Guest-of-Honour Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information Mr Lawrence Wong (front row, fourth from right) celebrates the win over Sri Lanka in the finals with the Singapore netball team. (Photo by VoxSports)
Singapore brought the 3000-strong crowd at the OCBC Arena to its feet with a 59-41 victory over Sri Lanka in the Asian Netball Championships final as they retained the title they fought so hard for two years ago.
The 2012 final saw a similar match up between both teams, with Singapore narrowly edging out Sri Lanka by a solitary point to pip them to the title.
Gunning for revenge this time, Sri Lanka brought along 2.06 metre tall goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam to the tournament, where she excelled in being the focal point of attack and was almost solely responsible for all the goals her team scored in this tournament.
Sri Lanka finished the tournament as first runner-ups. (Photo by VoxSports)
The tactic worked in the first quarter, with Sivalingam sinking in 12 points to give her team a four-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Singapore was close behind but only just, as sharp-shooter Charmaine Soh endured a nervy start and was uncharacteristically missing shots from under the basket.
Singapore's Charmaine Soh (above) attempting a shot during the match. (Photo by VoxSports)
However, the team rallied around Soh during the short break and she came back roaring in the second quarter to put on a majestic performance throughout the rest of the game, finishing with 42 points and a 78% conversion rate.
“After we settled in, I just forgot everything and concentrated on the game, focus, breathe. The whole team just started encouraging each other and it built the confidence in me, I just felt like I had to do it for them,” Soh shared.
Singapore coach Ruth Aitken also felt that the defence had played a huge part in the game, as they managed to contain Sivalingam after the first quarter and deny the lanky player much of the ball.
Captain Micky Lin, and veteran player Premila Hirubalan were particularly impressive as they hassled around cutting out passes or giving their opponents lesser routes of passing the ball to aid goalkeeper Chen Lili in her duel with Sivalingam.
Singapore's Premila Hirubalan (above, with ball) played a huge role defensively during the finals against Sri Lanka. (Photo by VoxSports)
“Team defence against Sri Lanka. The pressure all the way through the court was just outstanding,” Aitken said of her team.
“Fitness stood us in good stead [in the third quarter] and the tempo increased, that’s when we were able to make the lead more healthy.”
Indeed, there was no come back from Sri Lanka as they relinquished the lead at the end of the second quarter and proceeded to be outscored by Singapore in the following half.
Guest-of-Honour Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Communications and Information Mr Lawrence Wong witnessed the memorable game and presented the trophy to the team after the match.
“We are very proud of our Netball girls. They played with determination, they gave their all for the competition. It was a tough competition, because the other teams are strong, we had some injuries along the way,” Mr Wong said.
“If you look at the other teams, we are not the tallest, we are not the biggest in size, but our girls fought very hard, they fought for every point, we are very proud of them that they are able to defend their championship.”
Singapore has also qualified for the 2015 World Cup to be held in Sydney, Australia next year following their final position.
Malaysia earned some sort of reprieve after crashing out in the semi-final to Singapore as they rebounded against Hong Kong to claim a 50-39 victory along with third spot.
Hong Kong, who had played well against Sri Lanka the day before in the semi-final, looked as though their energy levels were zapped by that fixture as they sluggish against Malaysia.
Malaysia took advantage of that to race to a 23-15 lead by the end of the half. The lead was further extended in the following period, with Malaysia putting in another 17 goals to go 40-23.
While Hong Kong managed to claim the last quarter, it proved inadequate as they had to settle for fourth place yet again, after finishing in the same spot in the previous edition.
The event also featured for the first time a unique but vibrant style of introduction for teams (see below image). The arena would be shrouded in darkness, while teams were introduced along with flames bursting out of both goal-posts.
The fiery introduction would be followed by uplifting music, while players made their way from the sidelines to areas on court which were demarcated by boxes of lights. The boxes would form one line when both teams filled up the scattered boxes, to complete the introduction of teams.