Story by Clement Tan/Red Sports. Photos by Lee Jian Wei/Red Sports.
SIM Multi-Purpose Hall, August 16, 2017 — Squeaky sounds from the soles of sneakers rubbing against the wooden floorboards, check. Loud sarcastic laughter and applause after an opponent’s mistake, check. Coaches deciding to sub players out as soon as possible to prevent escalating tension with opposing players, check.
This was supposed to be a pre-season basketball league for tertiary institutions, except it’s anything but. The final 68-56 score meant SIM defeated NUS to become men’s champions of the inaugural National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) Basketball League, but it also meant SIM’s graduating seniors got to avenge their loss at last year’s Singapore University Games (SUniG).
“I don’t think anybody can help being competitive,” said Richard Neo, SIM’s outgoing men’s captain who plans to return to help coach the team. “About half our team is graduating so this competition is important in bedding the juniors into the first team.”
University and polytechnic athletes used to train all year for either just the SUniG or the Polytechnic-ITE (POL-ITE) Games, with only the top few teams advancing to the Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic (IVP) Games. This short five-week season every year meant there was nothing to look forward to after training for months.
The NYSI basketball league ran from June through mid-August this year. Ten and 11 teams were split into two round-robin groups in the women’s and men’s competitions respectively. The top two in each group advanced to the semi-finals and the others moved on to the playoffs for minor placings. The aim was to maximise game time for all school teams.
“Once we hit poly and university, the competition frequency drops by quite a bit,” said Richard. “In secondary school, at least there was still the youth clubs on top of the regular inter-school competitions.”
While it’s the middle of term for the polytechnics, the universities are right smack in their extended “summer” vacation before the new academic year starts in early August. Most, if not all of the teams were using this to prepare for SUniG that starts in September.
“We definitely needed this competition,” said Ng Choon Hong, who coaches the Republic Polytechnic’s girls’ team. “It was good to expose the new recruits who just joined us from secondary school to the level of competition they will be facing, and hopefully motivate them to train harder for the POL-ITE and IVP competition coming up.”
Ng’s team came up short against hosts SIM in the semi-finals in July, losing 64-72 to the defending IVP champions, but it’s not for lack of trying. Ng was characteristically animated on the bench, yelling out not just instructions, but also berating his team for the mistakes they were making.
His booming voice reverberating in the indoor hall and the full-court press he set his team out against SIM both served to magnify the intensity of the moment.
“It’s always more fun to get more game time,” said Paulina Baliwaj, a point guard who’s in her third year at RP. “This league would have helped me a lot in transiting from secondary school if it had existed before. It’s a big change stepping up to this IVP, POL-ITE level, players here are much bigger and tougher.”
The SIM girls, with some Singapore national team players on the roster, eventually emerged champions when they beat NUS 46-41 in the July 21 final.
In the men’s final, Richard led his SIM team for the final time with 12 points. NUS threatened a comeback in the third quarter, outscoring SIM 19-14. But SIM held their own, outscoring NUS 19-12 in the fourth after they brought on another graduating senior Ng Zhao Feng to shore up the team’s spine.
“We just wanted to have fun today,” said Richard. “At least the graduating seniors got to end our time playing for SIM on a good note.”
Scoring by Quarter
SIM vs NUS
1st Q: 19-13
2nd Q: 16-12 (35-25)
3rd Q: 14-19 (49-44)
4th Q: 19-12 (68-56)
Andy Ho – 16 points
Richard Neo – 12 points
Rolu Monilla – 16 points
Tan Baiyong (#3), Loh You Ren (#5), Neo Li Zhe Richard (#7), Lee Hao Wei Jovan (#8), Bryan Gregory Kor Chong Yang (#11), Pong Junkai Philbert (#12), Scott James Driscoll (#14), Loh Yi Ren (#17), Ng Zhao Feng (#19), Lim Chin Jye (#21), Ng Kian Hao (#26), Tan Long King (#27), Ivan Chua Hien Yang (#28), Abdul Shameer Rauf (#33), Andy Ho Lian Jie (#37), Ong Yu Xiang (#15), Goh Zhong Jun Adam (#09)
Terry Tan Soon Lee (#01), Gideon Wong Songkai (#2), Devin Nethanael (#03), Zhuang Bao Kun (#5), Lester Ng Jia Wei (#6), Chan Wai Hon (#7), Ng Yao Zhong (#8), Auston Quek Xin Wei (#9), Raymond Loo Jian Wei (#10), John Zhang Jiong Yang (#11), Dillon Low Chun Kiat (#13), Leong Kai Yuan (#15), Ong Sze Chuan (#18), Han Jun Seo Kevin (#22), Rolu Monilla (#23), Lim Dao Han (#24), Ashley Ng Ming Xiang (#68), Danish Han Bin Mohd Illias Han (#99), Ming Rong Clement, Wayne Tan Wei Herng
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