The USA defeated Japan by a score of 81 – 63 in the Gold Medal game of the 2018 Men’s U21 World Deaf Basketball Championships on the Donald Padden Court at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. The USA team defense was able to overcome a scorching performance by Japan’s Kazuma Tsuya, who scored nailed 6 three pointers on his way to 38 points. Tsuya, who plays professional basketball in Japan and played in the 2017 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, is a 6’2” wing player who can do it all – be it running the fast break and stopping on a dime to pull up for a three-pointer or using his excellent footwork in the post with his back to the basket against smaller-sized defenders – and his talents were on full display in tonight’s Gold Medal game.
The first quarter got off to a rousing start as there were three lead changes and at one point, Japan held the lead for over three minutes of length. However, once the USA defense got going, they were able to throttle the Japan offense, holding Japan to 38 percent from the field. While Tsuya was able to efficiently start the game with a 9 point scoring performance on 4 for 6 shooting, the rest of his team went 2 for 12 and struggled to get going against the intense pressure coming from the USA defense. The aggressive USA defense forced 4 turnovers and scored 8 points off of these turnovers in the first quarter. On offense, USA was paced by the scoring efforts of Tajah Fraley’s (Greenville, SC) 8 points and Rogers Printup’s (Orange, CA) 6 points. Fraley, who also grabbed 7 rebounds in the first quarter, was able to efficiently score by slashing to through the Japan defense and using his natural length to tip in one layup after another. By the end of the first quarter, the USA held a 22 – 15 lead over Japan, leading by 7.
During the second quarter, the vaunted USA offense made an appearance once again, as Noah Valencia (Riverside, CA) was an outstanding facilitator in his role as point guard and led an offense that shot a scorching 75 percent from the field on 12 for 16 shooting. Led by the play of Valencia, the offensive consistency of Fraley, and the resurgence of returning big man Jason Boateng (Dublin, OH), who had been out the last few games with a virus and was a physical force in the paint tonight, the USA offense was able to score 26 points in the second quarter on their way to a 48 – 24 halftime lead.
During halftime, Japan head coach Yoritaka Ueda must have delivered an inspiring motivational talk because in the third quarter, Japan came out and fought back against the USA team, outscoring USA by five in the quarter. The Japan defense, led by the play of Tsuya and Ryosuke Mitsui, held the USA offense to just 30 percent from the field and forced USA into making 4 turnovers in the quarter. On offense, Tsuya continued to remain hot from the field for Japan, knocking down 2 three-pointers on his way to scoring 10 points in the quarter. The way Tsuya was able to pull up for three was a majestic sight to behold. Watching him orchestrate the Japan offense felt like things were in slow-motion, he would pull off a crossover then a behind-the-back dribble which led to another crossover that put his defender on their heels. Then, as his defender would desperately try to recover with an extended arm in his face, Tsuya would rise up in front of them like a juggernaut, utilizing his picture-perfect shooting form as he made his way towards releasing the ball at the height of his jump. More often than not, the result of his shots were nothing-but-net swishes that lapped with the sound of rain hitting an umbrella. Tsuyua’s kinds of shots were what playground ballers refer to when they say they’re “making it rain” out there. Alas, despite Tsuya’s awe-inspiring performance and even-though Japan was able to outscore USA by five in the third, Japan was still down 62 – 39 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The final quarter of the game saw Japan continue to fight hard and outscore the USA team yet again, but not by enough to overcome the large lead established in the first half by the USA. Tsuya continued to give it his all, nailing two more three pointers on his way to scoring 14 points in the quarter on 50 percent shooting from the field. For the USA, Fraley and Printup paced the team in the fourth, combining to score 8 points and grab 6 rebounds. The final score resulted in an 18-point USA victory over Japan with a score of 81 – 63.
Game Notes / Awards: Japan’s Kazuma Tsuya was named Most Valuable Player of the Men’s 2018 U21 World Deaf Basketball Championships. USA’s Rogers Printup was named to the Best Five team for the Men’s 2018 U21 World Deaf Basketball Championships (the five strongest overall performers in the tournament were selected for this award).
Game Note / Key Stat Leaders:
USA: Edwards (12 pts, 6-11 FG, 6 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 TO, 1 Stl), Fraley (19 pts, 9-17 FG< 1-3 3pt FG, 13 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 TO, 4 Stl), Printup (18 pts, 9-16 FG, 13 Reb, 3 Ast, 5 TO, 1 Blk, 1 Stl), Valencia (7 pts, 3-10 FG, 1-7 3pt FG, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl)
JPN: Echizen (5 pts, 1-9 FG, 2-2 FT, 8 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 TO, 4 Stl), Tsuya (38 pts, 14-30 FG, 6-15 3pt FG, 4-6 FT, 5 Reb, 3 Ast, 4 TO, 2 Blk, 1 Stl), Nagata (16 pts, 5-18 FG, 1-7 3pt FG, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 TO, 1 Stl)
Game Notes / Coaches: Yoritaka Ueda is the head coach for Japan and Keisuke Hamada is the assistant coach. Kevin Kovacs is the head coach for USA and the assistant coaches are John Perry and Keith Westhoelter.
Credit: Stephen Farias