In the “winner-take-all” game in the Group A, Japan managed to beat Puerto Rico 79-70 after a thrilling game and advanced to the next round in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Ankara.
22-year-old center Yuka Mamiya played a huge role in Japan’s win, scoring 29 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Other than Mamiya, Ryoko Yano and Yuko Oga scored 13 and 17 points respectively.
For Puerto Rico, Jazmine Sepulveda played with her part with 24 points, four rebounds and three assists, but her impressive performance was not enough for the victory.
Athletic guard Carla Cortiyo scored 17 points but none of the other players on the team reached double-digits in scoring.
Japan started the game very aggressively on both ends of the floor, forcing Puerto Rico into contested shots, and attacking the rim whenever they could. That led them to an early lead.
Japan was pretty much in control in of the game in the first quarter, but Puerto Rico’s display changed a little bit in the second one, as they came back from a double-digit deficit. Still, the Japanese team took a 30-28 lead into the halftime.
Puerto Rico started the second half with a better ball movement, and they had their first lead in the game in the 2nd minute of the quarter. But Japan dominated the rest of the period on the inside. Also, their transition offense, which led them to many easy buckets, was almost flawless as they outscored Puerto Rico 16-6 in fast break points.
Puerto Rico was trailing 52-43 at the beginning of the last quarter and still had hope for a win, but Japanese players were much more aggressive on the defensive end in the rest of the game. Puerto Rico was down by 15 points with almost 5 minutes to go. Sepulveda’s individual efforts cut the deficit to a single digit, but were not enough for the victory.
With this win, Japan got the second place in Group A, winning one of their two games while Puerto Rico finished as third, losing all two of their games.