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China, Japan to meet in Women's Basketball Asia Cup final

© Provided by Xinhua

China beat hosts Australia 74-60 to set up a final against Japan at the FIBA Women's Basketball Asia Cup in Sydney.

SYDNEY, July 1 (Xinhua) -- World number two China overcame hosts Australia 74-60 on Saturday to set up a mouth-watering final against Japan at the FIBA Women's Basketball Asia Cup in Sydney.

China had all the answers in a gripping semifinal and finished strongly to defy the home fans as Han Xu, arguably the Player of The Tournament, starred with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

There was a concern for China when captain Yang Liwei hobbled off in the dying stages of the contest with what appeared to be a leg injury.

© Provided by Xinhua

World number three Australia were led by Alice Kunek's 16 points, but once again fell short to rival China who prevailed 61-59 in a thrilling semifinal between the teams at last year's World Cup.

China started slowly and were scoreless in the opening four and a half minutes, missing their first nine field goal attempts.

But China settled into the game and went on an 18-6 run to lead by seven points after the first quarter.

Australia hit back in the second quarter and trimmed the deficit to 35-32 by halftime.

The see-saw of a contest continued with buckets hard to find in a nerve-jangling contest, but a three-pointer from Han Xu powered China to a 44-36 edge midway through the third quarter.

© Provided by Xinhua

China started wearing down Australia and stretched their lead to 10 points entering the fourth quarter before overpowering their tiring opponents to storm into the final.

China will be out to end five-time defending champion Japan's stranglehold of the tournament in a blockbuster final on Sunday.

They will also be aiming to revenge after losing to Japan in the final of the last two Asia Cup finals, including a tense 78-73 defeat two years ago.

Japan arrived in Sydney looking to make amends for a lackluster World Cup finish of ninth last year.

They've done that so far and made a statement with a crushing 88-52 victory over New Zealand, who struggled in their first-ever Asia Cup semi-final.

World number nine Japan again proved their proficiency from beyond the arc, nailing 14 three-pointers compared to New Zealand, who shot just 2 of 9.

Eleven players hit the scoreboard for Japan, who were paced by Stephanie Mawuli's 17 points in just 19 minutes.

The freewheeling Japan started fast in trademark fashion to lead 24-11 after the first quarter and didn't relent to stretch their advantage to 47-25 at half-time.

© Provided by Xinhua

Japan's irresistible form continued to cruise into the final with all four of their victories being by 25 or more points.

"We had a really good start to the game and everyone really concentrated," Mawuli said. "We never gave up and that led to us winning."

Australia and New Zealand will look for the consolation of finishing third when they square-off on Sunday.

China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympic Qualifying tournament.

South Korea, winners of a record 12 Asia Cup titles, finished fifth after beating the Philippines 80-71 in the classification game to start the day's action.

Park Jihyun scored 24 points for South Korea, who ended the tournament on a high but the former Asian powerhouse remains titleless since 2007.