Netball: Singapore head coach Aitken pleased in spite of defeat

Zambia's Hellen Banda (right) preparing to shoot as Singapore goal defender Shina Teo attempts to block her shot. Zambia won 50-45 and will face Papua New Guinea in the final today.
Zambia's Hellen Banda (right) preparing to shoot as Singapore goal defender Shina Teo attempts to block her shot. Zambia won 50-45 and will face Papua New Guinea in the final today.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Singapore will play for third place at the Mission Foods Nations Cup netball tournament today, after losing their last round-robin match 45-50 to world no. 16 Zambia at the OCBC Arena yesterday.

The final will be contested by Zambia and last year's runner-up Papua New Guinea.

The 17th-ranked hosts came back after trailing 9-12 in the first quarter to lead 36-34 going into the final 15 minutes. However, Zambia, who are undefeated so far, pulled away in the final five minutes to seal the win.

Singapore had lost 31-67 to Papua New Guinea the previous night, and coach Ruth Aitken was happy with her charges' improved showing last night.

"We had just a few little errors at the end and a little bit of hesitancy in that last quarter," she said.

Zambia shot only 82 per cent last night, after averaging 90 per cent in their previous games, and Aitken said: "We put a lot of pressure in the goal circle, and (goalkeeper) Chen Lili got a lot of turnovers for us.

"I was also really pleased with Josephine Yeo coming on as centre. Her athleticism really showed through."

Zambia coach Charles Zulu was relieved that his side pulled through. "In the final quarter, I fielded the wing attacker (Joyce Mwanza) and she was impressive in pushing the ball into the circle so that the shooters get more opportunities," he said.

Zambia had beaten Papua New Guinea 61-45 in their round-robin match on Monday, but Zulu insisted his side will not rest on their laurels ahead of today's final.

He said: "They are a strong team who are very good in both attack and defence, so I'll see what approach they take before coming up with a plan from there."

Papua New Guinea booked their spot in the final after edging Ireland 43-41 yesterday.

Said their captain Lua Rikis: "We didn't do what we were supposed to and today wasn't our day, but a win is a win. Our focus tomorrow is to stick to our game plan and keep refining our attacking and defending."

Botswana beat Canada 64-31 yesterday. The latter will face Ireland in the play-off for fifth place today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Aitken pleased in spite of defeat'. Print Edition | Subscribe