National netball coach Ruth Aitken hailed the character of her charges as Singapore came from behind to beat Botswana by a single point to clinch bronze at the Mission Foods Nations Cup yesterday.
With the score tied at 43-43 with less than a minute to go, the hosts seized the initiative as goal attack Yasmin Ho scored the winning point to send the 1,800-strong crowd at the OCBC Arena into raptures.
Even though they failed to at least match their second-placed finish last year, Aitken was happy that the team ended the year on a positive note.
"I think it was really uplifting," said the New Zealander.
"They've hit some hard times this week and we don't take disappointments easily.
"But they picked themselves up and I think they finished in style."
The netballers certainly took some hard knocks at the Nations Cup as the world No. 15 Asian champions lost 44-43 to world No. 16 Papua New Guinea in their opening match last Sunday. Then they suffered a second heartbreak when they lost to No. 19 Botswana 46-38 on Wednesday.
It looked like history might repeat itself yesterday, as Botswana took a 13-9 first-quarter lead and held it for most of the game.
Singapore levelled the score at 20-20 late in the second quarter but, in the dying seconds, Botswana scored to go into half-time 21-20 up.
Pamela Liew came on as goal attack in the third quarter but scoring opportunities were missed as Botswana increased their lead to 34-31. That set up a thrilling finale as the Republic's netballers' never-say-die spirit shone through with Ho's late winner.
Meanwhile, top-ranked Northern Ireland won their second Nations Cup in six years when they beat Papua New Guinea 52-41 in the final.
"It's been a wonderful tournament for us, we've played well throughout, and took every match like a Test match," said Northern Ireland captain Gemma Gibney.
"The team have been great, the players have worked hard, and I think we've shown enough strength and skill consistently."
This article was first published on Dec 20, 2015.
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