Story By Zachary Foo/Red Sports
Clementi Sports Hall, Wednesday, August 28, 2013 — In a highly anticipated match-up between two zone juggernauts, Unity Secondary punched its ticket into the final with a 70–63 comeback win over North Vista Secondary in the semi-finals of the National C Division Basketball Championship.
Unity trailed throughout the whole game, only to snatch lead with a minute left in the last quarter and run away with the victory. Unity’s three-headed behemoth of John Christopher (#7), Tan Min Hui (#10) and Thng Yong-An (#9) carried their team to the win as they combined for an otherworldly 64 points.
Coming into the match, Unity were the favoured team, having won its previous two meetings with North Vista in the C Division Championship. However, North Vista stunned everyone, shooting off to a hot start which saw them 12–5 up with 4:30 left in the first quarter. Christian (NV #4) was an integral part of that run, assisting on multiple baskets as well as adding a 3-pointer of his own.
Unity seemed shell-shocked at first, evidently showing in their zone defence, where slow rotations saw them concede a couple of open 3-pointers. However, they slowly recovered and looked focus on chipping at the lead.
North Vista sought to stifle Unity, starting the second quarter in a full court press to deny the ball. It proved to be unsuccessful as John Christopher (Unity #7) sliced his way past his defenders, essentially breaking the press by himself.
The momentum shifted in favour of Unity, as they made defensive stops on consecutive possessions. It was so intense that Sim Xuan (North Vista #10) was forcing shots in traffic, with players all over him, leading to misses which Unity capitalised on the other end.
A layup by Tan Min Hui (#10) with seven minutes left in the quarter tied the game at 20. He was the focal point of Unity’s offence in the quarter, bringing the ball up court. He used his quick first step and big stride to blow by his defender and score at the rim.
In a scary moment, Lok Jun Jie (#5) was accidentally hit on the mouth on a defensive possession and crumpled to the ground. He managed to head back to the bench under his own power and was able to check back into the game later.
With Unity crawling back into the game, North Vista remained cool under pressure. Christian (NV #4) led his team by example, driving into the lane and scoring on multiple occasions. This allowed North Vista to clinch a 32–29 lead heading into the half.
North Vista started out strong in the third quarter, dominating on the boards. They were supported by Christian (#4), who dropped two long-range bombs to fuel his side’s surge. He was unstoppable on offence, as he shredded Unity’s defence on each of his drives to the basket.
Even in the face of adversity, Unity did not seem demoralised. They dug deep, making simple plays and slowly chipping at the deficit. They managed to keep it close as they trailed by seven (48–41) heading into the fourth quarter, waiting for the opportunity to pounce.
The introduction of bench spark plug Sim Xuan (#10) revitalised North Vista, an impressive steal and lay-up on the other end drawing cheers from the North Vista bench. He continued his fine performance into the fourth, draining a 3-pointer at the start that drew even louder cheers.
The fourth quarter was an extremely intensive affair, further amplified by the growing crowd that gathered from the finished Dunman-Jurong game on the other court.
Unity decided to go with their full court press, with their ticket to the championship match on the line. However, lax defending allow North Vista to break through it easily. Both teams were creating open opportunities to shoot, but they were unable to find any success with their jumpers.
It was also becoming evident that this match was a point guards’ duel, with Christian (NV #4) matching up to John Christopher (Unity #7). Christian (#4) was managing the game well, not forcing any passes and displaying good shot selection.
John Christopher (Unity #7) on the other hand, was willing his team back from the depths of defeat. He made crucial steals and baskets on three straight possessions, which brought the lead down to a single point. He then converted two free throws to give Unity its first lead of the game with 1:39 left in the game. The sluggish North Vista offence seem expended by their efforts earlier in the game, which came back to bite them.
The final 1:39 of game time took roughly 20 minutes to complete, as both teams resorted to fouling each other in a bid to gain the lead. North Vista blinked first, turning over the ball on a crucial possession while they were down by three.
In the ensuing free throw battle, Christian (NV #4) converted two out of his four free-throw attempts, while John Christopher (Unity #7) and Min Hui (Unity #10) combined to convert all six of their attempts. Frustration could be seen on Christian’s face with each miss, as it was evident that he really wanted the win. North Vista crumbled from there, as they were unable to score on the ensuing possession, which proved to be crucial in deciding the match.
At the buzzer, the Unity bench erupted in joy, seemingly unable to fathom the comeback they just made, as they progressed to the final 70–63 winners. They now face Dunman Secondary in the championship final on Monday, September 2. Dunman beat Jurong Secondary in the other semi-final.
Unity captain Thng Yong-An (#9) said : “I felt that today’s game was one of the most exciting matches I ever played in, from being down by more than 10 points to winning in the end. For the championship match we can improve by communicating with each other, defending as tight as possible to not let opponents score easily and lastly, improve on our offensive game as well.”
When asked about what motivated his team to the win, he said: “We came to win the game, even though we were on the verge of losing, we don’t go down without a fight. We gave our all as we wanted to enter final so much.
“We know that if we want to win the match, we have to fight for every ball. Reduce the deficit one point at a time. We motivated each other by reminding each other of our goal and keep fighting as long as there is time left.”
Scoring by Quarter
North Vista vs Unity
1st Q: 20–13
2nd Q: 12–16 (32–29)
3rd Q: 16–12 (48–41)
4th Q: 15–29 (63–70)
Christian (#4) – 27 points (3 x 3-pointers)
Cheng Ye Hui (#7) – 11 points
John Christopher (#7) – 29 points (3 x 3-pointers)
Tan Min Hui (#10) – 18 points
Thng Yong-An (#9) – 17 points (1x 3-pointer)
North Vista Roster
Christian (#4), Dylan Toh (#5), Nicholas Tay (#6), Cheng Ye Hui (#7), Fabian Low (#8), Jeff Tan (#9), Sim Xuan (#10), Darius Ong (#11), Lim Joe Yang (#12), Clement Sim (#13), Jaydon Choo (#14), Ang Li Xiang (#15)
Markus Lin Wei Sheng (#4), Lok Jun Jie (#5) Aloysius Low Wei Ting (#6), John Christopher (#7), Gan Zhi Guan (#8), Thng Yong-An (#9) , Tan Min Hui (#10), Liu En Hong (#11), Matthew Choo Ming-En (#12), Gabriel Khoo Wei Long (#13), Sheares Ang (#14), Victor Benedict V.Montallana (#15)
For more photos, go to: Red Sports Images
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