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Canada and Japan come up big in FIBA 3×3 Olympic qualifiers

Here in Japan, we couldn’t watch the 2020 Olympics, due to the pandemic. Four years later, we get to witness qualifiers for the Paris games instead.

Canada and japan come up big in fiba 3x3 olympic qualifiers
Canada and japan come up big in fiba 3x3 olympic qualifiers

“From the streets to the Olympics.” Ever since 3×3 basketball made its official Olympic debut in Tokyo, the half-court sport has taken over the whole world.

Now, with Paris 2024 just a kiss away, FIBA are hosting part of their Universality Olympic Qualifying Tournament here in Japan.

Utsunomiya to be map exact, as BasketballBuzz caught a couple of hours on a train from Tokyo (with Dennis Rodman’s ‘Bad As I Wanna Be’ autobiography for company) to take in the epic event that saw the hosts and our very own Canada come up clutch.

Watching the first session of this first of three-day event in the terrific Tochigi prefecture’s illuminating Light Cube Arena, this was all amazing. A world tour that captured the nation and all the countries competing. Beginning in the same city that has become synonymous with 3×3 basketball.

As Alex Sanchez, the Managing Director of International basketball Federation and FIBA’s 3×3 puts it in the tournament program, “the city of Utsunomiya, with its rich history and vibrant culture, has been an integral part of the 3×3 World Tour since its inception.”

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The seven time host of the tour, opened proceedings for the third time, and it really was the charm. The budokan beauty of the Light Cube held a world of wonders.

Here’s what we saw.

The hustle and heart of this preferred and more popular form of Olympic basketball tipped off with two men’s games. Even if that isn’t the way they start things off on these check ball black-tops.

Lithuania beat Brazil 21-14 as we dove right into Pool A. Then, the Netherlands and Puerto Rico really duked it out in a blood and bruising affair that saw Holland come away 21–16 winners.

Paige crozon shots jumpshot during canada vs kenya 2024 fiba 3x3 olympics qualifiers in japan
Paige Crozon attempts a jumpshot during Canada’s first game against Kenya at the 2024 FIBA 3×3 Olympics qualifiers in Japan – Photo: Canada Basketball

After that, we had four women’s games to enjoy in the afternoon session, and it all started with us. Canada. Highlighted by the big Plouffe twins (Katherine and Michelle), the spirit of Kacie Bosch and Cassandra Sidney Brown. All capped off by the shot of Paige Crozon storming the perimeter for a good look.

How about a 19-12 win over Kenya as time expired? That certainly was a good one, as these Canadians look ready for France.

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You see, we all know this relatively new sport’s rules now, but just as a recap, it’s the first to 21 points, or whoever leads after ten minutes. If both teams are tied then, like a shoelace simile the play-by-play announcer broke out, it’s sudden death. The first team to go two points ahead. Making for more downtown Hail Mary’s than running for the last train.

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This is where borderless basketball becomes beautiful. With the Netherlands next game against Australia in the women’s pool, the Netherlands won in OT, 18-16, with the very first shot they took. Nothing is this exciting when it ends this fast.

Janis Boonstra crouched and screamed when she hit the definitive dagger that put the Aussies away. And coming off court, did I catch her stealing a kiss with bleached blonde countryman Worthy de Jong, who left it all on the floor a couple of contests before?

I’ll never tell.

Another overtime spectacle saw a couple of more baskets traded before Germany settled Brazil 17-16. Then it was time for Japan’s women to face Austria. Amping up the crowd that was already fuelled with passion thanks to the orange of the couple from the Netherlands sat next to us (trust me…these guys definitely were an item).

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Tamami nakada and team japan celebrate following their victory over austria at 2024 fiba 3x3 olympics qualifiers
Tamami Nakada and Team Japan celebrate following their victory over Austria at 2024 FIBA 3×3 olympics qualifiers: Photo: Japan Basketball

Japan hit 21 to Austria’s 15 in ten nail-biting minutes that lasted a lifetime, like basketball in its final frames always does. Yet in a good way, as you didn’t know who was going to come out of this take no prisoner’s thriller, that saw bodies hit the floor. Especially as powerful point Yua Emura was taken out of the game with an injury, we hope she gets well soon from.

Yet, free throws from Tamami Nakada iced the game and sealed the deal for the first session.

As a train took us back from just a taste of this three day, three-on-three tourney, we knew these games, in tandem with this great sport syndicate itself, are only just beginning.

Now, how about a one-on-one for the next Olympics and ultimate basketball bragging rights? Country for country, wouldn’t you love to see the King take on the Joker himself for all the cards?

Basketball never stops…evolving and revolving around this watching world.

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