The last of the quarter-finals of the men’s wheelchair basketball competition at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games was between two Asia-Oceania powerhouses, Japan versus Australia. From the start, the Japanese delegation in the stands were treated to an equal game. With the teams finishing the first quarter 14 to 14.
Japan upped the game pace in the second quarter, and the added pressure caused Australia’s shooting to go wayward and allowed Japan to go into the break with a 35-30 advantage.
The Japanese started to believe they could pull it off and cause the upset of the tournament so far. Early in the fourth quarter, Kei Akita hit a 2 pointer for a double-digit 49-39 lead. Even though Australia cut the lead back to two points, they could not manage to get a firm grip on Japan’s team play, which distributed their scoring amongst several players during crunch time.
In the end, it was Deja Vous for Australia suffering a devastating 61-55 loss, and ending up in the 5-6 place game just like at Rio 2016.
Japan, the host of these Paralympic Games, celebrated a historic victory. For the first time ever, as they advance to a Paralympics wheelchair basketball semi-final, keeping their medal hopes alive.
Japan’s Hiroaki Kozai explained what it means to him and his team securing a top-four finish, saying:
“It doesn’t seem real right now. It seems totally unreal, because I’ve never been here (at this stage) before.
“Since 2006, that was my first year on the national team, we couldn’t make it to the top four. So it doesn’t seem real but the fact that we had a win today, is such a great thing for us.”
The semi-finals will take place Friday 3 September:
18:15 – Spain v USA
20:45 – GB v Japan
For a full wheelchair basketball schedule and results click here.
Photo: Shingo Ito X-1/ Quote OIS