FIBA Asia: Filipinos torn between Qatar, Taipei in crucial tiff for Gilas’ placing
MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippines’ bid for the top spot in its group hinged on the outcome of the Qatar and Chinese-Taipei clash, it became a bandwagoner’s dream at the Mall of Asia Arena.
One minute the sizeable crowd Filipinos, who even bought separate tickets for the game which falls in the morning session, were cheering for the Qataris, the next they were pulling for Taiwanese.
That trend actually grew louder down the stretch as both teams exchanged scoring spurts that would make or break Smart Gilas Pilipinas’ rise to number one in group E — assuming the Filipinos beat lowly Hong Kong later.
Even on social networking site Twitter, the barrage of tweets with #LabanTaipei or #LabanQatar alternate as quickly as you can refresh the page.
The Filipinos needed Qatar to win — but not more than 15 points — to give them the golden opportunity and ultimately avoid dangerous defending champion China, which is third in group F, in the knockout phase.
Qataris took the lead in the fourth quarter to the delight of the crowd, but then had the Filipinos at the edge of their seats when they zoomed to a 66-54 lead with under five minutes to play.
Had Qatar turned the game into a rout, Filipinos would wind up at second place even after beating Hong Kong, right smack into China’s path, because of inferior quotient.
But the Taiwanese, after some cheering on, pulled dangerously closer and even knotted the match at 68 after a 10-0 run, and that’s when the Filipinos pledged their full support to Qatar, the team they cheered against on Tuesday night.
Qatar escaped Chinese-Taipei, 71-68, to drop to second place in group E but its head coach Tim Wisman gained some local fans.
“I think I could run for the president of the Philippines right now,” jokingly said Wisman in the media center after the game. “I could get votes.”
“We came here with the mindset that we had to win by 16. We got to 12 but didn’t have enough gas to get it done. We wanted to top the group, but we weren’t concerned who we played in the next round,” he also said.