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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chiba Hawks lose WCB championship game


I got to the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium just before 2 p.m. The two teams were already on the floor -- The Miyagi Max and the Chiba Hawks. Being from Chiba, I naturally wanted to see the Hawks win.

Introductions were taking place, and the players wheeled themselves between lines of cheerleaders. These are top-notch athletes. I was surprised to see that 11 of 14 players on the Hawks team were in wheelchairs because of traffic accidents. Amazing. About half the Max team were also traffic accident victims.

Hundreds of fans were on hand to watch the game. These are not people who came because of sympathy for people in wheelchairs. They came to watch high-level basketball. And they were not disappointed.

Notice the extra wheels in the open space near the bottom of the photo. This is intense action. Players end up on their backs more than once. And during the game, in the second half, a player had to call on those extra wheels because one of his got bent. One more thing. When a player goes down, the game goes on. The player gets back on his wheels by himself. For some, that's not an easy task.

For the first time, Japan's National Wheelchair Basketball Championships final game was broadcast live on Sky Perfect satellite TV. Again, not because of the disadvantages the players overcame, but because this game represented the very best of sports and sportsmanship in Japan.

First half action was hot and heavy, but the MAX clearly outclassed the Hawks (to my eyes anyway). Player No. 13 on the MAX team was like Kobe Bryant. He scored more than 30 points in the game. Fujimoto is his name, and I can't help but think he'll be a mainstay center for the Japan National Team. He's a big guy with long arms, and once he gets the ball in the key, there's no stopping him.

Halftime saw the Hawks down by 13 points, 35-22. The team huddled at the edge of the courts for a conference with Head Coach Tetsuhiro Kikuchi.

The cheerleaders put on an acrobatic halftime show, but everyone had their eyes on the two teams. What would the second half bring? Could the Hawks hold Fujimoto down? Could they up their percentage from the field?

The Hawks gave it their all. The team played its heart out. They tried this strategy and that, but nothing seemed to work. The MAX had a great fast break that earned them basket after basket, and Fujimoto just kept on scoring from the post. When the final whistle blue, the MAX had won, 76-46.

My Chiba Hawks were runners-up. But they and their rival Miyagi MAX had shown me 80 minutes of top-flight basketball. They deserved the applause that the crowd gave them. Just wait. Next year the Hawks will be back!!

1 comment:

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