Early time-out does the trick

Early time-out does the trick
PHOTO: The New Paper

It is not often that a time-out is called barely three minutes into a netball game.

But that was what Singapore coach Ruth Aitken did during their Netball World Cup opening match against Sri Lanka on the Show Court at the Netball Central in the Sydney Olympic Park yesterday.

The South-east Asia Games and Asian champions were nervy in the opening minutes of their Pool C clash, and allowed the South Asians to take a 3-0 lead before the time-out.

Said Aitken: "Everyone was just nervous and excited, they are bigger than our girls and we needed to open the court up...

"So basically we had to run the legs off them and move things along fast. Once we remembered how to play the game properly, we were fine."

The game was level at 12-12 at the end of the first quarter, before Singapore stepped on the gas and went into half-time 30-23 up, with goal shooter Charmaine Soh converting 15 of her 16 shots in the second period.

But the 25-year-old's shooting was erratic in the cold weather, with a conversion rate of 54 per cent and 64 per cent in the third and final quarters respectively.

Sri Lanka, ranked 22nd in the world and beaten finalists at both at last year's and 2012's Asian Championship, gave Singapore a big scare in the third quarter, drawing level at 34-34 with just over three minutes left in the period.

But Micky Lin and Co rallied to end the quarter 39-34 up.

Goal assist and co-vice-captain Chen Huifen stepped it up in the last period, sinking eight of her 10 shots to help Singapore secure a 56-43 victory in the Asian Derby.

Chen, 30, said: "I thought the match was quite fun.

"We were very nervous at the start but, once we settled down, it was much better.

"Our shooting today was on and off, maybe because our fingers got cold when we didn't get on the ball much.

"But, once we got our court flow on in the last quarter, it was much better for us."

Sri Lanka coach Deepthi Alwis rued the missed opportunity to exact revenge for the Asian Championship loss.

Strategy

The former Sri Lankan international said: "We started out with our normal game but, in the third quarter, the players did not stick with the strategy and got blocked in the centre court.

"We couldn't open up the court and Singapore kept on scoring.

"Otherwise, we could have won narrowly, or the margin of the loss would have been (just) a few goals."

Sri Lanka will likely be Singapore's easiest opponents in Pool C, as they face higher-ranked rivals South Africa (fifth) and Malawi (sixth) today and tomorrow respectively.

The game against the Spar Proteas today will be an intriguing one for the coaches, too.

Aitken was the New Zealand coach at the 2011 World Championships final in Singapore, which they lost to an Australian side coached by Norma Plummer.

Plummer was recently roped in for a short-term stint as the World Cup coach for South Africa, who lost 58-51 to Malawi in the other Pool C match yesterday.

On the reunion, Aitken said: "We'll probably have a little smile for each other before the game, and then it'll all be on to our (respective) teams."

sayheng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 8, 2015.
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