Netball: Early surge helps Botswana beat Singapore by four points

Botswana shooter Hildah Binang receiving a low pass while marked by Singapore goalkeeper Chen Lili. Botswana won 42-38 after establishing a 12-7 lead at the end of the opening quarter and coach Sithulile Mhlotshwa said: ""Hildah was one of the key re
Botswana shooter Hildah Binang receiving a low pass while marked by Singapore goalkeeper Chen Lili. Botswana won 42-38 after establishing a 12-7 lead at the end of the opening quarter and coach Sithulile Mhlotshwa said: ""Hildah was one of the key reasons we won the game."PHOTO: NETBALL SINGAPORE

The only time the Singapore netball team were ahead of their Botswanian opponents at the Mission Foods Nations Cup yesterday was during the pre-match warm-up, when they took to the OCBC Arena court 15 minutes earlier.

Once the match started, however, the world No. 19 visitors put up a strong offensive first-quarter display that left Singapore playing catch-up throughout in a 38-42 defeat.

Both sides have a win and a loss in the tournament, which ends on Saturday.

Botswana's opening salvo gave them a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. The two sides were then neck and neck in the next two quarters.

Despite a brief surge by Singapore - ranked 17th in the world - which saw them outscore Botswana 13-11 in the last quarter, it was not enough to complete a turnaround.

Singapore coach Ruth Aitken gave credit to Botswana, saying: "They were very strong throughout the court both on attack and defence. Their aerial play was quite spectacular, and they're a very well-balanced team so they'll be pleased to have got the win."

In last year's tournament, Singapore also lost to Botswana at the group stage, but beat the same opponents in the third-place play-off.

Aitken, 60, added: "When you play catch-up after being five goals down in the first quarter against a team with the skill level of Botswana, it's really hard.

"The second and third quarters were quite even and I really applauded the heart of the last quarter, but it was just a bit too far to catch up in that short time."

In fact, the Kiwi felt her side's performance was better than the previous day, when they beat Ireland 52-37. Nevertheless, she added: "We gave too many turnovers away by trying to play too fast too soon, so it's just about making sure they have that full intensity on defence, but a little more patience and precision on attack."

Botswana had lost 43-46 to Zambia in their opener on Sunday, and coach Sithulile Mhlotshwa was happy that her side followed their game plan this time around.

"Our strategy was to attack Singapore from the outset and open up a gap," she said. "The Singapore goalkeeper (Chen Lili) is good on aerial balls, so we used the bounce passes to get past her."

Singling out shooter Hildah Binang, who scored 34 goals out of 38 attempts (89 per cent accuracy), Mhlotshwa added: "Hildah was one of the key reasons we won the game. She was marked by the goalkeeper and the instruction to her was to go and work the keeper out. She did exactly that - and she scored."

Botswana will next face 15th-ranked Papua New Guinea today, while Singapore will play against 18th-ranked Canada.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Early surge helps Botswana beat Singapore by four points'. Print Edition | Subscribe