They leapt, charged and fought for every ball but Singapore were unable to stage another comeback at the Nations Cup, falling 60-53 to Fiji on Monday.
The hosts had trailed by four goals at half-time and managed to tie the scores at 44-all going into the final quarter at the OCBC Arena. But unlike in their opener against Ireland on Sunday, the comeback did not materialise.
National coach Annette Bishop admitted that the team did not adapt quickly enough and have to work on getting their basics like footwork right, especially in crucial moments.
She said: “In the last quarter, we had phases of good play but a couple of things went wrong and we retreated back into ourselves, so we just have to ensure we keep believing. They still kept fighting but it just didn’t go our way today.
“We’ve got a young side and a couple of them haven’t played against Fiji before. We just need to learn to stay in it for a full 60 minutes and not let teams back in when we have a lead.
“It’ll be another tough one (tomorrow against Botswana) but we’ll go back, work on growing our strengths and minimising errors.”
World No. 30 Singapore had a bright start, managing to take an early albeit narrow lead but costly errors allowed Fiji to catch up and take the first quarter 15-11.
Both sides maintained the intensity in the second quarter, as Fiji held on to their 32-28 lead before the hosts came out blazing in the third quarter.
This forced the Pacific islanders into a few mistakes, while Singapore’s shooter Amandeep Kaur Chahal converted all 11 of her attempts to draw things level.
But fatigue set in eventually as passes went astray and they were forced to take shots farther out, allowing Fiji to grab their first win at the Nations Cup after a shock loss to world No. 31 Botswana on Sunday.
Amandeep, 22, noted that the Fijians were bigger and more physical and that Singapore found it tough to penetrate the Fijian defence in the last quarter.
“We were not penetrating, so we were forced to take shots from far out in the circle and because we were tired, we were missing the shots,” she said.
“We want to progress to the final, so we have to have a strong mindset coming back and we have to give our all. And I believe my team have it within them to progress.”
On Tuesday, Singapore face Botswana, who are unbeaten at the six-team event and lead the standings with four points. In the earlier match on Monday, they comfortably beat Singapore A 50-31.
After the round-robin stage, the top two teams progress to the final on Saturday. Singapore are tied with three others on two points each while Ireland are bottom after two straight losses.
Fiji captain Vaiti Coa Waqatabu said the loss to the Africans served as motivation for her teammates on Monday.
The 35-year-old said: “I’m pretty happy. Unfortunately we didn’t start well. That motivated us to play hard in today’s game... and we will continue to work on our weaknesses in future games.
“We fought till the end although both teams were tired, we held on till the last whistle. This is a build-up towards the 2023 Netball World Cup so our goal is to keep improving. A win is just a bonus to us.”
Malaysia also bounced back with a 58-44 win over Ireland after losing to Singapore A on Monday.
Coach Choo Kon Lee was pleased with the team’s much-improved performance, in which they were more active and reduced their errors.
She said: “The girls were a bit disappointed and maybe (because) it was the first game, they were feeling jittery. I just told them to stick to our game plan and be strong in getting the ball. They did a good job today.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare (so) my goal for them is to... do our best in each game. No matter what the result is, they must walk out of the court proud, play their best and feel satisfied. Winning is a bonus.”