China snap Japan run to win women's Asia Cup title


China snap Japan run to win women's Asia Cup title
China players celebrate victory at the Asia Cup / © AFP

Giant centre Han Xu sank 26 points as China stunned five-time defending champions Japan 73-71 Sunday to win their first women's Asia Cup basketball title in more than a decade.

New York Liberty's Han also made 10 rebounds and two assists at Sydney Olympic Park, while fellow superstar Li Meng poured in 17 points to hand world number two China its 12th crown and first since 2011.

The victory snapped Japan's dominance in the tournament dating back to Bangkok in 2013 and ended the Tokyo Olympic silver medallist's dream of making it six in a row.

No nation other than Japan, China or South Africa has won the Asia Cup since its inception in 1965.

Hosts Australia took bronze for the third consecutive tournament after crushing New Zealand 81-59.

"It feels unreal. We didn't expect we could be champions before the tournament started," said China coach Zheng Wei.

"At our training camp before the tournament we had some problems like injuries and not every player joining us at the start of the camp. But our team has got better and better.

"I'm very proud them."

Weina Jin scored an early bucket for China but Japan quickly found their stride in an intense first quarter that ended level-pegging at 17-17.

With tournament MVP Han, who towers 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 metres), leading the way, China went on a 7-0 run in the second stanza to pull clear, but again a relentless Japan came roaring back.

With lightning-fast transition and aggressive defence, Japan went 18-2 to reach half-time 35-26 in front.

China snap Japan run to win women's Asia Cup title
China upset Japan to win the women's Asia Cup / © AFP

China lifted the tempo in the third stanza and edged a point clear, but Japan weathered the storm to take a 51-48 lead into the home stretch.

But in a nail-biting finish, the Chinese held their nerve to triumph in a game that went to the wire.

"We tried hard, all the players did well," said Japan coach Toru Onzuka.

"We can learn from this (Chinese) team, they are a great team."

All four semi-finalists in the eight-team competition secured a place at the 2024 Paris Olympic qualifying tournament.

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