Japanese women beat Spain to move to brink of Olympic berth

World No. 9 Japan moved within one win of qualifying for the women’s basketball tournament at this summer’s Paris Olympics by defeating No. 4 Spain 86-75 on Thursday.

The Japanese, who took silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, will book a third consecutive Olympic appearance with a win over qualifying tournament host Hungary on Friday.

Japan outscored Spain in each of the first three quarters, starting with a 26-18 first stanza. Saki Hayashi and Evelyn Mawuli led all scorers with 20 points apiece in the Hungarian city of Sopron.

“My players did what we aimed to do,” Japan head coach Toru Onzuka said. “It was difficult (to outplay Spain) inside, but we kept our momentum going by shooting well beyond the arc.”

The top three finishers will qualify from the four-team, round-robin tournament that also features Canada.

No. 5 Canada defeated No. 19 Hungary 67-55 in Thursday’s other game.