By Chua Jun Yan (13A01A)
Photos by Edwin Chow from Raffles Photographic Society
After a six-year drought, the RI basketball girls’ team finally clinched the A-Division title at Toa Payoh Sports Hall on Friday. Matched against arch-rivals Hwa Chong Institution, the gryphons staved off a tough challenge to emerge victorious by 75 to 47, in what one basketball veteran described as the highest-scoring girls’ game he had seen “in his life” .
Before the match, the girls were tense, but got off to a confident start. In the words of teacher-in-charge Mr Se Kuan Pin, “I have faith in the team. They have some very good players and have trained very hard.” The team did not disappoint, scoring a point within the first few seconds of the match. Barely ten seconds later, they scored again with a free throw. At times, the girls seemed hesitant and unsure, but by and large they played a fluid game, with secure passing from one end of the court to the other.
As the game progressed, the gryphons lost possession of the ball multiple times, but kept up the pressure on Hwa Chong. In a sign of just how tightly contested the match was, the play was rough, even aggressive at points, with players being tackled to the ground. Nonetheless, the RI team fought hard, and came out of the first quarter leading 18-13.
Unfortunately, the girls did not rebound well in the second quarter. Hwa Chong soon established a razor-thin lead of 21-20, keeping the spectators on both sides in suspense. Nonetheless, our girls were unfazed, playing a defensive game against Hwa Chong and re-establishing a 31-25 lead by the end of the quarter.
During the break, the RI coach was spotted gesticulating wildly at the girls, as the team re-strategized to hit hard in the second half. This certainly paid off. In what must count as one of the most memorable moments of the match, an RI player gained possession of the ball and dribbled it across the length of court, passing it to her teammate who scored, sparking off a wave of gasps from supporters of both teams. Even in the last 2 seconds of the quarter, the team did not miss a chance to score, ending the segment of the game with a commanding lead of 54-38.
Despite this, our girls were not complacent. They played in top form in the final match, taking every opportunity to score, and fending off attacks from their opponents. By contrast, the Hwa Chong players appeared tired and demoralized, with sloppy passes that were repeatedly intercepted by the girls. In the final moments of the match, it became clear that RI had the gold medal in the bag. The crowd began spontaneously counting down as the game drew to a close, but not without a dose of drama. As the final whistle blew, a RI player collapsed onto the ground, possibly with a sprained ankle. Her teammates and coaches rushed forward to help her out – as the crowd looked on in apprehension.
Miraculously, she rose from the ground, albeit with a slight hobble. Having secured the title, the Raffles side of the sports hall exploded in celebration, with the councillors leading the school in a rousing rendition of Rafblood. A high-powered cast of VIPs, including Principal Mrs Lim Lai Cheng, Senior Deputy Principals, Mr S Magendiran and Mrs Chia Geok Boon, and Dean of Sports and CCA Development, Mr Mike J., descended on the court to congratulate the girls, who were evidently elated at their achievement.
Speaking in Mandarin, RI coach, Ms Chiew Poh Leng, remarked, “The team was very deserving of the win; I felt so comfortable watching them play…They played with a strong fighting spirit and with the right technique.” Player Alanna Lim concurred, “I can’t say how happy I am today! We were down by 2 points during part of the match but we kept fighting.”
After six long years, the gryphons have jumped for the top spot again.