Basketball 3×3-French ladies finish Japan’s medal goals in emotional quarter-final

TOKYO, July 27 (Reuters) – The French reached the semi-finals for the first Olympic medals in 3×3 basketball and beat hosts Japan in a nerve-wracking elimination game on Tuesday.

Japan had turned the top-ranked French on their heads at the beginning of the tournament and then drove their only loss to a US team full of WNBA talent. But it was France’s night and defeated Japan 16:14.

“It was a really tough, really tough game,” said Frenchwoman Laetitia Guapo. “We knew we had to fight to get this victory and we did.”

After the final whistle, Stephanie Mawuli from Japan was overwhelmed by emotions before she was hugged by her teammates. As a group, they turned and bowed to the minimal audience of coaches and staff at Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, with viewers banned due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Chinese women’s team sent Italy forward relatively easily, while the men on the Russian Olympic Committee were more likely to want to eliminate the Netherlands.

In the last quarter-final game, the third-placed Latvians retaliated after a lackluster tournament by sending a Japanese team that was in the knockout.

“In the group stage it was uphill, downhill, uphill downhill. And it was very frustrating for us because everyone said Latvia and Serbia should be in the final,” said Latvian Agnis Cavars, who had one point in the 21:18 win .

“But we gathered yesterday and discussed all situations, like the family. And today we came through as a different team,” he said.

The Japanese men’s team had earned their playoff spot with a dramatic win against China on Tuesday.

“For a (Japanese) team that was formed three days before the Olympics to be able to play against guys who have been together for seven or eight years, I don’t regret our performance,” said Japan’s Ira Braun.

The US and Russian women as well as the Serbian and Belgian men had already secured their places in the semi-finals on Wednesday. The medal games also take place on Wednesday.

Serbia has been a powerhouse in the short 3×3 history and the Olympic team sailed through the round robin phase with a perfect record. Latvia is also a favorite for a medal, with a team that includes some of the world’s best players.

With its Olympic debut, 3×3 aims to strengthen its global profile as a faster, more compact alternative to traditional basketball.

To enhance this atmosphere, DJs play hip-hop music in 3×3 games throughout the competition, in keeping with the urban roots of the sport.

Reporting from Rocky Swift; Edited by Karishma Singh, Muralikumar Anantharaman and Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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