Netball: Tears and cheers as Singapore complete comeback with win against Malaysia

Jubilant Singapore players rejoicing after their 51-43 win over Malaysia in their Asian Netball Championship semi-final yesterday. They will meet favourites Sri Lanka in today's final.
Jubilant Singapore players rejoicing after their 51-43 win over Malaysia in their Asian Netball Championship semi-final yesterday. They will meet favourites Sri Lanka in today's final.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

After Singapore's come-from-behind 51-43 win over Malaysia yesterday which booked their place in the M1 Asian Netball Championship final, coach Natalie Milicich burst into tears.

The Kiwi admitted she was emotional by nature, but added that the victory over the Republic's fierce rivals was particularly meaningful.

"It's just that we had a bit of a shaky middle (of the tournament), losing to Hong Kong (50-49 in a group game)," Milicich said, while dabbing her eye with a tissue.

"But we came together as a group and looked at our values as a team, and we really stuck to them, because that's how we really want to be seen with our performances."

Indeed, her team showed plenty of character in their semi-final.

Against the defending champions, who lost 56-55 to Singapore in a group game on Thursday, the hosts started strongly and led 16-11 after the first quarter at the OCBC Arena. But the Malaysians rallied and led 35-34 heading into the final quarter.

Singapore, backed by a vociferous crowd of over 1,600 fans, responded and outscored Malaysia 17-8 in the last 15 minutes to complete the comeback.

They face tournament favourites Sri Lanka, who beat Hong Kong 55-46 in the other last-four clash, in today's final at 4pm.

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    How many goals Singapore outscored Malaysia by in the final quarter of their Asian Netball Championship semi-final.

As the top two teams, Singapore and Sri Lanka have automatically qualified for the Netball World Cup 2019 in Liverpool, England.

Singapore captain Vanessa Lee praised the side's unity and said "we really played as one".

Goal attack Charmaine Soh was nearly flawless, sinking 30 of her 32 shots. She was one of the stars when Singapore claimed the most recent of their three Asian titles, in 2014, also on home soil.

Besides praising her team-mates' "resilience and fighting spirit", she pointed to the partisan support as a big factor for their run to the final.

"The crowd definitely played a very, very big part," she said, as a queue of young girls, hoping for a photo with her, formed near the media interview area.

"On court, we could hear how hard they were cheering for us, even when we were down.

"It really motivated and encouraged us to keep going. Hopefully we can get back the title."

Sri Lanka, led by 2.06m goal shooter Tharjini Sivalingam, beat Singapore 74-61 in a group game on Tuesday and start as favourites.

However Milicich, who took charge last September, believes her girls have a fighting chance.

"I think we've peaked at the right time, so I think we'll have another good match tomorrow," she said.

"Yes, Sri Lanka absolutely have their strengths, but... the last time we played them, we had a difference of only six shot attempts.

"So the big thing for us is to, whatever ball we get, we get it through to our shooters and give ourselves an opportunity to score."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 09, 2018, with the headline 'Tears amid cheers as S'pore complete comeback'. Print Edition | Subscribe