Major plot twist in Asia's race to Paris as Japan stuns Finland

Yuki Togashi gets some sort of a victory lift after Japan stunned Finland. FIBA
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Japan made a huge step forward in the race for the lone outright Asian spot in the Paris Olympics men's 5x5 basketball event after stunning Finland, 98-88, in their FIBA World Cup game on Sunday night at the Okinawa Arena.

In the game that ended just at the same time Gilas lost to Angola at the Smart Araneta Coliseum here, Japan delivered the plot twist to the Olympic race by using a stinging fourth-quarter run to take down Finland, which appeared to be pulling away by halftime.

Japan delighted the home crowd after racing to a 22-15 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Finland responded with a 31-14 second quarter to take a 46-36 halftime lead.

After both teams seemingly canceled each other offensively in the third period, Japan blasted off in the payoff quarter by outscoring Finland, 35-15, to take the come-from-behind win.

Joshua Hawkinson led Japan with 28 points, 19 rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal, while Yuki Kawamura added 25 points, one rebound, and nine assists.

NBA All-Star Lauri Markkanen led Finland with 27 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, and one block.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno