of those who helped Hawkinson and Yuki Kawamura (14 points) in giving Japan an early lead, eventually finishing with 22 points on 6 three-pointers. He already had 16 on a perfect 6-of-6 clip from the field in the first half.


Stats don't lie: Cape Verde, with Tavares, won the rebounding battle, 46-33. But outside shooting spelled the difference for Japan as they hit 12 while their foes only had 7.

Bottomline: Japan are coming back to the Olympics for the second time in a row after hosting the previous edition in Tokyo. It will also be their first back-to-back appearance in the global multi-sporting event since the 1972 and 1976 Games.

They said: "I think we showed the world what we can do. Now we're on everybody's radar, we're on everybody's maps. That's a big step." - Tom Hovasse, Head Coach, Japan.

"I'm so proud of my team, my boys. We came from a small country. We came for the first time in this competition. I'm just so proud of these guys." - Emanuel Trovoada, Head Coach, Cape Verde

Press conference: