Willpower and pride: How a perfect game was born
Fans were already anticipating a fierce women's basketball final between China and Japan, well before the game had begun. The night before, the men's basketball team had just lost to the Philippines, narrowly missing the finals. China's women's and men's soccer teams had both been eliminated earlier, so women's basketball might be the long-awaited gold medal that Chinese fans had been waiting for.
While the win at the seventh Asian Games was certainly momentous, it was the game itself that took the forefront. It was a textbook match, won with precisions, tact and skill. Both teams fought with absolute perseverance, but in the end China's women's basketball team came out on top with a 74 to 72 win.
Fans of the women's China team can look back at the past decade, and see the constant struggle they faced losing to Japan for five consecutive years after 2013. At the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, the team only managed one win, raking tenth, the worst in history.
"The girls have learned from unforgettable failures," said head coach Zheng Wei after the game. "To be honest we were still struggling before the Asian Games. Some players were injured during the Women's Asia Cup several months ago, and Li Meng, one of our lead players, was playing in the WNBA, so we didn't have much time training together. However, we managed to persevere game by game, and our willpower never failed."
The game certainly wasn't an easy win. Although the Chinese team maintained the lead from the beginning, the second half of the game saw the Japanese team tied twice, with a perfect three-pointer just 13.8 seconds before the game ended.
Fans were on edge, but the Chinese team, with Zhang, didn't falter. A strong offence and two successful blocks clinched a narrow win. It was perhaps those 13.8 seconds which pushed sheer will-power forward, driving the Chinese team to new heights.
Like Zheng said, "Our girls never drop the ball at a critical moment."
While China certainly earned the win, the Japanese played an equally as impressive game, at one point climbing back from a 17 point deficit. Playing an away-game with almost no supporters also may have taken its toll on the team. It would've been a tough match for anyone, but the Japanese team still showed exceptional commitment.
"We played the game with pride," said head coach Toru Onzuka." I'm very grateful that our players all fought bravely."
Victory and defeat become history, once the final buzzer sings. With their Asian Games competition over, both teams will be preparing for the Summer Olympics in Paris next year.
I think we all look forward to more matches like last night's, reminding us what basketball is really about.