Netballers seal top spot in group at Asian championships
Netballers beat Hong Kong to top group; likely to face Sri Lanka in semi-finals
ASIAN NETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
HONG KONG 18
Their opponents have eight foreigners in their squad of 12, including a few who have top-level playing experience in the ANZ Championship.
But, Singapore's national netball team stood up to the challenge by beating Hong Kong 32-18 in an Asian Netball Championship Group A encounter in Bangkok yesterday to preserve their 100 per cent win record.
The win also guarantees the 2012 and 2014 champions top spot in the group with a game to spare.
They are expected to face Sri Lanka in the semi-finals on Saturday.
"It was a hard win; both teams were strong defensively and there was a lot of pressure out there," national coach Ruth Aitken told The New Paper over a phone interview.
"We tried to find space with speed rather than to compete with size."
Aitken opted to go with a strong and experienced starting seven - captain Vanessa Lee, Yu Meiling, Charmaine Soh, Kimberly Lim, Nurul Baizura, Aqilah Andin and Chen Lili - to cope with the physically superior Hong Kong players.
It paid dividends, as the Republic went 8-4 up by the first quarter.
They moved up another gear in the second period, outscoring their opponents 11-2 to take a 19-6 half-time lead.
By the end of the third period, the defending champions had stretched their lead to 25-8.
Although Hong Kong outscored them 10-7 in the final quarter, a Singapore victory was never in doubt.
Aitken said everything just clicked in the second quarter - from captain Lee creating numerous defensive turnovers, to goal shooter Soh converting 10 of her 11 shots.
Lee said: "Hong Kong have quality players playing today, but we really played together as a team.
"In the second quarter, we settled down quickly, were more calm and stuck to our Singapore style of play, which was quick, flat passes."
The Singaporeans face Maldives in their final group game today and both Aitken and Lee insisted that the team will be just as motivated to get a result against the Indian Ocean nation.
Aitken said: "In terms of game time, all the players are pretty even at the moment but, depending on what the physio says, we might give a few players a bit of a break. All of them are dying to get out there and play."
Lee added: "We still have things that we want to run through on the court, like our flow and some combinations.
"Also, Maldives won't be easy; they are small and speedy, and it's not like we are going to close one eye and still expect to win."