IF YOU’RE still wondering how much this home crowd has been a boost for Gilas Pilipinas in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship, being at Mall of Asia Arena Friday night would have answered your question.
What was expected to be a tight, physical match against emerging power Kazakhstan turned into a clinical 88-58 rout, thanks to the boost provided by the crowd to Team Philippines—and the pressure more than 17,000 paying patrons applied on the visitors.
“We owe it to the crowd; they really helped us play with a lot of energy,” said national coach Chot Reyes. “I said before the game that we would need a lot of energy to battle Kazakhstan because they’re a taller, stronger and more physical team.”
The electric atmosphere also had its effect on the Kazakhstan team, a fact that star Anton Ponomarev pointed out during his somber postgame speech.
“Unfortunately, we could not deal with the pressure from the fans,” said Ponomarev. “We’re not used to this kind of atmosphere, playing in front of 16,000 fans.”
Kazakhstan was also forced to tone down on its patented physicality as the crowd lustily booed every bruising play by the visitors. Enforcer Mikhail Yevstigneyev heard it the most from the audience, getting booed every time he got court time, especially after he got entangled with Marc Pingris in the first half.
Pingris was slapped with an unsportsmanlike foul after the two traded elbows but the crowd reaction forced referees to look at Kazakhstan’s play a little bit more closely. In fact, top scorer Dmitriy Klimov was thrown out after two unsportsmanlike fouls.