“We really wanted the pace to be our pace against Japan and keep the score low,” said Head Coach Rich Chambers. “Wumi was fantastic and she kept us in the game. We’ll be first or second in this pool at the end of this round.”
For the fifth straight game, the JWNT held an advantage in the rebounding department, out-rebounding Japan 44-34, led by 10 from Agunbiade. Williams and Fields tallied eight rebounds each, while Michelle Plouffe grabbed seven.
Coming into the game, Japan led the tournament in team scoring, averaging 85 points a game, while shooting 60% from the field. The JWNT held them to 42% (26-62) shooting and 25 points below their tournament average.
Canada was able to stay out of foul trouble, only committing four fouls the entire game. This allowed the starting five players, to play over 25 minutes each, with Michelle Plouffe leading the way, playing 35 minutes.
One of the key defensive players for Canada is Katherine Plouffe (Edmonton, AB), who grabbed six rebounds in nearly 29 minutes of play.
“It was good for us to play a close game, and a good reality check for us,” said Plouffe, who scored six points in the win. “We know we can’t get too high or too low, as the level of competition is getting higher. We have to keep playing our best, like we’ve been doing in order for us to keep winning.”
For the first time in the tournament, the JWNT did not jump out to an early lead. They trailed throughout the first quarter, but thanks to an Agunbiade bucket, the JWNT took a narrow 19-17 lead.
In the second quarter, Agunbiade and Michelle Plouffe went on a scoring run, which helped the JWNT extend their lead. The JWNT out-scored Japan 22-12 in the quarter, and headed into halftime with a 12 point lead.
In the second half, Fields hit a three-pointer to increase the lead to 17 halfway through the third quarter, but Japan showed why they were the highest scoring team in the tournament and went on a 19-3 run in the final four minutes of the quarter to cut the lead to three.
Japan took their first lead since the opening minutes of the game with eight minutes remaining in the game, but Kellie Ring (Ottawa, ON) quickly answered to give Canada the lead. Japan would retake the lead one minute later, but two steals and six quick points by Fields, combined with defensive effort down the stretch helped the JWNT hold on to the victory.
The victory pushes the JWNT’s record to 5-0 and will finish first or second in Group E; therefore, have clinched a spot into the quarter-final. Canada will play the USA tomorrow at 1:30 pm local time (1:30 pm ET) to wrap up second round play.