SINGAPORE - It was a day of firsts for the Schools National A Division boys' badminton finalists on Thursday (May 16) at Pasir Ris Sports Hall.
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) won their first title in the competition since 2014, beating first-time finalists Nanyang Junior College (NYJC) 4-1.
ACS(I) were up 2-0 in the best-of-five finals and it was down to captain Ng Wee Lim to claim the winning point.
But he faced resistance in NYJC's Hong Fei Lut, who led most of the first set until Wee Lim caught up to tie at 19-19 before claiming the last two points.
Boosted by his first-set win, the 18-year-old increased his tempo and comfortably won the second set 21-14, as the sea of red, blue and gold erupted into cheers while his teammates leapt onto him and collapsed to the ground in victory.
Second doubles pair Ryane Cheong and Tristan Ng won their match 2-0 (21-7, 24-22) before NYJC captain Hoe Yew Wis beat Dillon Chiu 2-0 (21-10, 21-18) to prevent an ACS(I) clean sweep.
Wee Lim acknowledged that he felt pressurised before his match, which affected his play in the beginning. He said: "Going into the match, there was additional pressure because I felt that I should try to win as soon as possible to prevent any surprises later.
"I was a bit nervous at first but I started to pick up momentum along the way and that helped me gain confidence and I'm glad I was able to maintain that confidence throughout the game and take the win for my school."
Vice-captain Ryane, 18, said he and his teammates took last year's semi-final exit to River Valley High School "hard" and "wanted to bounce back even stronger this year".
"Everyone really wanted to win it and I feel like that's what got us this far," he added.
Even though they lost, NYJC captain Yew Wis was proud of his teammates for making history, after knocking out four-time defending champions Raffles Institution (RI) 3-2 in the semi-finals.
The 18-year-old said it was a "dream" to play the final because they did not expect to beat RI in the last four.
He added: "During my match today, I wanted to show that even though we lost, we must still try our best as the core of our training is not giving up until the very last shot.
"I'm proud that we made it this far and I hope we can maintain this mentality until next year."
While ACS(I) won their first title in five years, the RI girls' badminton team emerged victorious for the fourth year running, beating Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) 4-1.
The solitary point for HCI was won by Leong Wen Ting, who was determined to beat long-time rival Arielle Koh, who beat her in the National School Games for the past three years.
In preparation for Thursday's match, Wen Ting, 18, started running 15 minutes daily during recess to improve her stamina.
And her hard work paid off when she beat Arielle 2-0 (21-18, 21-16), reducing the overall score to 2-1, before RI pair Melissa Chua and Sophia Loo comfortably won their match 21-12, 21-8 to give their school the winning point. Nicole Ng won the fourth point for RI in the 2-0 (21-11, 21-16) win over Abigail Yeo in the dead rubber.
Captain Melissa, 18, said: "We had a lot of trust in each other and confidence that we could reach here.
"It has been a tough journey for all of us as we all had injuries and we faced tough opponents this year so I'm really thankful we defended our title."