Story by Chan Hui Mui/Red Sports. Photos by Lee Jian Wei, Laura Lee, Rebekah Abbott/Red Sports
OCBC Arena, Sunday, June 7, 2015 — Asian champions Singapore held off a strong Malaysian comeback in the final quarter to beat their causeway rivals 46–43 in the final of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games netball tournament.
Malaysia overcame a five-point deficit to tie the game at 39 goals apiece with seven minutes left on the clock. However, Singapore did not let the pressure overwhelm them.
“We prepared ourselves for all sorts of scenarios during today’s team talk. We knew we should not be complacent when we were in the lead. We were prepared for Malaysia to make a comback when we were leading by five, which they did. And we had our game plan to counter that. Ruth told us to play a simple a game. Netball is about defending and attacking. We should not do any fanciful thing. That helped us to stay in the game,” commented veteran Singapore player Premila Hirubalan.
“The crowd was our eighth player today,” said Singapore coach Ruth Atiken.
They came behind us whenever we had turnovers. That just gave us the extra push,” added captain Lin Qingyi.
A crucial interception by Singapore Goal Attack Chen Huifen allowed the host to reestablish a comfortable four-point lead in the dying minutes.
“The crucial interception by Huifen was my favourite highlight of today’s game. That helped us to seal the game,” added Ruth.
Singapore drew with Malaysia 35–35 in the group stages. Both teams were prepared for an intense match that meant a lot for both teams. Malaysia’s National Sports Council (MSN) director general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail had earlier voiced out that if Malaysia did not win the gold medal, netball would not be featured in 2017 SEA Games which will be held in Malaysia. On the other hand, Singapore wanted to win the gold medal in front of the home crowd and live up to their title of Asian champions.
Right from the opening whistle, both teams delivered a high intensity game. Neither team could pull away with more than a five-point lead.
The first half of the game saw both teams playing rather inconsistently. There were patches of smooth play from both teams, but neither team could establish their flow of play. This gave both teams several turnovers. Furthermore, Malaysia shooters Norashikin Kamal and Izyan Syazana could not perform under immense pressure from Singapore defenders Lin Qingyi and Premila Hirubalan. This gave Singapore a 25–20 lead at half time.
In the third quarter, both teams got a little hot-headed and played more aggressively. However, the Malaysians went overboard with contact and gave away several precious balls to Singapore. On the other hand, Singapore’s defence got their hands to almost every ball and the crowd went wild when Goal Keeper Lin Qingyi blocked a shot.
However, a few crucial poor passes did not allow Singapore to pull away with the lead, and they led 36–31 at the end of the quarter.
In the final quarter, the nerves seem to get the better of Singapore Goal Attack Chen Huifen. She did not attempt many of the shots despite them being within her shooting range, but Charmaine Soh rose to the occasion and shot most of the goals.
Poor passing once again became the cause of turnovers for Singapore. Malaysia capitalised on the host’s mistakes and levelled the game at 39-all. However, just as the Malaysians felt they had a glimmer of hope of winning the gold medal, Singapore crushed it, as a crucial interception by Chen Huifen gave the hosts a comfortable four-point lead.
Malaysia then scored from their own centre pass but they ran out of time and Singapore won the final 46–43.
“I am disappointed with the result. I wanted to win as this is my last game. I will be retiring after this,” said Malaysia captain Yap Suo Kuen.
“Today is Singapore’s day. My girls gave their best. However, this was a game where the team that makes the least mistakes wins. The Singapore crowd was great. They help the team to win,” said Malaysia coach Aminah Asaari.
“We stuck to our game plan today. As senior players, we helped to lead the juniors, particularly Huifen. She has definitely helped to lead the attack,” said Singapore Goal Defence Premila Hirubalan.
But the Singapore girls will not be taking a rest after this.
“We will only be taking a one week break before we start to do our final preparation for the World Netball Championships,” said Ruth.
Scoring by Quarter
Singapore vs Malaysia
2nd Q: 14–10 (25–20)
3rd Q: 11–11 (36–31)
4th Q: 10–12 (46–43)
Izyan Syazana, Noor Azilah, Norashikin Kamal, Nur Syafazliyana, Nur Fariha, Siti Nor Farhana, Yap Suo Kuen, An Najwa, Fazira, Pow Mei Foong, Nurul Adha, Noramirah Dayana
Charmaine Soh, Chen Huifen, Kimberly Lim, Nurul Baizura, Premila Hirubalan, Lin Qingyi, Chen Li Li, Ang Shiqi, Pamela Liew, Shelby Koh, Shina Teo, Yasmin Ho
More photos next page