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The finals of the Mission Foods Nations Cup proved that debutants – Zambia, are the undefeated of the tournament and are crowned the champions of the tournament.
In an exciting start to the final tournament of the competition, the Papua New Guinea team and Zambian team was on par with their opponent. Zambia put on a tactical play which was to their benefit and allowed them to be constantly ahead of the scoring point. The score difference widened only in the final quarter, when Zambia led with a score of six points in the last three minutes of the match. Papua New Guinea was determined to catch up with their strong opponents with an aggressive attacking play. In spite of that, the team could not find their bearing to edge the match and Zambia eventually triumphed with a score of 65 – 49.
Team Zambia’s Head Coach, Charles Zulu commented: “It took me almost five years to build this team. Now, it is promising. I’m so happy with their achievements. In fact, in sports development, it takes eight years for a player to reach her peak. If you’re in your fifth year with such achievement, you’re on the right track. I’m looking at the U20 now, so as to help them blend with the older players, and I’m on track to achieving my goal of getting the team to the top five”.
The grueling third and fourth placing match kicked off with Botswana’s Tumisang scoring the first three goals. Team Singapore displayed their strength through their midfielders (Nurul, Lim and Nair) passing the ball across court to Soh, who eventually scored the team their first goal. With both teams equally strong, the scores are consistently at a tie. Chen of Singapore stepped up in the first half by deflecting multiple attempts by Botswana’s Binang – who seemed to be faltering in the first half of the match. Even with Lee’s interception that allowed the ball into Singapore’s third, Motlakaleso of Botswana tightly marked Soh and caused Singapore to lose scoring opportunities.
Even with Botswana holding their strength with their passes across the court, Teo managed to intercept passes in Botswana’s third which eventually increased Singapore’s scoring opportunities during the second half of the match.
With Singapore’s scores just slightly behind Botswana’s, the African team put the pressure on their opponents with tighter marking in Singapore’s middle and third. That resulted in Singapore switching to passing the ball down the lines. The roaring home crowd of 2,006 proved to be a motivation for the Singapore team as they persevered to catch up with their opponents. Despite their determination, an unmarked Tumisang of Botswana scored the final goal to bring the exciting match to a close with the score of 47 – 41.
Head Coach of Team Singapore, Ruth Atiken commended her team’s effort: “I thought it was an amazing game – we had an amazing passion and determination keeping the game, but we just couldn’t get over the line. The fightback was fantastic, but we can’t get any goals in it, that’s the reality. As a team on attack, we need to play with more confidence. Botswana did a very good job of disrupting our flight. Nerves definitely played a part as you’ll be aware of the intensity of getting out there. We need to keep growing the connections as we’re a very young team. Overall, we are very happy with the performance. Today, there were some ups and downs, and the intensity probably was another step up. Some great learnings but it’s still work in progress. It’s a long way to the SEA Games and we are not quite where we’d like to be, but it’s about ensuring that we keep growing what we’ve got moving forward.”
In the match for the fifth and sixth placing of the tournament, Ireland defeated the Canadian team to secure the fifth placing. Ireland had their top scorer, Morrisey back on court after sitting out of two matches – which gave Ireland their advantage. Vice-Captain of Ireland, Slater, led the team to take the lead in all three quarters by continuously gaining ball possession from Canada’s third. Even with Canada’s newly formed team managing to secure a tie in the last quarter, Ireland won the match with a score of 47 -18.
Beyond the tournament, Singaporean Nigel Lim, the only male umpire for the tournament, was awarded the International Umpiring Award – the highest accolade given to an umpire. Nigel is a member of the Netball Super League since 2008 and has umpired an impressive number of netball tournaments including the Mission Foods Nations Cup 2012 to 2016, 28th SEA Games and the 2012 Asian Championships.
Netball Singapore is the national body for netball in Singapore. Established in 1962, it has become a professionally run National Sport Association today.
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