LAGUNA: It was labelled as a match between close friends by Singapore captain Charmaine Soh, but there was nothing close about the scoreline as Singapore beat host Philippines 80-28 in their opening game at the 30th SEA Games on Monday (25 Nov).
At the Laguna sports complex in Santa Rosa, the Singaporeans, who last won gold in 2015, raced to a 21-6 lead in the opening quarter.
The Philippines' team was urged on by an enthusiastic crowd, many of whom were armed with colourful pom-poms, but the Singapore side kept the cheers to a minimum as they stretched their lead to 43-15 in the second quarter.
Exceptional defence from Natalie Milicich’s side meant they kept the home team to just five points in the third, before closing out the game.
Speaking to CNA after the game, Soh said that players from both the Philippines and Singapore team are "like long-time friends".
“The Philippines team and us have a very close friendship, so playing them on court felt like a game between close friends,” said Soh.
“Even in the hotel, we say hi and hug each other like long-time friends.”
During the game, for instance, players from both sides could be seen speaking with one another, with Soh occasionally applauding the efforts of the Filipinos.
“The players were saying that they improved quite a bit,” she added.
“We played well, we had quite a jittery start but we managed to carry out the game plan after. I felt that the whole team got on court - the young ones, the old ones, we try to work out combis (combinations) and setups so the team did pretty well."
Following reports that insufficient food had been an issue for the team at their hotel, Soh said that it was settled “almost immediately”.
She said: “The hotel and accommodation are good, everything is fine.
“Normally we eat a bit more, just that the portion wasn’t a lot. So we coped with the issue by ordering (food) in so that wasn’t an issue at all. We manage to settle the issue almost immediately.”
The team has taken it in their stride, added Soh.
“We should expect the unexpected. This is just one of those unexpected events we have to cope with and this is really a small issue for us,” she said.
At the last edition of the Games, Singapore beat Philippines 91-22, but missed out on gold after losing to host and Causeway rivals Malaysia 65-41 in the finals.
Singapore will face Brunei next on Wednesday.