Women's hoops shuts down Japan, advances to semifinals
By Nathan Engel
SOFIA, Bulgaria - The U.S. women’s basketball squad kicked off its medal-round run with a 90-25 victory against Japan in the quarterfinals Thursday.
The U.S. started the first quarter determined to put the game out of reach early, with a 14-0 run. Japan, the fourth-place team in Group B, finally got on the board with two free throws with 4:56 left in the quarter and then added seven quick points.
U.S. coach Laura Edwards promptly called a timeout.
“I felt like the U.S. was starting to become a little lazy and playing down to Japan’s level,” Edwards said. “Good defense will create good offense. That’s why I had to call timeout, to set things straight.”
The U.S. continued to roll in the second quarter, building its lead to a 38-13 lead going into halftime.
However, U.S. coaches weren’t pleased with a 25-point lead – they expected better from their players, considering the disparity in talent level between the two teams.
In the third quarter, the U.S. responded with a strong performance, driven by guard Alexa Justus, who came on the floor and led the court press on defense.
“I was just following what the coaches emphasized to us at halftime. I really wanted to prove myself to the coaches too so that they can trust me,” Justus said.
With Justus in the game, the U.S. offense came alive and pulled away from Japan with a 31-4 run.
Japan was not able to convert a field goal until 2:30 remained in the quarter.
Justus finished the game with eight points, seven assists and six rebounds.
“When we play an opponent like Japan, it is easy for us to play a little uninspiring,” said guard Touria Boren, who is playing in her last Deaflympics. “Some of the players might have not wanted to risk themselves too much.”
Edwards said she felt Japan played with more heart and outmuscled and outrebounded the U.S. despite their size and ability disadvantage.
Forward/center Lindsay Stergio led the team with 16 points and 18 rebounds, and forward/center Easter Faafiti and center Nukeitra Hayes had 12 rebounds each.
The U.S. plays Greece, which defeated Belarus, 80-51, in the semifinals at noon (5 a.m. ET) Friday at Overgas Hall.