Japan’s best performance in Hovasse era keep Iran’s World Cup hopes on hold

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BEIRUT (Lebanon) – The crowd at Takasaki Arena was all smiles from start to finish as they witnessed arguably the best performance from Akatsuki Japan in the Tom Hovasse era, beating Iran, 96-61.

Yuki Kawamura started the game with a hot hand, going for 8 points in the first quarter, but that fire spread throughout the entire roster as the game proceeded. Akatsuki Japan opened the gap in the second quarter with a 30-13 advantage and cruised the rest of the way to the final buzzer.

The sharpshooting squad rained in 10 of their 17 three-pointers in the first half to the delight of their faithful fans as they continue to improve in each game heading towards the World Cup later this year.

With the win, Japan keep Iran’s hopes and dreams of returning to the World Cup on hold for at least another game.

Josh Hawkinson was among the most productive members on the Akatsuki Japan squad, recording 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists in his debut. Young point guards Yuki Kawamura (15 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 100 percent shooting) and Kai Toews (15 points, 5 assists, 5-6 field goal shooting) also had impressive performances in this impressive win.

The leading scorers for Iran were Mohammad Jamshidi and Behnam Yakhchali, scoring 15 points each. Team Melli will need to quickly regroup heading into a near must-win situation against China in their upcoming game.

Turning point: Kawamura scored a total of 8 points in the first quarter, as mentioned above, and more importantly, they were the last 8 points of the quarter for Japan which went unanswered by Iran. Yutaro Suda added one more basket to make it a 10-0 run for the home team, allowing Japan to capture the momentum.

You could hear the buzz in the arena they quickly grew to a roar of joy at the Takasaki Arena during that run.

Game Hero: It was an all-around performance throughout Japan’s roster, but the spotlight shined brightly on debutant Ren Kaneshika. The 19-year-old quickly got on the scoreboard and didn’t slow down to end up with a team-high of 20 points on six three-pointers.

Again, this was the first senior national team game ever for the teenager from Tokai University.

Stats don’t lie: Seventeen three-pointers was certainly an impressive feat, as was the 23 assists to highlight the team effort. However, Tom Hovasse might be most pleased with his squad because they outrebounded the physical Iran side 48-33 in this game.