S'pore netballers suffer agonising one-point loss
One-point loss hurts, but hosts still confident ahead of N Ireland clash
PAPUA NEW GUINEA 44
They were behind Papua New Guinea (PNG) by two points after the first quarter but, with the score at 11-9, the Singapore netball team would have felt they would be able to turn things around.
In the end, though, the hosts came agonisingly short, going down 44-43 in the opening match of the Netball Mission Foods Nations Cup at the OCBC Arena yesterday.
The match was tight throughout, with the Papuans maintaining their two-point advantage entering the final period.
At 33-31, it was still anybody's game and, while Singapore managed to win the final quarter (12-11), they could not find at least another basket to avoid an opening-day loss.
Singapore coach Ruth Aitken admitted that it was a tough game, and a tough way to go down.
"I think it (winning the first quarter) got Papua New Guinea's confidence up and it was really hard for us," she said after the game.
"When we thought we got one or two hits, Papua New Guinea would just come back. It was a real battle."
It was always going to be a close contest, with Singapore ranked No. 15 in the world, just one spot ahead of the Papuans.
The Singapore team beat their opponents at last year's Nations Cup 47-42 en route to finishing second in the competition (behind Samoa), and the OCBC Arena would have held wonderful memories after their gold-medal winning performance at the SEA Games in June.
The loss increases the pressure on the girls, as they look to finish in the top two of the six-team round-robin tournament.
Singapore co-vice captain Nurul Baizura believes the team are still in a good position.
"The start (of the match) was a bit jittery," she admitted.
"I think we are there (in terms of skills). Everyone just needs to get their head in (the game) and settle down, but I thought it was a good first game."
"It has to be 120 per cent effort all out - maximum effort from the start, taking the game strong from the start till the end," Nurul responded, when asked how the team would approach today's match with Northern Ireland.
Communication was also an area pinpointed.
"They (Singapore players) need to connect and come together, instead of just waiting on their own," said Aitken.
The Singapore team have also seen some changes since the SEA Games, with vice-captain Chen Huifen taking a break.
But Aitken believes the team still have a good chance of winning.
"At this stage, it's (the target) to win tomorrow," she said.
"We would like to be contesting in the final, but there are some quality teams here... If we keep improving every day, then we'll be there in the final."
- Northern Ireland 41 Botswana 37
- Singapore Invitational 57 Taiwan 25
- 3pm: Taiwan v Papua New Guinea
- 5pm: Singapore Invitational v Botswana
- 7pm: Singapore v Northern Ireland
(All matches at OCBC Arena)