Japan orchestrated what could be considered one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of the FIBA Basketball World Cup, eliminating Finland from contention with a final score of 98-88 on Sunday night at the Okinawa Arena.
The Akatsuki team mounted an impressive recovery after being 18 points behind in the third quarter. The trio of Keisei Tominaga, Yuki Kawamura, and Josh Hawkinson collaborated to ignite a sensational 26-7 surge. This resurgence allowed them to reclaim the lead at 79-78, with a mere 4:35 left in the concluding quarter.
Maintaining their hold on the advantage, the hosts, led by Kawamura and Hawkinson, extended their dominance with eight consecutive points, stretching the margin to 87-78 with less than three minutes on the clock.
Another three-pointer from Kawamura, combined with a Tominaga lay-up following a fast break, solidified a substantial 96-86 lead. With this substantial buffer, they confidently secured their victory, much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd in attendance.
“That was a crazy game,” said Tom Hovasse, Head Coach of Japan. “We were down 18 at one point, but the guys just never gave up. It was looking kinda bleak out there. We haven’t shot the ball well in the last three or four games. I think the young guys, Kawamura and Tominaga came in and gave us a really big boost on the offensive end.
“Tominaga really was active on defense, too, which is really important for us. That was crazy. The fans were amazing. That was a big win for us. I’m really happy for the guys. We’re trying to create a new standard here for Japan and this was definitely a big step in the right direction.”
Watch the game highlights between Japan and Finland in the First Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023: