Singapore let down by ‘killer’ third quarter against Malaysia
Error-prone Republic fail to eclipse Malaysia's 10-point advantage from that period, but coach Milicich sees positives in her young charges
Singapore's hopes of regaining the SEA Games netball gold medal all but collapsed in the third quarter of the final at Santa Rosa Sports Complex in Laguna, Philippines, yesterday.
Inconsistency was the culprit that cost them dearly and, though they pulled back four points in the fourth quarter, they eventually succumbed 48-42 to defending champions Malaysia.
It was a baptism of fire for the losers, seven of whom were making their Games debut.
Yet, all seemed well at the start, as Singapore held their own and even prevailed by a point at the end of the first quarter.
The intense encounter saw the teams deadlocked at 21-21 during the interval.
However, things went awry in the third quarter.
Individual errors seeped into their game and their opponents were quick to capitalise on them to race to an 11-point advantage, before closing the quarter 40-30 ahead.
The Republic's captain Charmaine Soh and her team threw their all into the last quarter, hustling to chip away at Malaysia's big lead.
They managed to reduce their arrears but it was never going to be enough and they could only close the gap to 48-42 at the final whistle.
"I do feel disappointed because this is not the best result. The third quarter was the killer and it is always the game-changer in netball," said Soh, 29, in a phone interview.
"We were inconsistent in the final and that's a key thing we need to work on.
"Everyone in the team contributed but the defence played exceptionally well today."
Soh, who plays as a goal attack, is the only remaining player from the 2015 squad that pipped Malaysia 46-43 to win on home soil.
At the 2017 Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia reclaimed the gold after winning 65-41.
"It is never easy playing against Malaysia. We have been rivals on court since the very start and it's always down to which team makes the most mistakes," she added.
While Singapore have seven debutantes in their 12-player team, nine Malaysians remain from their winning squad of 2017 and all of them train full-time.
Still, coach Natalie Milicich saw many positives and said that, despite the silver, it is an "exciting time for Singapore in netball".
"This team are a young squad and I'm proud of how they started and how far they've come without Kim," said the New Zealander, referring to wing attack Kimberly Lim, whom they lost two months ago to a torn Achilles tendon.
"They played defensively with their hearts out and put up a solid fight. This experience will make them stronger, especially since younger players unfortunately learn more from losses than wins.
"The team are very upset but it's because they've worked so hard and left everything on the court. If they didn't care, they wouldn't be this upset."
Veteran Vanessa Lee, who returned from retirement earlier in the year, was crestfallen.
"We expected a close one-for-one goal game and knew that whoever chipped away at the other team more would be the winners.
"Ultimately, Malaysia took advantage of our errors," said Lee, 35. "But I'm very proud of the team because even after the third quarter, we didn't put our heads down and were still in the game to finish with a goal difference of six."
Asked if she will continue playing for the national team, she said: "It's been a fruitful year of netball and I've enjoyed it, but now, I will take a break."
* As of press time.
Singapore's medallists yesterday
- Hamillatu Arash Juffrie, Nujaid Hasif Zainal Abidin and Nazrul Kamal (silat, men's artistic team)
- Iqbal Abdul Rahman (silat, men's artistic singles)
- Netball team
- Herlene Yu, Luke Chua, Emma Middleditch, Bryce Chong (triathlon, mixed team relay)
- Joel Tseng (kurash, men's under 73kg)
- Women's badminton team
- Men's badminton team
- Irwan Abdul Rahman (shooting, men's 10m air rifle)
- Au Yeong Wai Yhann (squash, women's singles)
- Chua Man Chin (squash, men's singles)
- Leong Khim Hoong, Matthew Ngui, Melvin Tan (lawn bowls, men's triples)