After overcoming several higher-ranked opponents in the Nations Cup 2014, Singapore (in red) found Samoa (in blue) a mountain too high to conquer as they lost 50-41 in the Final. (Photo by VoxSports)
It was a games of two halves, as the hosts managed to give top-ranked team Samoa (14th
in the world) a scare in the finals and threatened to win their first Nations Cup since 2007.
Samoa had taken the lead early in the game, but Singapore somehow found the strength to peg them back and keep neck-and-neck before finishing the first quarter 11-10.
The same belief and performance saw them race to a seven-point lead at one point in the second quarter, but a visibly tiring Singapore was unable to maintain their performance as Samoa came out strongly after the break to eventually finish as champions.
Samoa - Nations Cup 2014 champions. (Photo by VoxSports)
“Samoa stepped up in that second half and it was a level we struggled to cope with, I thought they played very well and they showed their greater level of experience,” Singapore coach Ruth Aitken (below) said after the game.
Team Singapore coach Ruth Aitken (Photo by Chris Tew/ Sport Singapore)
“Sports sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn’t. You have to get back on the horse, work a little harder, work a little smarter and we will be back next year.”
Samoa captain Sanita To’o agreed it was a close shave for her country as she expressed her appreciation towards the team for responding well in the face of adversity.
“To come out after Singapore were leading through that half, I’m so proud of the girls,” To’o shared. “We just needed to get rid of those nerves and we just carried them through the whole first half and once we got rid of that we started to let the ball go and have a bit of confidence in ourselves.
“They definitely pressured us right from the start, and we knew they were going to take it to us for the first 60 minutes. Just for us to finish like we did is magnificent.”
This will be the second consecutive year Singapore finished in second place, but the team has much to be proud of in this edition of the tournament.
This will be the second consecutive year Singapore finished in second place. (Photo by VoxSports)
In addition to pushing Samoa hard in the last game, enroute to the Final, world ranked number 19th Singapore had beaten Papua New Guinea (17th) and Botswana (16th) 47-42 and 46-41 respectively.
“Overall, it has been a fantastic week. It is really important to reflect on what we have achieved; we still are disappointed and that’s good too because we want to be a four-quarter team,” Aitken reflected.
“They stepped up a notch, and we have gone to another level but they (Samoa) are still ahead of us.
The reigning Asian champions also named defender Premila Hirubalan (Prem) as their Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament. The oldest player in the squad may be 32-year-old, but she was an ever-present on court and never shied away from any challenges.
However, Prem was keen to downplay the accolade, insisting that it was a team effort which helped the team push so far.
Sharing her disappointment at coming so close only to let the lead and title slip out of their grasp, Prem wants the team to now build on this momentum for the upcoming year.
“It is shared between the whole team, I don’t feel like I was the MVP. It was disappointing, we can’t lie and say that it was not disappointing, we fought really well, if only the game lasted a half then we would win,” Prem told reporters.
“But we know we can compete against world class teams, so that’s a good thing for us to build on as well especially with the World Cup next year.”
In the fight for third / fourth, Botswana did just enough to see off Malaysia 44-41, while Papua New Guinea had to settle for fifth after overwhelming Ireland, whom lost all of their games at the tournament.