Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Stankovic Cup Day 4 – Japan’s upset win not enough for semifinal seed

Japan won, but Qatar advanced. It’s cruel, but it’s that simple.

Japan pulled up the first upset of the tournament today when they rallied and beat Qatar 70-65. However, because of the 26-point loss to Syria, Japan’s chance of making the semifinal came down a couple baskets short.

If Japan beat Philippines tomorrow, which is 99% possible, Japan, Syria and Qatar will be 2-1 all in wins and losses. The first tie-breaker compares head-to-head record, which three teams are the same at 1-1. It takes them to the second tie-breaker – point differential.

In this case, Syria jumps to number one with 15 points-plus, Qatar second with 6 points-plus, while Japan finished last with 21 points-minus. That explains why Qatar lost the game but got the semifinal seed.

However, Japan did shock Qatar today with a tough interior defense and quickness. With the inside presence of twin brothers Joji and Kosuke Takeuchi, both 6-7, Japan limited Qatar’s inside attack and trailed by only two, 34-36, at the half.

Thanks to Qatar’s poor foul-shooting and a 23-14 third quarter, Japan took control of the momentum in the second half. Before the game is done Qatar made the final push, Erfan Ali Saeed scored three points and cut the lead to 68-64 with 1:33 to go. Both team failed to make shot in the next two minutes.

With one minute remaining, Yasseen Ismail Mousa blanked two free-throws, missing a wonderful opportunity to cut the deficit to one basket. Japan’s point guard Kei Igarashi drove the lane and made a high-arching finger-roll, increasing the lead to five points and the final score, 70-65.

As a team, Qatar made only 12 of 25 free-throws and passed for only 7 assists in the game. They have to improve on both categories in the semi in order to do better.

Qatar and Syria both clinched a semifinal birth and the ticket to the next Asian Championship. Top five teams in the Stankovic Cup receive the automatic seeds in the 2005 Asian Championships.

Japan 70-65 Qatar (Half 34-36)
Japan – J. Takeuchi 17p+10rb+2s+2blk, R. Sakurai 14p, Y. Saito 10p, K. Takeuchi 7p+6rb+2blk
Qatar – A.T. Ali 18p, Y.I. Mousa 16p+8rb+3s, E.A. Saeed 12p+8rb