Story by Daniel Yeo/Red Sports. Photos by Stefanus Ian/Red Sports.
Temasek Polytechnic Sports Complex, Wednesday, October 24, 2018 — In a memorable battle for the title, Temasek Polytechnic (TP) wrested the Polytechnic-ITE (POL-ITE) Basketball Championship crown from two-time defending champions Republic Polytechnic (RP) 64–62.
The high-scoring match saw two players from the home team in double digits, with Singapore Slinger’s Kelvin Lim (TP #22) pouring in a game-high 26 points. The away team, on the other hand, had three players scoring double digits as their big man Fong Hao Seng (RP #15) led the way with 16 points.
The victory was the perfect finale for TP’s graduating captain Chaw Ji Keong, who was almost speechless after the match.
“I’m very overwhelmed…after three years, we really managed to get our objective…I’m just so overwhelmed and so happy right now,” Chaw Ji Keong (TP #77) gushed after the match.
“They (RP) are bigger than us, they are stronger than us, but even though we are small, we just have to play with a lot of heart and listen to what our coaches say. Our teammates really cheered us on and motivated us.”
From the tip, both teams showed the kind of intensity that had established them as the top two teams in the championship – especially on the defensive end.
While TP went with a man defence, RP used a 2-3 zone to make the best use of their big men, Fong Hao Seng (RP #15) and national player V Lavin Raj (RP #30). The first quarter saw them making multiple defensive stops through some athletic blocking and aggressive rebounding to deny TP from scoring inside.
TP would trail for much of the initial frame until Jordan Lee (TP #23) drained a three to take the slimmest of leads as the first quarter wound down, 17–16.
Both teams began to slow down in the second quarter, but Kelvin Lim (TP #22) seemed determined to keep his team in front — scoring eight of TP’s 12 points in the quarter with some impressive drives to the basket.
Not to be outdone, Tng Zhi Cai (RP #7) went on a run of his own, scoring eight straight points with two treys. By the end of the half, a very tightly contested game saw both teams tied at 29-apiece.
The third quarter saw both teams re-energised and giving it their all on the hardwood, diving for loose balls and hustling hard on both ends of the floor.
The RP bench was sparked to life, though, with one of the game’s best plays. The hot-shooting Zhen Yuhui (RP #8), who had scored RP’s last five points, lost his man with a behind-the-back crossover, pulled up from beyond the arc, and knocked down the three just as he was fouled for the four-point play.
And Zhi Cai wasn’t done – he proceeded to score seven of RP’s 17 points in the quarter with some nice moves in transition and another three to boot.
TP was not going away, though, and with Kelvin scoring another seven points, the home team tied the game at 46-all going into the final quarter.
With less than ten minutes left, RP turned to a staple in their offence – the high-low play – in the hopes of getting in front.
One of RP’s key players, big man V Lavin Raj (RP #30) had been unproductive all game – the 2-metre centre scoring a mere two points in each of the previous quarters.
Teammate Fong Hao Seng (RP #15) would step up, though, as he worked his way inside the paint for 10 of RP’s 16 points in the quarter. But even then, that would not be enough.
Once again, TP turned to their star swingman, Kelvin. Although he scored just five points in the quarter, his lowest out of the four quarters, they would turn out to be the most important points.
With TP down 61–62, and less than a minute remaining, he was fouled on a drive. Headed to the charity stripe with a chance to put them up by one, he calmly knocked both down to give TP a 63–62 lead.
RP failed to convert on their next possession, and with the shot clock turned off, they fouled to send Kelvin to the line again. He made the first, to make it a three-point game – but missed the second. With seconds left on the clock, RP grabbed the rebound, slinging a pass down the court in the hopes of finding an open shooter to send the game to overtime.
And to seal the championship, TP managed to intercept the pass, crushing RP’s hopes as time ran out as TP’s bench ran onto the court screaming in celebration.
With the title being decided only right at the death, RP’s captain Desmond Loh (#32) was gutted but said his team left everything on the court.
“We knew that we were facing TP today, so our mindset was to do our best and fight our hardest. In the end, there’s nothing more we could do about the result.”
Desmond added that he was also proud of his team’s spirit during the tough match.
“Although some players didn’t play, the team spirit is here, we still cheered them on and didn’t give up.”
Ji Keong also talked about his team’s struggles on the way to the title: “Last game, we lost to SP, which was one of our first losses after many years, so we were quite disappointed. After speaking to each other, we managed to get our game to this level – this is our real game. I’m really thankful that all of them did their part in securing this goal.”
While the POL-ITE season may be over, the two schools’ rivalry is only going to heat up. Both teams will soon start their preparations for the Inter-Varsity-Polytechnic (IVP) Basketball Championship and after their recent victory, TP will be eyeing the IVP title that RP is currently holding on to.
Scoring by Quarter
TP vs RP
1st Q: 17–16
2nd Q: 12–13 (29–29)
3rd Q: 17–17 (46–46)
4th Q: 18–16 (64–62)
Kelvin Lim Hong Da (#22) – 26 points
Sherman Seet Ding Xun (#11) – 10 points
Fong Hao Seng (#15) – 16 points
Tng Zhi Cai (#7) – 15 points
Zhen Yuhui (#8) – 13 points
Mohamed Shukri Bin Manaf (#0), Zhai Siming (#1), Ong Yan Zhi Darius (#3), Christian Co Pepito (#4), Clement Sim Han Xiang (#5), Cheng Ye Hui (#7), Lua Jun Rong Terry Peter (#9), Sherman Seet Ding Xun (#11), Eugene Chua Wei Jun (#12), Lester Lee Ee Kiat (#13), Toh Jing Bo (#21), Kelvin Lim Hong Da (#22), Jordan Lee Jun Hao (#23), Willie Tan Wei Lun (#32), Chaw Ji Keong (#77)
Andy Yeo Jun Hui (#1), Kerk Xuan Xian (#2), Ng Zhi Hao (#4), Prem Haran S/O B H Rajan (#5), Tng Zhi Cai (#7), Zhen Yuhui (#8), Marco Kok Jiahao (#9), Seet Zhi Yun (#10), Mohamed Ismail (#11), Tan Cheng San (#13), Fong Hao Seng (#15), Goh Jun Yung (#16), V Lavin Raj (#30), Desmond Loh Wai Kin (#32), Eddy Chew Jun Wei (#45)
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