SINGAPORE - Just two minutes into the North Zone B Division boys' basketball final on Friday (April 22), North Vista Secondary School's shooting guard Nigel Ong found himself on the floor of the Singapore Basketball Centre battling an excruciating pain in his ankle.
He had stepped on an opponent's leg while fighting through a screen moments earlier and sprained his right ankle in the process.
Despite the pain, the Secondary 4 student was adamant about playing on in final against Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School as he did not want to let his teammates down.
After being assessed by a medic and just a few minutes' rest, the 15-year-old was back on the court - with four minutes of the first quarter remaining.
While he still felt a sharp pain whenever there was pressure on his foot, that did not stop Nigel from emerging as the team's top scorer with 18 points - which included five three-pointers - in their 60-38 win over Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School.
He said: "I knew I couldn't sit out for the rest of the game because I worked so hard just to come here and I couldn't sit out to watch my teammates play. At first after the injury, what was on my mind was just the pain on my ankle. But after I fought through the pain, I managed to pull through and score five treys.
"I've worked very hard with (team captain) Amirul (Azfa Mohsain) since Primary 3 - we've always wanted to be a champion. I didn't want to leave him alone on the basketball court."
Friday's victory was a special one for Nigel, Amirul and teammate Aiman Aqil Aimie, who have been playing basketball together since they were pupils at Anchor Green Primary School, sharing the common goal of winning a title together.
Amirul, 16, said: "The three of us have stood by each other since Primary 3 and we've worked hard all the way until now and when we heard the last buzzer sound, it was a relief because we managed to achieve our goal."
Although North Vista finished the match with a 22-point advantage, the first 10 minutes were closely contested, with Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary claiming a 15-11 first-quarter lead.
But North Vista were able to reclaim the lead in the second quarter to finish the first half 28-22 up.
After the slow start, they found their feet and put up a dominant display in the remaining two quarters. The final quarter saw them scoring 21 points and limiting their opponents to just six points, capping off the title-winning victory for the two-time defending champions.
Amirul said: "To be honest, I think they (Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary) were the better side in the first quarter but we managed to get each other back on track and towards the fourth quarter we played our best game.
"I told them that this was our last game so we might as well go all out because after this, all of us have mid-years, N levels and O levels so we should make the best of our last official competition and just enjoy the session."
Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School captain Christopher Michael, 15, was pleased with how his team performed despite the loss.
The Secondary 4 student said: "I didn't expect us to come this far because when I started training with the team, top four was just my final goal. Looking at how far the team has come, I'm quite happy and I'm really proud of them."
In the North Zone B girls' final on Friday, it was Christ Church Secondary School who won the title after beating Yishun Town Secondary School 38-29.
Like the boys' final, there was not much to separate the two sides initially as Christ Church led by just 12-11 after the first half.
But they extended their lead to 27-14 in the third quarter and went on to clinch the title.
Christ Church captain Grace Ang attributed the team's bumpy start to nerves, but lauded her teammates for their fighting spirit that was crucial to their victory.
Grace, 16, said: "Our fighting spirit and defence during our match (really helped in the final). Even though first two quarters we were very nervous and anxious, we still overcame it and did what our coach said. He said we need to focus on the game and don't think about the points, just focus on what we should do individually on the court."
Yishun Town captain Clarissa Tham, 15, was proud of her team's display, saying: "The team did great. We trained hard - they played amazing today. We played better than we thought we would and obviously we have a lot of mixed emotions, but we let it all out and we just played our game."
Vice-captain Adrienne Pek, 16, added: "This is some of the teammates' first time playing so it's a good overall experience, just for them to know how competitive it is the finals especially."