SINGAPORE - The Singapore Under-21 netball team produced a solid first three quarters to keep pace with their more experienced Malaysian counterparts in the Asian Youth Netball Championship final on Sunday (July 7).
Trailing by three points as they entered the final period in Kashima, Japan, the Republic's lack of poise proved costly as they committed too many turnovers while trying to cut the deficit.
In the end, the Malaysians, who have seven players with senior caps, clinically converted their chances to win 57-48 and exact revenge for a 47-43 reverse in the 2017 final in South Korea.
Nevertheless, Singapore U-21 coach Goh Seck Teck was proud of how his 12 girls, none of whom have been capped by the senior team, managed to keep their fierce rivals at bay for much of the game.
The defending champions even led 16-13 at the end of the first quarter after an aggressive start, rattling Malaysia with their quick hands and footwork.
Goh said: "We worked very hard, given that we were inferior in terms of size and experience. Our plan was to keep their score as low as possible, and I felt we did that earlier on by cutting their attack quite a few times and I'm quite proud of our girls."
However, once Malaysia settled down, they eventually found their passing rhythm and took control of the game. It helped that their goal shooter Khairunnisa Nazri was on red-hot form, making 45 of her 50 attempts.
At half-time of the closely-fought encounter, Singapore trailed 26-25. They were up 34-33 midway through the third quarter but could not maintain that momentum as sloppy passing crept into their play.
Singapore captain Janna Poong said: "There were hiccups here and there later on in the game, but credit to Malaysia because they shot very well today.
"Since the start of the tournament, we have improved in terms of teamwork and the flow of attack. I'm really proud of the girls because we put up a good fight until the final whistle."
By finishing in the top three, Singapore have qualified for the 2021 Netball Youth World Cup in Fiji.
Goh said: "If you look at the shot attempts, they had 67 and we had just two fewer. So that is one area we need to improve on. Also, we lost concentration due to fatigue from putting in the extra effort in the first three quarters.
"But all these improvements will come with experience and we need more time to expose the squad to international matches."