School Sports: Defence wins the championship for Hwa Chong's A Div cagers

Hwa Chong Institution's Sarah Goh (#13) taking a shot during the A Division girls' basketball final on May 23, 2022. ST PHOTO: EUGENE GOH PHOTO: ST
Hwa Chong Institution's A Division girls' basketballers won National Junior College 44-30. ST PHOTO: EUGENE GOH

SINGAPORE - Ask Hwa Chong Institution's A Division girls' basketballers what gave them the edge in their title triumph at this year's National School Games (NSG) and they will tell you that it is their defence.

The 2019 runners-up had kept it tight at the back throughout the season, conceding just 16 points - the lowest among all 16 teams - after three games during the group stage. After a 61-15 win over Victoria Junior College in the quarter-finals, they blunted Nanyang Junior College, one of the highest scorers, to win 27-23 in the semis.

In the final, their defence came to the fore again as HCI held off the challenge of National Junior College (NJC) to win 44-30 at the Singapore Basketball Centre on Monday (May 23).

HCI had raced to a 6-0 lead, but NJC made it 8-8 after the first quarter and led in the second quarter through Lew Si Hui, who converted both her free throws to make it 10-8.

However, HCI's Huang Kaining had other ideas as she sank her team's first three-pointer to reclaim the lead, making it 13-10.

From then, HCI never relinquished the lead. Despite a five-point advantage going into the third quarter, they kept focusing on their defence and held off their opponents to clinch victory.

"We worked really hard today," said HCI captain Mindy Pek, who was the Most Valuable Player in the final. "When we were losing, we had to have a strong mindset and mentality to fight back. Amid the distractions, we focused on ourselves and our game and worked together as a team to get the lead back."

The 18-year-old added that the win was due to a combination of factors.

"Definitely, our defence was a key reason for our win. We really had to slow down and not get rushed by our opponents," she said. "We played a slow game and got the ball in so we were able to convert our balls and score."

Scoring 10 points for her team, including a sensational three-pointer midway through the last quarter, the forward was elated to help her school win the championship.

"The team really wanted this goal since the very start of our NSGs. We had this goal in mind and really worked hard throughout the tournament to reach where we are today," she said.

Marshalling the team from the sidelines was coach Neo Beng Siang who had just taken the reins last year.

"It means a lot to me to win the championship on my first try. All credit goes to the school and to the players," the 55-year-old said. "I think both teams fought hard but our execution was better than them."

Remote video URL

NJC captain Yong Lok Qing was proud of her team despite the result.

"I think we fought really hard so no matter the result, I am really proud of the team," the 18-year-old said. "My biggest takeaway from the NSG has to be my friendships within the team. We have been playing together for six years and we did not get to compete for the last two years so this will be our last season we get to play and it means alot to us."

In the A boys' competition, NJC defeated HCI 41-33 to clinch the title.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.