Story and photos by Low Zheng Yu/Red Sports
OCBC Arena, Wednesday, May 17, 2017 — Pioneer Junior College (PJC) took control down the stretch to oust defending champions Raffles Institution (RI) 34-26 in the National A Division Basketball Championship.
With this win, PJC are through to the semi-final. They have a win-loss record of 7-1 since their first round games. Their sole loss of the season came from the match against Hwa Chong Institution (HCI). They will be up against Anderson Junior College (AJC) in their semi-final next.
On the other hand, this loss marks the end of RI’s season. They have a 6-2 win-loss record since their first round games. They lost to HCI in round two previously.
This was a match-up between two basketball powerhouses. With a strong first round performance to stay undefeated, they were projected to be the two teams that would make it to the semi-final. However, by a cruel twist of fate, PJC and RI ended up in the group of death that consisted of HCI and Nanyang Junior College. As both of them lost to HCI, this was a match that would decide the fate of their season.
Knowing this was a crucial game, both sides were raring to go, wanting to take the game fast to secure their semi-final spot. However, it was RI that came out fighting at the start. Qirong Wang (RI #10) made the first shot for RI to give them the momentum. They set up their full-court press right after to prevent PJC from advancing the ball. RI were aggressive in their press and were able to force the turnover to get themselves the offensive opportunity once again. Not wanting to waste the team’s defensive effort, Danny Goh (RI #18) scored the jumper to give RI the quick four-point lead.
PJC knew they had to calm down and not let their emotions dictate their plays. After a quick time-out, PJC came storming back. Gundu Mahidhar Reddy (PJC #9) scored three straight baskets and Gavin Tay (PJC #11) knocked down two free-throws to give PJC the 10-5 lead after the first quarter.
While they fought to a tie in the second quarter, PJC came out hot to start the second half. They played tough defense on RI to prevent them from scoring, limiting them to just four points in the third. On the other hand, PJC were patient during their offensive plays and did not rush their shots. This patience paid off as they outscored RI 13-4 to lead 29-15 at the end of the third.
RI, known for their never-say-die attitude, came out guns-blazing in the fourth. They played good tough defense to stop PJC from scoring and a turnaround shot from Danny Goh (RI #18) ignited cheers from the RI supporters. As the cheers echoed through the hall, RI capitalized on that momentum to go on an 8-0 run to cut the PJC lead down to six.
However, Low Junchen (PJC #0) decided something had to be done and drove in to draw the foul. He made one of two to end the scoring drought of PJC. He also played huge defensively throughout the game to block the shots of the RI players. This created a strong interior presence which made the RI players think twice when going up against him.
PJC were able to gain offensive opportunities from Low Junchen’s (PJC #0) hustle defense which they capitalized on to maintain their lead. With time winding down, PJC took their defense up a notch to stop RI and force the turnover. Dexter Tan (PJC #17) was able to breakaway and scored on the fast-break to seal the deal.
PJC eventually took the game 34-26 to oust defending champions RI and advance to the semi-final to play against AJC next.
PJC’s Low Junchen (PJC #0) who played big-time on the defensive end commented, “I just wanted to do my part for the team. Today’s game, defense was a key factor. Offense wasn’t my main job today so I focused on the defensive ends to get the rebounds and stop their shots. I’ll let my teammates take care of their jobs while I take care of mine. Ultimately, I’m just giving whatever it takes to get the win.”
PJC Captain, Dexter Tan (PJC #17), added, “I think we had a bad start as we were anxious. We have always looked forward to playing against RI and we went in today with the underdog mindset. But we were off to a shaky start due to our anxiety. Our coach called for a time-out, gathered us and told us to calm down and play. We put aside our ego after that. At first when RI scored, we will try to get the points back immediately to even things out. However, that led to rushed plays. The time-out allowed us to gather ourselves to fight back. We played one ball at a time after that and didn’t rush our plays. When we got our first basket, it gave us confidence and from there we started to play with poise and at our on pace which was the key reason that got us the game.”
Scoring by Quarter
PJC vs RI
1st Q: 10-05
2nd Q: 06-06 (16-11)
3rd Q: 13-04 (29-15)
4th Q: 05-11 (34-26)
Gundu Mahidhar Reddy (#9) – 10 pts
Gavin Tay Wei Yu (#11) – 7 pts
Qirong Wang (#10) – 7 pts
Krison Sum (#12) – 7 pts
Low Junchen (#0), Tan Jia Sheng, Jason (#1), Gregory Chan Xu Zhan (#6), Joshner B De Guzman (#7), Thomas Joseph Lee Alba (#8), Gundu Mahidhar Reddy (#9), Gavin Tay Wei Yu (#11), Ng Jun Kai, Shawn (#12), Lim Jin Long (#13), Tony Zhang Xue Yi (#14), Dexter Tan Yan Liang (#17), Mohammad Yousuf (#23)
Jethro Kwong (#0), Denzel Tan (#5), Leonard Tay (#6), Yu Fan Neo (#7), Marcus Soon (#9), Qirong Wang (#10), Krison Sum (#12), Jaedon Tan (#14), Xin Zhe (#16), Danny Goh (#18), Jiawei Liu (#22), Ejin Tan (#23)
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