Japan takes 1 step closer to Paris Olympics berth with comeback win vs. Venezuela

Keisei Tominaga celebrates after making a shot. FIBA
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Japan's bid for the lone outright Asian slot in the Paris Olympics men's 5x5 basketball berth got a major boost on Thursday night after beating Venezuela, 86-77, in their FIBA World Cup classification game at the Okinawa Arena.

Down for most of the game, Japan broke loose in the fourth quarter, outscoring Venezuela, 33-15, to steal the victory.

Makoto Hiejima led Japan, now with two wins in the FIBA World Cup, with 23 points on 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, two rebounds, and two steals.

Yuta Watanabe added 21 points, eight rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and one steal, while Yuki Kawamura put up 19 points, four rebounds, and 11 assists.

The result put Gilas Pilipinas in a tough situation, in which a loss to South Sudan in a game ongoing at the Smart Araneta Coliseum here will officially knock them out of contention for the outright Paris Olympics slot.

Garly Sojo put up 20 points, six rebounds, two assists, and one steal, while Heissler Guillent put up 10 points, 10 assists, and three rebounds for Venezuela.

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