FIBAU17 Pilipinas vs Angola: Whispers from the bleachers

When Team Angola entered the court, the crowd was calm and probably stunned by the height of the opponents. But it was goosebumps when Batang Gilas entered the court in tune of Bamboo's Noypi. It was raucous when "Filipino! "Filipino!" from Black Eyed Peas' Bebot filled the stadium.

Even by just watching the warm-ups, the crowd knew it won't be easy for Gilas. No expectations are too big in this game, in this tournament. Angolans won indeed 82-72, but in a tightly-contested fashion as Batang Gilas were able to trim down the lead to 5 points inside the last 2 minutes. .

It's the first time that a Philippine Under-17 team is participating in the FIBAU17 World Championships.

Indeed, we've just witnessed the future of Philippine basketball.  Although we came short of winning against the taller but lanky Angolans, this Batang Gilas Pilipinas team has shown many upsides despite the obvious huge disparity in height. We've seen the strengths and weaknesses. If taken constructively, this young team of homegrown talents could go farther in the future.

They're quick. They showed good movements and positioning. They can free themselves from defenders and get open shots a lot of times. They even win contested rebounds during the first quarter.

They can make mid-range jumpers, but they need to make those threes. Obviously, the team's main arsenal is outside shooting.  Even if only half of their 35 3-point attempts get converted, we could have won the game.  But they only made 5.  No thanks to the long reach of the stretched arms of the defenders.

The youthful energy is there. It was a run-run-run offense from the tip-off 'til the last few minutes. They did pressure defense at many crucial parts of their run.

Pilipinas played quite good ball movement, but the Angolans played basics and converted their shots. Batang Gilas guards are quick, and they are slashing inside the paint manned by the giants. Pilipinas showed pretty good defense, but the lack of height really took its toll. At some point, the Angolans played like a daddy playing with his child as the smaller Batang Gilas tries to take away the ball from daddy's outstretched hands.

In contrast to how smooth they shoot treys, the Angolans shot poorly from the free throw line, while the Philippine team doesn't have much chance to take free throws because Angolans doesn't get whistled for fouls that much.

A few signs of unfamiliarity resulted in costly turnovers. At one point, they passed the ball to coach Jamike to the 'delight' of the crowd.

The Crowd
Dubai is Philippine's 2nd home court at any given time. Whenever a Philippine team visits, the stadium will always be full.

Even the house music is Pinoy - Bebot, Noypi, Laklak and Annie Batumbakal.

And indeed the crowd played its role as the 6th man. It surely was a big boost for the Batang Gilas players to play their hearts out.

Majority in the crowd surely have not seen this Batang Gilas team before, but the support brought by the Filipino expats says something beyond popularity. It's about national pride.  Win or lose, I'm sure we'll always be happy to see a gallant fight from our team. After all, basketball runs in our blood.

Change Referee!
There were some questionable calls in the game. From 3rd quarter onwards the fourth, chants of "Change Referee! Change Referee!" comically filled the air every time this referee blows his whistle.  That was fun!

Improvement of crowd support
The Philippine embassy and consul general office must play a bigger role in this kind of events. How about a pep squad to lead the cheers? The Philippine schools in the country will surely love the idea. But if "that's too much," how about a simple gesture of giving away flaglets to the crowd, or clappers, banners, etc?

Okay, Batang Gilas shirts are sold at the gates for AED35, but not everyone can afford to buy.

I hope one day we'll have our own "Ole, ole, ole." We have to come in unison.

Standing ovation
At the dying seconds of the game, everyone's on their feet applauding the team.  That's really a great scene. A proof that the crowd appreciates the gallant stand, and despite the disadvantage, this smaller
Batang Pilipinas team gave us a good game.

View more photos at Boy Dubai Facebook Page.

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