MANILA, Philippines—Just how rattling the Filipino crowd is for the opponent?
Picture this, thousands of fans let out shriek, stomp their feet—with the banging of the drums in the background—at every basket, every chase for the loose ball, every turnover and every sound of the whistle from the referees.
And Mall of Asia Arena was packed to the brim on Friday with patrons clad in white as exactly 17,273 paid to see Philippines take on Kazakhstan in the 27th Fiba Asia men’s championship quarterfinals.
The energy was electric, the cheers were deafening and the Philippine team—as head coach Chot Reyes stressed—feed off from that support from its invaluable “sixth man.”
“The crowd really helped this team along and helped us play with a lot of energy,” said Reyes at the post game interview after his team routed the Kazakhs, 88-58. “We needed to come out with a lot of energy because we’re playing a taller team.”
But for the Kazakhs, trying to mount a significant run with an entire arena against you was a tall order.
“Unfortunately, we cannot deal with the pressure from the fans because we rarely play in this atmosphere with 16 thousand spectators watching the game,” said Anton Ponomarev after the game.
The Kazakhs silenced the crowd for a brief moment when they pulled to within six, 38-44, two minutes before halftime but that uprising was doused in a snap when the Filipinos blitzed to a 51-40 lead after a 7-2 burst.
The limelight was never stolen again from Gilas Pilipinas, which pushed the lead to as huge as 31 in the second half, and the fans never fell into a hush from then.
Reyes put it best, “when you play Gilas Pilipinas, you’re not playing against a team, you’re playing against a country.”