By Tay Yu Ning (23S06E)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society.
Minutes before their match against National Junior College (NJC) on the 19th of May 2022, the members of the Raffles Basketball Girls’ Team were feeling nervous. As previous batches of Basketball Girls had reached the finals and finished overall champions (2019) and first-runner up (2018) respectively, they were feeling the pressure of high expectations.
To make matters worse, the team was not at their full strength. One of their players caught dengue right before the semi-finals, meaning they only had eleven players instead of the typical twelve.
Still, the team proudly stepped onto the basketball court, determined to make the school proud.
The first ten minutes were closely fought between NJC and RI. Wang Jiayue (#11, 23S03G) scored the first Raffles points of the game, to the cheers of Raffles Institution supporters who were just beginning to stroll in. However, NJC soon responded with a stunning three-pointer, proving that they were a much more formidable opponent than initially expected. A see-saw exchange of points then ensued. By the end of the first quarter, the score was 12-10, narrowly in Raffles’ favour.
The second quarter began with excitement for Raffles as Lim Yann Ying Kayla (#7, 23S07B) sank what would be Raffles’ only three-pointer of the game from a position just at the very edge of the three-point line.
Not long after Kayla’s goal, NJC’s captain sustained a serious injury whilst defending a Raffles attack, requiring medics to carry her off the court.
With the score now 15-10 and both sides having an equal eleven players, things were looking promising for Raffles. However, Raffles struggled to win possession of the ball from a gritty NJC who were determined to “avenge” their captain.
No further baskets were scored by either side in this quarter until the penultimate minute, when NJC’s top scorer #21, famed for her skill in three-pointers, sunk in a beautiful basket from well outside the three-point line, leading some NJC supporters to begin a chant of “MVP! MVP!” (Most Valuable Player). Determined not to “lose” to NJC in terms of match support, Raffles Student Councillors began leading spectators to an ear-splitting rendition of “Raffles Dynamite”.
Unfortunately, NJC was able to make a comeback in the third quarter, scoring more points than Raffles. With less than two minutes on the clock left, a foul was called against a Raffles player after she allegedly touched the hand of NJC’s #21 while she was attempting to shoot. NJC ended up scoring one of the two resultant free throws given, tying the score up to 21-21.
Despite initially being impeded by a key player’s injury, NJC was able to pull away with two consecutive three-pointers early in the fourth quarter. In the dying embers of the match, a desperate Raffles attempted one last attack. Unfortunately, Jolene Ong Xuan Hui (#8, 22S07B)’s shot was just milimetres off from the hoop.
As the timer blinked down to 0:00, the scoreboard read 31-21 in NJC’s favour, meaning that Raffles was officially knocked out of championship contention.
Despite their disappointing loss to NJC, the Basketball Girls’ Team did not let it affect them in the 3rd place play-offs the following Monday (May 23), defeating Nanyang Junior College 44-37 to finish overall second runners-up.
Vice-Captain Victoria Ann Lee Kai Xian (#5, 22S03I) said: “Although we definitely could have done better, it is what it is and we are really thankful to have played against NJC and put up a good fight against them. Our goal was to end off this season with no regrets, and I’m glad to say we have accomplished that especially in the [3rd place play-offs].”
The 3rd place finish felt extremely special for the graduating batch of the Raffles Basketball girls, all of whom have played together with at least one other teammate prior to joining the RI team, be it during their time in RGS or primary school. Unable to play a competitive match since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the team was just grateful to have the opportunity to play a tournament together again months before their graduation.
[Playing basketball together since secondary school], we’ve all really learnt so much together and watched each other grow up. Despite how different our personalities may be, our love for basketball will always bring us together and I think that is really priceless.Vice-Captain Victoria Ann Lee Kai Xian (#5, 22S03I)
Even supporters from the opposing team were quick to praise the Raffles players. NJC student Seng Xing Yee, who had been watching the match through an Instagram livestream broadcasted by @rafflesbasketball commented: “Even though I’m from NJC, I thought the Raffles team was really spirited, having tried their best even down to the very last minute of the match. Good on Raffles!”
At the end of the day, a loss in the semi-finals meant nothing compared to the friendship and camaraderie the Basketball players gained through their many weeks training together. The girls fought valiantly and can emerge with their heads held high knowing that they tried their best.
As Mr Carlsen Tay, the basketball teacher-in-charge, put it: “We could have [done better], but it’s okay. I’m still proud of the girls for overcoming challenges through fighting spirit, teamwork, perseverance and listening to their coach’s instructions.”
Raffles Institution vs National Junior College Highlights (Score: 21-31)
Raffles Institution vs Nanyang Junior College Highlights (Score: 44-37)
Basketball Girls’ Team:
#4 – Emilia Mulijana (22S03A)—Team Captain
#5 – Victoria Ann Lee Kai Xian (22S03I)—Vice Captain
#3 – Amrita Anbuchezhian (23S03B)
#6 – Calista Chua (22S03F)
#7 – Lim Yann Ying, Kayla (23S07B)
#8 – Jolene Ong Xuan Hui (22S07B)
#9 – Siah Jia Xuan (23S03F)
#11 – Wang Jiayue (23S03G)
#14 – Soh Rui Xuan ReeAnn (22S03B)
#15 – Lim Qi Ying (22S03H)
#23 – Sherlita Almeyra Binte Sherhan (23S05A)
#26 – Chiam Zi Yi (23S03G)