Story by Chan Hua Zheng/Red Sports. Photos by Dylan Chua/Red Sports.
Singapore Basketball Centre, Wednesday, May 9, 2018 — The sound of the final buzzer usually signals victory for one team and defeat for another.
For National Junior College (NJC), the final buzzer signalled a maiden semi-final appearance in school history after they pulled off a hard-fought 52–46 victory over Catholic Junior College (CJC) in their final second-round match of the National A Division Basketball Championship.
With this win, NJC finished second in Group P with a 3–1 win-loss record. CJC, who made their first second-round appearance since 2015, bowed out of the tournament with a 0–4 record in the same group.
“We feel very proud of this team. Only three of the players had primary school experience and the rest had to learn from scratch. This makes the victory so gratifying. Making the semis felt like winning a championship,” NJC’s teacher in charge, Mr Sham Das, commented after the match.
“We are just so happy to be here. The head coach and I consider ourselves truly blessed to have them as part of our lives. We will be happy if they (the players) have given their best and nothing else. Everything else is a bonus,” Mr Sham Das further added on their upcoming semi-finals match-up against Hwa Chong Institution.
NJC was led by a game-high 16 points from Huang Yi Fan (NJC #22), while Ethan Tay (NJC #0) added a solid 10-point performance.
Avner Tan (CJC #79) led CJC in the scoring column with 11 points, while Luke Cheong (CJC #55) chipped in with 10 points.
Both teams played at an uptempo game throughout the game, running a “run and gun” offence that looked to outpace the defence for open shot opportunities.
However, it was NJC that found more success at the end of the first quarter as they grabbed an 18–1 lead that was capped by a pull-up trey by Seow Wei Xian (NJC #22) to beat the buzzer.
NJC would extend their lead to 24–13 with 7:41 left in the second quarter after Seow Wei Xian (#21) stole the ball on the defensive end and took the ball coast to coast for a transition lay-up.
However, CJC would respond by locking up defensively, swarming the NJC offence to force turnovers. At halftime, CJC would narrow the gap to a 27–29 deficit after going on a momentum-shifting 10–3 run over the final 5 minutes and 30 seconds of the quarter.
CJC would sprint out of the gate in the third quarter with a 5–0 run to grab a 32–29 lead after Luke Cheong (#55) stripped the ball from his man for a fast-break lay-up with 3:36 left on the clock.
However, fatigue seemed to catch up on CJC as their defense started to find themselves outpaced by the opposing offense, as NJC would close out the quarter with a 7–0 blitz that was capped by a lay-up in transition by Lu Guan Yu (NJC #11) with 12.8 seconds left to grab a 36–32 lead.
The fourth quarter saw both teams trading baskets with one another and CJC was able to tie the game up at 40 apiece with 5:54 left after a transition lay-up by Luke Cheong (#55).
NJC would pull ahead on the back of an 8–0 run that gave them a 48–40 lead with 3:26 left, but CJC refused to back down and clawed their way back to a three-point deficit with 1:14 left after going on a 6–1 run.
Just when momentum seemed to have shifted towards CJC’s favour and a comeback seemed likely, Huang Yi Fan (NJC #22) came up clutch for NJC in the final 31.6 seconds.
After making one of his two free-throws with 31.6 seconds left in the game, he came down on the following offensive possession and drilled a ridiculous fadeaway jump-shot over a double team with 13.8 seconds left to ice the game and secure the first ever semi-finals appearance for NJC in the National A Division Basketball Championship.
The semi-finals will be held on May 15 at the Jurong East Sports Hall. NJC will tip-off against Hwa Chong Institution at 1.30 pm.
Scoring by Quarter
NJC vs CJC
1st Q: 18–11
2nd Q: 11–16 (29–27)
3rd Q: 7–5 (36–32)
4th Q: 16–14 (52–46)
Huang Yi Fan (#22) — 16 points
Ethan Tay (#0) — 10 points
Avner Tan (#79) — 11 points
Luke Cheong (#55) — 10 points
Ethan Tay Fu Wen (#0), Nicholas Gao Lu Xin (#1), Tan Peng Yu (#7), Adler Chua Yu Cheng (#9), Ian Tay Wei Han (#10), Lu Guan Yu (#11), Aviral Agarwal (#17), Malcolm Lee Zhen Yuan (#18), Seow Wei Xian (#21), Huang Yi Fan (#22), Jonathan Gan Jin Heng (#72)
Kyler How (#0), Lenson Lim (#5), Denzel Koh (#6), Jay Edward Goh (#11), Lee Lian Zheng (#12), Glendon Goh (#18), Gordon Ngiam (#23), Darrel Ang (#32), Diwan Mohamed Ismail (#34), Luke Cheong (#55), Avner Tan (#79), Dev Panwar (#99)
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