They were underdogs with a lower world ranking and had already lost to the same opponents earlier in the week.
However, the Singapore national netball team remained hungry for their first Nations Cup title in seven years as they went into the final against Samoa yesterday.
So it was all the more disappointing when they lost 50-41 at the OCBC Arena, despite holding a six-point half-time lead over their world No. 14 Oceania opponents.
This was the second time in as many years that the hosts - ranked world No. 19 - are runners-up, having finished behind Uganda last year.
An upset over Samoa, the top-ranked and only unbeaten team in the annual tournament, had seemed likely in the first half.
With Chen Lili, Singapore's tallest player at 1.96m, starting as goal keeper, veteran defender Premila Hirubalan was allowed to take position mid-court and help intercept balls before they reached Samoa's shooting circle.
But Singapore soon found their hard-earned lead quickly slipping through their fingers.
Said captain Lin Qingyi: "We started off really well but didn't have enough to finish it off. It's quite disappointing, actually.
"I think we need to persevere a bit more. We let our guards down, and to be fair, Samoa did really well in the second half to come back really strong."
Samoa showed they were just as efficient defenders as they were sharp shooters, picking up numerous interceptions in the second half and effectively limiting Singapore's passing options.
Said Hirubalan who was awarded Singapore's Most Valuable Player for the tournament: "They outran us in the second half. They were quicker, faster... and they figured out our game plan faster than we could figure out theirs.
"It's a lot of things to work on... our mental game, how to adapt to things on court... but we fought really well, and we know that we can compete against world-class teams so that's something good for us to build on."
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the championship, head coach Ruth Aitken said the team's performance over the past week has been encouraging, ahead of next year's World Cup in Australia.
Said the New Zealander: "It's important to reflect on what we've achieved. We still are disappointed and that's good too."
Posting victories against higher-ranked teams like Botswana (No. 16) and Papua New Guinea (No. 17) are positives the team can take from the tournament, she noted.
"That was a really good step up for us," she said.
"Sometimes, sports doesn't go your way. You've got to get back on the horse, work harder and smarter, and come back next year."
This article was first published on Dec 14, 2014.
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