South Korea won the Asian Women's Handball Championship on Wednesday with a 30-20 win over Japan at home.
Host South Korea claimed its third straight Asian title at West Suwon Chilbo Gymnasium in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, thanks to Kim Jin-yi's team-high seven goals against the arch rival. Kim was also selected as the match MVP.
South Korea's Choi Su-min (R) jumps to take a shot against Japanese players during the Asian Women's Handball Championship in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on March 22, 2017. (Yonhap)
The women's national team has extended its dominant force in Asia, winning 13 of the last 16 continental titles. Since the biennial competition first started in 1987, South Korea has only missed the final once.
South Korea finished four goals behind Japan in the first half as the players struggled to execute shots. South Korea made only 11 of 26 shots, but Japan scored 15 from its 22 attempts in the first 30 minutes.
However, the second half was lopsided, as South Korea started to come back with solid defense. They leveled the score at 16-16 when Gwon Han-na made a penalty throw 10 minutes into the second half, and took the lead a minute later with Kim Jin-yi's effort.
South Korea then netted eight straight goals, while Japan was able to score only one with Tomomi Kawata's seven-meter throw.
Earlier in the day, China took third place with a 34-26 win over Kazakhstan and earned its spot at the world championship. The Asian competition doubles as the qualifying tournament for the 2017 World Women's Handball Championship. The top three finishers advance to the 24-team world competition in Germany in December.
South Korean head coach Kang Jae-won said his team had a slow start because the players hadn't experienced a tight game at the tournament before the final.
"I think our players felt some pressure because we won previous matches by about 20 goals," he said. "Fortunately, the players did their job well in the second half."
Kang took the helm in January after South Korea suffered a group stage elimination at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
This is Kang's second stint as the women's team boss. He earlier led South Korea to the semifinals at the 2012 London Olympics.
Kang said his side will now aim to qualify for the round of 16 at the worlds.
"I think we're not inside top 16 at the world level," he said.
"We will first aim to reach the round of 16 and if our players are able to execute their jobs in their positions for 30 minutes, I think we can go to the quarterfinals or further." (Yonhap)