That last step is a doozy, but China's in the Olympics
Updated: 2011-09-26 07:55
By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)
China's Yi Jianlian (center) tries to fight off a block by Jordan's Ali Jamal Zaghab (right) at the Asia Basketball Championship final in Wuhan, Hubei province on Sunday. China won, 70-69, to secure a berth at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Yi had 25 points and 16 rebounds to lead host China to its 15th Asian title. Yi won the tournament's MVP trophy. Cui Meng / China Daily
WUHAN, Hubei province - They were fully prepared for a tough night, but wow.
A summer's worth of effort paid off when China narrowly defeated Jordan, 70-69, to claim the title at the 26th FIBA Asia Championship on Sunday and clinch a spot at next year's London Olympic Games.
"We knew it was gonna be a hard game to play - we prepared well mentally," said China's Yi Jianlian, who packed in 25 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks. "But the toughness was still beyond our imagination. So hard tonight. I am very excited."
The host can finally relax a little.
"We actually carried a burden to play this game. It's impossible to play at home free minded," said Zhu Fangyu. "Our effort paid off, and we will work hard next year in London."
During a dangerous fourth quarter, China almost lost control of the game after Jordan cut the margin to one point in the last minute.
Yi knocked down a crucial free throw to seal the victory after Yi Li scored five points, including a dunk that helped maintain momentum.
Facing a packed, boisterous stadium, China's inside-out offense was bogged down by nerves and Jordan's tough team defense, leading to a first half in which it shot 31 percent 11-of-35 - from the field.
"We started a little bit nervous, but our defense (worked hard). I will sleep with the winning ball tonight," said China's head coach, Bob Donewald, in an interview with CCTV.
Led by veteran playmaker Osama Daghles, who guided victories over Iran and the Philippines, Jordan hit an 8-0 run in the second quarter and led, 36-31, at halftime.
China went back to basics on offense in the second half, posting up early and often during a 20-6 run in the third quarter to retake the lead.
The fourth quarter featured a fierce physical battle in the paint.
Jordan star Zaid Abbas fouled out with four minutes to go. A jubilant Yi Jianlian, the tournament MVP, pretended to be a cameraman taking photos of his teammates during the award ceremony.
Apart from the twoYis, veteran Wang Zhizhi and Liu Wei combined for 23 points, while swingman Sun Yue contributed five rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
Jordan's Rasheim Wright poured in a game-high 26 points, while Abbas delivered 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Jordan did earn a berth at next year's FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament.
Earlier, in the bronze medal game, South Korea narrowly edged out the Philippines, 70-68 with help from a fourth-quarter comeback.
South Korea also earned a berth at the Olympic qualifying event. Beat-up Iran defeated Lebanon, 87-65, to finish fifth.
(China Daily 09/26/2011 page23)