After an absence of 14 years, the Singapore men's basketball team have qualified for the Fiba Asia Championship that will be played in Changsha, China, from Sept 23 to Oct 3.
They made it after finishing third in the South-east Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship which concluded on Friday at the OCBC Arena.
Even though Singapore ended their participation in the regional competition with a 82-56 defeat by ASEAN powerhouses Philippines, the team still had reason to celebrate.
"We were definitely aiming for that, and we were quite confident beforehand," said national men's coach Neo Beng Siang on qualifying for the continental finals that will see the top two finishers qualifying for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year.
"But the SEA Games is more important at this point of time."
Singapore have a comparatively easy route in the Games in June.
They have been drawn in Group B alongside Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, and will not have to contend with the Philippines and Malaysia in the early stages.
On Friday, while coach Neo was satisfied with his players' performance against the Philippines, he also saw grounds for improvement.
"We were too rushed in our offence, resulting in a lot of turnovers that really killed us," he said of his men who had also suffered a 58-49 defeat to Malaysia on Thursday.
Cheered on by a large Filipino community, the visitors' speed and skills were too much for Singapore to handle even though the Republic's point guard Wong Wei Long top-scored in the game with 17 points.
He rated his team's performance in the championship as "5.5 out of 10", noting that there was a "huge gap" for Singapore to bridge to catch up with the Philippines.
"We need to improve in our communication so we're going to sit down in training and discuss with each other how to improve," the 26-year-old Singapore Slinger said.
After Friday's last round of matches, the Philippines won the Seaba Championship after posting five straight victories.
Malaysia were runners-up with four wins and one loss while Singapore were also on the podium with three victories and two defeats.
This article was first published on May 3, 2015.
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