New Zealand ‘not intimidated’ by expected hostile crowd vs Gilas
MANILA, Philippines – The moment France’s Tony Parker first touched the ball Tuesday night, July 5, the Mall of Asia Arena erupted with an ear-splitting chorus of boos.
From start to finish, Parker, a veteran NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs, never got any love from the home crowd that came to support Gilas Pilipinas. New Zealand, the Philippine team’s next foe on Wednesday, July 6, is expecting no less than the same if not even worse hostility – and they are looking forward to it.
In fact the Tall Blacks opted to dip their toes into the kind of atmosphere they’d have to face come Wednesday by watching France and the Philippines lock horns Tuesday night, July 5, where the French emerged victorious, 93-84.
“All the guys came in (for the game) just to experience that atmosphere. I think it was important,” head coach Paul Henare said during a brief conversation with a couple of reporters after the game.
“For a lot of our guys it’ll be the first time that they played in a crowd like this. And even, not just the size, I think the energy that the crowd creates, it’s fun to be a part of. But I know the guys aren’t intimidated by it. They’re excited to play in front of this crowd.”
New Zealand took in the sights and sounds of Filipino fans, clad in white, bringing their cheering A-game for the first day of the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. (READ: Parker heaps praise on Philippine crowd, Gilas guards)
The relatively young team, whose average age is 25 years old, will be led by veteran Mika Vukona as well as USA NCAA Division I player Tai Webster, guard Corey Webster, and forward Isaac Fotu.
Though the kind of loud basketball fandom may be new to them, the Tall Blacks are aiming to follow France’s example and keep their composure. Henare noted the calmness of France when Gilas Pilipinas built a 10-point lead early in the game and especially when the home team rallied to within 4 points late in the final frame.
“(Terrence) Romeo obviously stepped up and made some big baskets for them but the French, they played very composed down the stretch. As great as the crowd were, they just stayed calm and composed.”
“Philippines made their run and France didn’t look rattled at all, they just stayed with what they’re doing, ran their sets. Didn’t shoot the ball very well down the stretch but came up with some huge offensive boards,” he added.
New Zealand, ranked 21st in the world, is considered a more manageable foe for the 28th ranked Gilas. And the Philippines certainly gave the 5th ranked France a serious scare Tuesday night.
“No, not at all,” Henare responded when asked if he was surprised by Gilas’ performance. “They’re good basketball players and on an international level, on any given night anyone can beat anyone. It’s happened many times before and it’ll happen again. It’s an old cliche but you have to turn up and play the right way if you want to get wins.” – Rappler.com