Story by Daniel Yeo/Red Sports. Photos by Dylan Chua/Red Sports.
Jurong East Sports Hall, Tuesday, May 15, 2018 — With a second-half surge, Raffles Institution (RI) snuffed out Hwa Chong Institution’s (HCI) near-perfect first half for a 51–46 victory in the National Girls’ A Division Basketball Championship semi-final.
Raffles will now advance to the final to face Dunman High, while Hwa Chong takes on Nanyang Junior College in the third/fourth game.
Raffles were led by their two bigs, Tan Kang Yi (RI #12) and Shannon Tiong (RI #15), with the former scoring a game-high 18 points while the latter added 13. For Hwa Chong, Lavelle Wong (HCI #11) sank five looks from distance while scoring a team-high 17 points.
As the ten starters stepped onto the hardwood for the tip-off, there was a noticeable difference between the teams. While Hwa Chong’s line-up was predicated by a modern “pace-and-space” offence, Raffles’ line-up consisted of two bigs who, ideally, would reside in the paint in a zoned defensive scheme.
However, Raffles were playing a man-to-man defence, limiting the effectiveness of the bigs. This showed early as Tan Li Qi (HCI #9) penetrated inside and scored Hwa Chong’s first points without the pressure of help defence.
As for Hwa Chong, they too played a man-to-man defence, but included a full-court press. This press looked to take away space from Raffles and make sure they were never comfortable.
And for the first half, that defensive scheme worked almost flawlessly. Raffles were trying to feed their bigs down in the post, but the tight Hwa Chong defence made it difficult for them to convert. Raffles’ primary ball-handler, Patricia Orenza (RI #27), could really never seem to get it going, scoring a mere four points in those first 20 minutes.
Hwa Chong, on the other hand, looked very comfortable on the hardwood, at times even looking like they were playing pick-up basketball in the park. They looked like they could not miss – inside the paint, in the mid-range, from three-point land, you name it.
A player who was especially comfortable was a smoking hot Lavelle Wong (HCI #11). With three treys back-to-back-to-back, she scored 11 of Hwa Chong’s 19 in the first quarter in what would be the half’s standout performance.
Into the second half, 16 points down, with their tournament life on the line, Raffles needed to do something, and fast. And they did – clamping up Hwa Chong for a measly two points in the quarter, while scoring 13 of their own.
However, this was not without complications. A careless Raffles found themselves in the bonus with 4:50, but Hwa Chong was unable to capitalize and extend their lead. Point guard Patricia Orenza (RI #27) was struggling as well, racking up her fourth personal foul late in the third quarter.
Having cut the lead down to five, both teams knew that it would be now or never if they wanted to make some big plays. But, as the final quarter began, it would be Raffles who took the initiative.
Working in the post, Tan Kang Yi (RI #12) scored the quarter’s first bucket to make it a one-possession game at 36–39. Another bucket, this time by Shannon Tiong (RI #15), and it would be a one-point game.
Shannon’s impact was not only on the offensive side of the ball, but the defensive side as well. With her long arms, she was able to block several shot attempts by the Hwa Chong offense early in the quarter.
Finally, with a corner jumper from Sofia Tan (RI #13), Raffles would take only their second lead of the game at 40–39. Rachel Yeo (RI #10) would then extend it with a fast-break layup.
But, Hwa Chong was not done yet. A mid-range pull-up jumper by Glades Tan (HCI #4) closed the deficit, and Tan Qi Qing (HCI #12) put them back on top 43–42 with four minutes left in the game.
Down the stretch, of all people, it was Patricia Orenza (RI #27) who made yet another big shot for Raffles. After struggling with her shot all game, she hit the go-ahead three to put Raffles up 45–43.
Hwa Chong were not going down without a fight, though. Tan Li Qi (HCI #9) sank her mid-range jumper to tie the game at 45–45.
The game came full circle, with Raffles’ bigs scoring in the clutch to lead their team to the win.
A post move by Kang Yi (RI #12) gave Raffles a two-point lead, and on the next possession, the crowd went wild after she finished an and-one layup to put them up four.
With time running out, Shannon (RI #15) found herself at the free throw line, and knocking down both her shots, she would ice the game for Raffles – a 51–46 win after coming back from half-time 16 points down.
Despite the heart-breaking loss, an appreciative Hwa Chong captain Lan Ran (HCI #14) gushed about her team: “I think the team actually did really well on game day. We were playing good defence and performed better than expected in the first half. We’ve had several takeaways from this game, one of which is consistency is key. Overall, I’m really proud of how far the team has come, and we will continue to strive to better ourselves.”
Patricia Orenza (RI #27) also shared on what her team would use from this game in the next: “A takeaway from this would be the never-say-die fighting spirit from our team. Despite having Hwa Chong dominate us in the first half, we kept our spirits high until the last second, which we’ll definitely bring to the finals.”
Raffles will face Dunman High School for the right to hoist the trophy on May 18, while Hwa Chong takes on Nanyang Junior College in the third/fourth placing game on May 17. Both games will tip-off at Jurong East Sports Hall at 1pm.
Scoring by Quarter
Hwa Chong Institution v Raffles Institution
1st Q: 19–11
2nd Q: 18–10 (37–21)
3rd Q: 2–13 (39–34)
4th Q: 7–17 (46–51)
Hwa Chong Institution
Lavelle Wong (#11) – 17 points, 5 3PM
Tan Kang Yi (#12) – 18 points
Shannon Tiong (#15) – 13 points
Hwa Chong Institution Roster
Erinn Lee (#2), Glades Tan (#4), Huang Shi Yun (#5), Adeline Wong (#7), Ivon Kong (#8), Tan Li Qi (#9), Lavelle Wong (#11), Tan Qi Qing (#12), Lan Ran (#14), Quek Ning Xuan (#17), Zhang Zheting (#19), Tai Jia Hui (#99)
Raffles Institution Roster
Aw Han Xi (#3), Bridget Lew (#4), Katrina Lee (#6), Rhianne Vaz (#7), Rachel Yeo (#10), Tan Kang Yi (#12), Sofia Tan (#13), Shannon Tiong (#15), Angela Wang (#17), Vicky Qu (#23), Patricia Orenza (#27), Zhu Yezi (#77)
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