Japan’s women’s Olympic basketball bid in limbo after Hungary loss

The Japanese women’s basketball team’s ticket to the Paris Games hangs in the balance after the squad lost 81-75 to host Hungary at an Olympic qualifying tournament on Friday.

Japan, ranked ninth in the world, fell to 19th-ranked Hungary, while No. 4 Spain beat No. 5 Canada in the day’s other game to see all four teams in the round-robin tied at 1-1. The top three squads after Sunday’s final round in Sopron will book their Olympic berths.

Japan, which took silver at the Tokyo Games, was a win away from the Summer Games after overcoming Spain 86-75 on Thursday and carried its momentum into the game against Hungary, leading 22-13 after the first quarter.

But Hungary’s domination of the boards enabled it to tie the game 32-32 at halftime before taking a five-point lead into the final quarter. Normally deadly behind the arc, Japan managed to go just 9-for-28 from deep in an intense away atmosphere.

Saori Miyazaki, who led Japan with 15 points along with Mai Yamamoto, tied the game at 73-73 with a free throw with two minutes remaining before Hungary pulled away again.

“We really wanted to win. I’m very frustrated,” Japan head coach Toru Onzuka said. “We let them get on a roll and play comfortably, using the home advantage.”

Japan must beat Canada on Sunday to guarantee Olympic qualification.

“We’ll look to play Japan’s style of basketball throughout the 40 minutes against Canada,” Onzuka said.