| Fadhil Yunus |
BRUNEI Darussalam national netball team edged a step closer towards advancing to the semi-finals of the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games after notching their first victory in the 69-32 win over the Philippines at the Juara Stadium Bukit Kiara in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The national netball team is likely to clinch third place if they exact redemption in their remaining group tie against Thailand and with the gulf in class and quality it is difficult to see Philippines getting a win against reigning holders Singapore and gold medal favourites Malaysia.
Brunei made expected changes in the starting line-up with Nur Ady Elzza Ezrenna Sofian replacing Nur Hafizah binti Haji Abdul Sidek while Siti Nurul Nazihah took the centre role normally occupied by Athiyyah As’ad.
With head coach Thilaka Jinadasa making adjustments to the side, the regular centre starter was slotted in the goal defence role.
Siti Marhayati’s shot tingled the edge and dropped down as Brunei opened up a rather comfortable 9-2 lead.
In terms of progression from the Philippines point of view, they equalled their scoring in the first quarter against Thailand with Ana Rosa executing a good finish.
Philippines had problems defensively and offensively which stemmed from the transition in the middle of the court which more often than not for them broke down and it was a similar story as Brunei made double digits.
The Brunei defence composed of a trio of goal-keeper Nur Syuhaidah Fahriyana binti Haji Sukri and Siti Nurul Nazihah was well marshalled to keep out the advances of Philippines captain Ana Thea Cenarosa.
The first quarter marked slight concerns for the Royal Bees as it is suggested an improvement from the Philippines who were down by 20 points at this stage against Thailand and looked on course to keep their margin by single digits heading into the second quarter.
However, Brunei were truly in the ascendancy as they held a commanding 16-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Brunei broke away and had a chance to get away with double digits but a loose ball enabled Philippines to toss the ball forward on the opposite end of the court.
But their play broke again in a scrappy encounter whereby only 19 points had only been accumulated which was the lowest scoring target of the competition so far with four games already completed.
The lowest opening quarter of the SEA Games competition in Kuala Lumpur has been the match between Singapore and Brunei (22), Philippines and Thailand (26), Malaysia and Brunei (27) and Malaysia and Thailand (28).
Philippines again coughed up allowing Brunei the chance to score right at the end of the first quarter which Nur Ady Elzza duly converted their 20th point.
Siti Marhayati made a nice shot which clipped into the net amid tight defending from Philippines’ goal-keeper Aquino Teresa Angelina to take Brunei lead to 20 points.
The 174cm tall goal keeper had a busy afternoon seemingly called into action every 15 to 20 seconds such as the onslaught of the Brunei attacking force.
The Royal Bees had a rare miss but a whistle had been sounded in which appeared to be an offside meaning they had the chance to try again in their opponent’s territory.
Philippines refused to bow down as Anjelica Estacion got off the mark in the second quarter with a smart finish.
The Siklab Pilipinas were a match for the Bruneians as they trailed only by 7-5 in the final quarter which was an improvement for the former considering the fact that they were blown away 22-2 by Thailand at this stage.
Nur Hafizah, who is expected to regain her starting place in the Thai game, was clinically impressive since being introduced having amassed a succession of baskets.
The in-form Nur Hafizah received a tumble in search of expanding their best quarter scoring tally as the tie drew to a close but it was already job done.
“We really want to try all out tomorrow’s game and players are really looking forward to play tomorrow’s game. Their mind-set is really strong after giving a good challenge to both Singapore and Malaysia. I am sure tomorrow will be a very challenging game again for us,” Jinadasa said.