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MANILA, Philippines – Rhenz Abando hopes this one can make up for all of Gilas Pilipinas fans’ heartaches.
Abando and the Filipinos broke through in the FIBA World Cup as they ended a hard-luck campaign on a high note by shredding Asian rival China to pieces in a 96-75 win, powered by Jordan Clarkson on Saturday, September 2.
It marked the Philippines’ first win in the World Cup since 2014 and its first ever on home soil after the country went winless in its 1978 edition.
“The fans should still be happy and proud. I hope this somehow alleviates the anger of the other fans, now that we got a win,” Abando said in Filipino.
Abando, however, could not help but feel a tinge of regret as Gilas Pilipinas played its best game when there was already nothing at stake but pride.
The Philippines failed to reach the second round after dropping all of its group stage games against the Dominican Republic, Angola, and Italy, then bowed out of the race for an outright Paris Olympics berth between Asian squads following its loss to South Sudan in the classification phase.
Against China, the Filipinos trailed midway through the third quarter before Clarkson erupted for 24 of his 34 points in the period, finishing with scintillating clips of 11-of-18 from the field and 5-of-10 from three-point land.
“I’m delighted but I wish we played like this in the knockout games,” said Abando, who backstopped Clarkson as the best local performer with 14 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal.
Win or lose, though, Abando had the fans on his side.
The high-flying guard of reigning Korean Basketball League champion Anyang KGC always drew loud cheers as he dazzled the home crowd with his electrifying dunks and tide-turning blocks.
“I’m happy because I’m a crowd favorite. I’m really flattered because they’re always there to support, whether I play well or not. They’re always there. I’m thankful,” Abando said. – Rappler.com