Japan, co-hosts of the FIBA World Cup 2023, secured a spot in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament for the second consecutive time with a 80-71 victory over Cape Verde in Okinawa on Saturday. After a poor performance in their previous game against Venezuela, Josh Hawkinson bounced back with an outstanding performance, scoring 29 points and grabbing seven rebounds while playing all 40 minutes. Tominaga Keisei also played a crucial role off the bench, contributing 22 points, including six three-pointers out of eight attempts.
Entering the match, Japan knew that a win would guarantee them the highest finish by an Asian team in the tournament and the sole qualifying spot for Asia for the Paris 2024 Olympics. Initially trailing by two points after the first quarter, the Akatsuki team came to life in the second by outscoring their opponents 33-18, securing a 50-37 lead at halftime. They maintained their lead throughout the game, extending it to 18 points going into the final period. Despite only scoring seven points in the last 10 minutes, they managed to hold off Cape Verde and secure their return to the Olympic Games.
In another historic moment, South Sudan also made history by qualifying for their first-ever Olympic basketball tournament. More updates to follow.