By Sarah Chen (19S03C) and Keziah Lam (19A01B)
Photographs courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society
Special thanks to Bridget Lum (19S03C) and Aisling Lum (19S03N) for their invaluable guidance and advice
Our journalistic abilities were called into question the moment we arrived at Jurong East Sports Hall on the 18th of May. Perhaps it was the fact that we had just spent the bus ride googling “how points are awarded in basketball” and voicing our queries loudly or the fact that we were the only two Raffles students present not kitted out in basketball attire, but we were quickly approached by a well-meaning basketballer who asked us, “do you guys even know how basketball works?” The answer to that, of course, was no. This changed quickly over the course of the next hour as we played witness to the resilience and spirit of our girls’ basketball team in their finals match against opponents Dunman High.
Even before the match, spirits in the hall were high. Supporters from the two schools cheered loudly during the introduction of the teams, where the players ran onto the court, hi-fiving their teammates. With the blow of the whistle, the match began, Raffles gaining possession of the ball.
From the very beginning, the match was fast-paced, and we struggled to keep up, our eyes frantically following as the ball was dribbled and passed from player to player expertly. It was not long before the first score from Dunman High. Dunman moved quickly, managing to pull forward in the first half of the match with a lead of 12-0. Matching up with their opponent’s pace, our players fought hard, with many of their shots missing by merely the slightest margin.
We were on the edge of their seats, holding our breaths in anticipation whenever one of our players attempted a shot. Each narrow miss only strengthened our spirit, and when Patricia Orenza (#27) snagged the first score for Raffles seven minutes into the first quarter, we erupted in raucous cheers and applause. The team, spurred on by their success and the encouragement of the reserves and spectators, went on to score several more points before the end of the quarter.
2nd and 3rd quarter
The second and third quarters were not without excitement either, with spectators tensing up each time we attempted to score. As players tore across the court, demonstrating their skills, both schools’ supporters were riding the adrenaline wave of the game with their teams. Deafening school cheers and the incessant sounds of plastic clappers (not to mention good old screams!) filled the hall. Raffles was making progress, but Dunman still remained ahead of the game. With the accuracy of Dunman’s shots, defense was more crucial than ever for Raffles. Each time Dunman neared the hoop, rhythmic shouts of “defend, defend” reverberated through the hall. The immense satisfaction felt watching our players block their opponents’ passes and gain possession of the ball was comparable only to the sound of the ball cleanly falling into the basket. Notably, Shannon Tiong’s (#15) tall stature and quick reflexes managed to block several close shots from Dunman.
Raffles made a strong comeback towards the end of the match in the 4th quarter despite lagging behind, with Rachel Yeo (#10) scoring 9 points and Shannon scoring 6, more than doubling their score of 15 to one of 32, with 10 points scored in the mere span of five minutes. It was a heartening sight to see the team pressing on, despite the odds being stacked against them, in a brilliant show of tenacity and grit. The team did not let down their guard in the least and made the most of each possession, never losing focus and always trying their best to score, upping their defense in spite of the circumstances.
It being the last quarter of the game, pressure on both sides was high. Within the last five minutes, Dunman’s #6 injured her knee after a tussle with one of our players and much to the despair of her team, had to be escorted out on a stretcher. She left the court accompanied by respectful cheers and applause from both sides. Nevertheless, the game had to go on. The match was drawing to a close, yet even till the last few seconds, Team Raffles had not lost their spirit, fighting hard and attempting multiple shots. Despite the determination and perseverance of our team, the game ended with a score of 32:53.
When the match ended, the players huddled on the court and lined up to shake hands with their opponents, smiles all around as they concluded the last match of the season – for the seniors, their last match ever. Our team remained gracious, linking arms and bowing to the spectators on both sides to deafening cheers and shouts of encouragement in a delightful display of sportsmanship.
To quote team captain Shannon, “This season wasn’t an easy one, and we didn’t expect to make it to semis, let alone finals. I’m really proud of how far we have come since we started training together – a podium finish is better than no finish at all. I hope our juniors can come back stronger next year to reclaim the title.”
Seeing our players file off the court, we were truly awed at their indomitable spirit and passion for the sport. Do we now know how basketball works? Fuzzy details of three-pointers, fouls and rebounds remain – so the answer to that question would be: maybe. What does ring clear, however, is the zeal, passion and strength of the players. Cliché as it may sound, it was the pride and humility, aggression and grace, individuality and teamwork all simultaneously running through our players’ veins, and not just the finer technicalities of the game we had googled, that showed us what it meant to be a fantastic basketball player. Then again, you might want to take all this with a pinch of salt. After all, what do we know about basketball?
1st quarter: 7-17
2nd quarter: 12-30
3rd quarter: 15-47
4th quarter: 32-53
#3 Aw Han Xi (19S03L)
#4 Bridget Lum (19S03C)
#6 Katrina Lee (19S06J)
#7 Rhianne Vaz (18S03Q)
#10 Rachel Yeo (18A03A)
#12 Tan Kang Yi (19S03F)
#13 Sofia Tan (18S06J)
#15 Shannon Tiong (18S07B)
#17 Angela Wang (19S03Q)
#23 Vicky Qu (18S06K)
#27 Patricia Orenza (19S06T)
#77 Zhu Yezi (19S03R)