In a classic combat that stretched the frontiers of ingenuity and improvisation, China regained the FIBA-Asia championship on Thursday.
Before a huge gathering, which included a sizable number of Chinese and Korean spectators, the teams exemplified the technical excellence of what constitutes the art and science of basketball at the JN Stadium where China beat Korea by 91 points to 71.
In taking the 10th gold medal in the championship for women, China, which lost the bronze medal contest to Russia in the Olympic Games at Beijing in 2008, established its Asian hegemony.
China was all geared up to make a statement here after surrendering the title in 2007 and did so handsomely winning all the seven matches.
China’s hold on the encounter was complete even as the star Miao Lijie sank the first basket. But, thereafter, it was a cascade of moves, with the tall and agile Chen Nan, figuring prominently in a majority of the sallies.
She was an outstanding exponent of all-round skill — defending, shooting and passing. She towered over every one, both literally and figuratively.
She scored using both hands. Some her baskets executed with the left arm going over the hoop were a spectacle to behold.
Lan Bian was another proficient player after Miao Lijie became a victim of tough marking by the Koreans.
By bottling up Miao, the Korean defence only allowed the rest of the Chinese to score from all angles. Fan Zhang, made the best of the gaps.
For the Koreans, veteran Sun Min sparkled briefly but it was the craft and charm of Yeon Ha Beon, that the kept the team in an attacking mode.
Close marking made basketing a difficult exercise for both as evidenced by the first quarter score when China led only by a solitary point 18-17.
But in the second, the Chinese escalated the pace to a new pitch and scored some scintillating shots.
They garnered 21 points in this period and increased it to 29 points in the next before sealing up the contest with a lead of 20 points. In the pool match China had beaten Korea 75-72.
The bronze medal contest was invested with more than the usual significance in this competition. The winner was to seal the third spot for the next World Championship in the Czech Republic in 2010. Japan went all out to retain the third place obtained at the last edition at Incheon. It overcame a stiff challenge from Chinese Taipei to ensure the bronze at 72-57. This was Japan’s 10th bronze in 22 appearances.
Increasing the lead
Initially circumspect due to Taipei’s aggressive tactics, the Japanese controlled the pace admirably as the match wore on. With Yuko Oga in focus in the shooting range, Japan widened the lead progressively from 18-11 in the first quarter to 39-19 at half-time.
Ai Mitani came off with a few lovely three pointers. Hui Yun Cheng, the most consistent scorer for Chinese Taipei, once again figured prominently on the chart with 17 points.
China, Korea and Japan qualified for the World Championship 2010 in the Czech Republic.
Geethu Anna Jose, with a tally of 132 points, emerged the top scorer of the championship.
Sheikh Saud Bin Ali Al-Thani, President, FIBA-Asia Basketball Federation, gave away the trophy.
Special prizes: Top Rebounder: Asami Yoshida (Japan) (54); Top Three-pointer: Park Jung Eun (Korea) 19; Most Valuable Player: Lan Bian (China); Most Promising Player: Sandra Najem (Lebanon).
The results: Final: China 91 ( Lan Bian 14, Fan Zhang 11, Ma Zhengyu 18, Chen Xioli 13, Chen Nan 17) beat Korea 71 ( Yeon Ha Beon 29, Sunmin Jung 17).
Third place: Japan 72 ( Noriko Koiso 21, Ai Mitani 16, Yuko Oga 10) beat Chinese Taipei 57 ( Hui-Yun Cheng 17).