Story by REDintern Daniel Yeo. Photos by Chan Hua Zheng/Red Sports.

Yang Shixuan (NYGH #12) drives to the hoop on a fast-break. She finished with a team-high 13 points in the loss. (Photo 1 © Chan Hua Zheng/Red Sports)

OCBC Arena, Wednesday, March 21, 2018 — Yishun Town Secondary (YTS) clawed their way back in a crucial match to take down the West Zone champions, Nanyang Girls’ High School (NYG) 46–41.

Yishun Town’s captain, Nur Afifah Bte Misban (YTS #8), explained how she prepared the team before their match-up with Nanyang: “Nanyang is known as a strong team, but I told my team beforehand that they’re just another opponent, to help them have a positive mindset for the upcoming game.”

With this win, Yishun Town stand at the top of their group with a 2–0 win-loss record. Nanyang, meanwhile, must fight for their spot in the top eight with a 1-1 win-loss record.

Yishun Town were led by Xie Muqi (YTS #11) with 20 points, while teammate Nur Afiyah Bte Misban (YTS #5) scored 16. Nanyang were led by Yang Shixuan (NYG #12) with 13 points, and teammate Goh Kung Huang (NYG #15), who scored 12.

The first bucket of the game came from Yishun Town, as Nur Afiyah Bte Misban (YTS #5) was forced to put the ball up at the end of the shot clock, draining a deep three. Nanyang responded on the next possession by finding Goh Kung Huang (NYG #15) open for an easy layup in the post.

Throughout the first quarter, Kung Huang (NYG #15) feasted on her teammates’ misses, grabbing offensive rebound after offensive rebound for all of Nanyang’s eight points in the first quarter.

The second quarter proceeded in the same manner as the first, neither teams was able to gain an advantage over the other, despite some stellar shooting from deep by Xie Muqi (YTS #11) with two treys.

With less than two minutes left in the first half, Li Silin (NYG #11) managed to draw a foul and knocked down a free throw to tie the game at 19-apiece. Yishun Town tightened up on defense with a half-court press, forcing Nanyang into a bad shot, but Yang Shixuan (NYG #12) managed to score before the buzzer to send them into half-time up 21–19.

Nanyang started off the second half aggressively, with Emi Chow (NYG #34) and Shixuan (NYG #12) both drawing fouls on and-one layups. However, they were both unable to convert the extra point.

Near the end of the third quarter, with the shot clock turned off, Nanyang turned the ball over in an attempt to score in their half-court set. Nur Afifah Bte Misban (YTS #8) then pulled up from three as time expired to bring Yishun Town within six points of Nanyang, the score 25–31.

Both teams traded baskets at the start of the fourth, but Yishun Town managed to cut Nanyang’s lead to just one with three minutes left in the game. After Nanyang made a free throw to extend the lead to two, Yishun Town raced down the floor and laid the ball up to tie the game 36-apiece.

Though Nanyang’s scoring production had slowed, Shixuan ended the drought by knocking down a big three to put Nanyang up 39–36. However, Yishun Town was able to generate points in their half-court sets and tie the game with 1:33 on the clock.

After Yishun Town tied the game with a free throw, Nanyang rushed down the length of the floor and laid the basketball up and in again to put them up two. However, those two points scored would be Nanyang’s last.

With the game on the line, Yishun Town slowed the ball down and moved it around in one of its half-court sets. Eventually, as the shot clock ran down, the ball made its way into Afiyah’s (YTS #5) hands as she stood in the corner. She then proceeded to hit undeniably the game’s biggest shot, sinking a trey to give Yishun Town the lead 42–41.

When asked about Yishun Town’s plans to cope with Nanyang on the court, Afifah (YTS #8) elaborated: “We did our best to play at our pace, at Yishun Town’s pace…we’re happy for the outcome.”

Nanyang was forced to call a timeout, and with less than a minute left on the clock, the coach drew up a play. However, coming out of the timeout, Yishun Town once again employed their half-court press, and Nanyang was unable to execute.

Yishun Town took it down the floor, giving the ball for Muqi (YTS #11) to score and draw the foul on an and-one play. But she was unable to sink her free throw, which meant that it was still a one-possession game with the lead at three. Nanyang was able to pull down the defensive rebound, but without a timeout left, Nanyang was unable to make a play to get their shooters open and tie the game.

With Yishun Town in possession, intentionally fouling was a necessity if Nanyang wanted a chance to stay in the game, and they did exactly that, Shixuan (NYG #12) fouling Muqi (YTS #11). The officials, however, saw different, awarding Nanyang’s captain with an unsportsmanlike conduct foul, which gave Yishun Town two free throws and possession. Muqi (YTS #11) knocked them both down to ice the game, and Yishun Town emerged victorious, the score 46–41.

After the game, Nanyang reflected on how they handled the pressure they faced in this tight game: “We really wanted to win, but we weren’t mentally prepared for the fourth quarter…we couldn’t overcome our fearfulness and nervousness to step up and increase our lead.”

On the other hand, when asked about how they approached the 4th quarter, captain Afifah (YTS #8) recalled that “the point differential was close, but I kept encouraging my team, telling them that the points didn’t matter but enjoying the game does.”

Yishun Town’s spirit of enjoying basketball no matter the result was reflected in their goals for the Nationals: “Our aim wasn’t to get anything, but instead enjoy the journey through the tournament.”

This huge game has given both teams a multitude of takeaways to use as they defend the top two spots in their group to advance the second round.

For Nanyang, it was their first loss all season long, and it has taught them that “as long as the Nationals aren’t over, as long as the season isn’t over, there shouldn’t be a moment when we can relax.”

For Yishun Town, the third seed in a tough North Zone, the win has given them belief: “(the win was) like a miracle, but I knew as Yishun Town, we could do it, and we should not underestimate ourselves.”

Yishun Town will take on Dunman Secondary and Nanyang will take on Guangyang Secondary in their last games of the first round.

Both games will be held at OCBC Arena on March 21, with tip-off at 1.15 pm.

Scoring by Quarter
Yishun Town v Nanyang Girls
1st Q: 9–8
2nd Q: 10–13 (19–21)
3rd Q: 6–10 (25–31)
4th Q: 21–10 (46–41)

Leading Scorers
Yishun Town

Xie Muqi (#11) – 20 points, 3 3PM
Nur Afiyah Bte Misban (#5) – 16 points

Nanyang Girls
Yang Shixuan (#12) – 13 points
Goh Kung Huang (#15) – 12 points

Yishun Town Roster
Nur Afiyah Bte Misban (#5), Gin Chong Manyun (#7), Nur Afifah Bte Misban (#8), Mabel Ong (#10), Xie Muqi (#11), Jennifer Chue (#12), Regina Kaw (#13), Cynthia Chin (#15), Li Zixi (#16) Nur Nadia Lim (#17), Marilyn Goh (#21), Chua Ting En (#78)

Nanyang Girls Roster
Goh Wing Xuan (#5), Lee Ying Ying (#6), Pamela (#7), Goh Cheng Gek Jade Lenor (#8), Li Silin (#11), Yang Shixuan (#12), Goh Kung Huang (#15), Rachel Teo Hui Ling (#31), Low Ying Hui (#32), Chua Su-Ann Shu En (#33), Emi Chow Yu Tong (#34), Michelle Heng Qian Ying (#35), Zann Siow Jun Hui (#37)

More photos next page