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Trust was key in Korea's long anticipated win over rivals China says Park Ji Su
AUCKLAND (New Zealand) - You’d have to go back quite a bit to get to Korea’s previous win over China at FIBA competitions. As a matter of fact, you’d have to turn the calendar back almost exactly 6 years ago on November 2, 2013 for that Semi-finals victory. Korea squeezed in a win over China at the 2014 Asian Games but when it came to FIBA competitions, it’s been a while.
That drought came to a close at the first game of FIBA Women’s Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament for Asia-Oceania region with Korea edging out their rivals in the slightest of leads, 81-80.
29-year-old veteran Kim Danbi had the ball in her hands, swarmed by two Chinese defenders as the buzzer sounded before she calmly walked over to join in on embracing her celebrating teammates. The 1.80M (5’11”) guard among one of the players on the squad that beat China in 2013.
“It was amazing,” Kim said of the moment. “All of us knew that it has been a long time that we beat them so I felt very good.”
Her teammates barely tried to contain their emotions over the victory when the result became official. Kim Jung Eun pranced and leaped right into the arms of Korea’s star center, Park Ji Su, joined quickly by Park Hyejin who was leaping up and down in excitement at the center court. It was somehow fitting that the trio would be at the center stage of the final moment of the game.
Park Ji Su had carried her team throughout the entire game, scoring all of her 23 points in the first 3 quarters and negating the size of China’s post players. With Park hitting nearly everything that came out of her hands, Korea had built up a lead of as much as 13 points and were up by 10 at the start of the final interval.
(Park Ji Su)
However, China fought back and eventually took the lead on a three-pointer by Li Meng with less than a minute left. Park had been held to 0 points in the 4th quarter, but Korea weren’t about to give up.
“We really wanted this win,” said Park of the team’s composure in the final moments. “We just trusted each other and tried to keep focus on every possession at the later part of the game and it worked well.”
With Park covered tightly by China, Kim Jung Eun blew by her defender to get Korea back to within 1 point with 42 seconds to go. In the following offensive possession, as China’s defense stayed wary of Ji Su’s presence, Hyejin drove in to reclaim Korea’s lead for good. Jung Eun finished with 21 points and Hyejin ended up with 11.
Both were also key contributors in the 2013 win over China.
(Kim Jung Eun, FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2013)
“We expected that it would be a very tough game. We have lots of experienced players so we just trusted each other and tried to execute what we were good at,” Park Ji Su said of how her teammates stepped up in the final minute. “So even from the comeback of China, I believed that we could make it.”
The win puts Korea in a good position moving forward towards claiming one of the two spots available in Auckland to advance to the FIBA Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2020. Having already beating the highest ranked team in the Group, Korea will now face relatively easier matchups in the Philippines and hosts New Zealand on November 16 and 17, respectively.
Korea obviously won’t take their oppositions lightly, but getting the first win over longtime rivals China certainly makes their lives a bit easier heading into the weekend.