SINGAPORE - Their names may be different now, but Tampines Meridian Junior College (TMJC) still stepped onto the Jurong East Sports Hall court on Thursday (May 23) with a point to prove against Anderson Serangoon Junior College (ASRJC) in the Schools Nationals A division boys' basketball final.
Before the merger of the respective schools this year, Anderson beat Meridian in the semi-finals last year, en route to defending their A division title.
But TMJC came out firing on all cylinders on Thursday, establishing a 21-6 lead in the first quarter. The advantage proved to be the strong foundation TMJC built on to land their first A Division boys basketball title by beating ASRJC 62-46.
TMJC basketball teacher-in-charge Allen Lee said: "It has always been our game plan to come out aggressive from the start, and the big lead helped us tide over some scoring droughts during the game.
"I feel the extra training the team put in to get things right in the pre-season really paid off. On top of the three sessions, the players would do more strength and conditioning on their own, which shows the sacrifice and commitment they put in."
ASRJC were down by as much as 32-8 midway through the second period, but woke up from their slumber to make a good fist of things in the second half, going on 14- and 10-point runs to reduce the deficit.
But each time there was a sniff of a comeback, TMJC responded well to snuff out ASRJC's challenge with crucial baskets to maintain their double-digit lead.
TMJC power forward Dorian Chin, who was named most valuable player, was a strong force under the rim as he contributed a joint game-high 15 points along with Darryl Chan, who sank a hat-trick of three-pointers.
TMJC captain Tiong Chuan Yao said: "It means a lot to create history with this team, it feels great and it is a real blessing. After tasting defeat last year, we wanted revenge, and played really hard for this win.
"Credit has to go to the great support from our coaches and teachers, who helped us build a strong mindset. We were a little nervous when the opponents started to catch up, but it wasn't the first time we were in such a position, so we knew how to stay calm and composed to close out the game."
In the A Division girls final, Raffles Institution (RI) eased past Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) 52-33 to reclaim the title they last won in 2017.
HCI, who had beaten RI by 13 points during the round-robin quarter-final stage, had no answer to their opponents 2-3 zone defence this time round, as they were reduced to attempting long jumpers, which often missed the mark.
RI, on the other hand, were able to penetrate into the paint more efficiently, with captain and centre Tan Kang Yi plundering 25 points.
RI coach Chiew Poh Leng said: "We did not have a good plan and strategy when we last met, and we made some changes after some reflection. I felt our team were more mentally prepared today and showed no nerves."
Kang Yi, who was also named MVP, added: "This feels very surreal because of how the team have journeyed through setbacks this season. We lost three times in the quarter-finals and barely made it to the semi-finals as the fourth seeds.
"With so many supporters, the final was a different environment and we told ourselves to calm down and focus on the coach's instructions. We lost to Dunman High last year, so to win this time feels amazing."