East Asia Super League

‘Like FIBA World Cup’: Abando relishes cheers despite Anyang’s EASL semis loss

Philip Matel

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‘Like FIBA World Cup’: Abando relishes cheers despite Anyang’s EASL semis loss

CROWD FAVORITE. Anyang's Rhenz Abando fires a shot against Seoul during the EASL Final Four.


Rhenz Abando’s Korean team Anyang falls in the EASL Final Four, yet he still feels grateful for the impassioned local fans, even likening the crowd support in Cebu to Gilas Pilipinas cheers in the FIBA World Cup

CEBU, Philippines – Playing just his second game since returning from a dangerous spinal injury, Rhenz Abando quickly got reminded how much he’s loved by local fans.

Since arriving at the Hoops Dome in Lapu Lapu City for the East Asia Super League (EASL) Final Four, Abando basked in the support of the Cebuano faithful who relentlessly shouted his name.

They cheered whenever he got the ball and scored, and even jeered his Anyang teammates when they fail to dish it out to him. 

For Abando, the impassioned support made up for his Anyang Jung Kwan Jang Red Boosters’ loss to the Seoul SK Knights, 94-79, in the knockout semifinals on Friday, March 8.

“I felt happy but at the same time, was disappointed since I was not healthy – but more on happy and blessed since the crowd supported us even though we lost,” Abando said after the game.

The supportive hometown crowd even reminded Abando of his Gilas Pilipinas stint, where fans also embraced him during the FIBA World Cup in Manila last August.

“When the crowd started screaming out my name, it felt like the FIBA World Cup all over again,” he added.

Abando was one of the more popular Gilas players during the global basketball showpiece, where he repaid the crowd’s adulation with several high-leaping dunks and emphatic rejections.

The former NCAA MVP finished with 11 points in 21 minutes of action for Anyang, pulling through despite still feeling some back pain.

Anyang head coach Kim Sang Shik said he’ll need to check on Abando’s injury status before the team heads to the battle for bronze against the New Taipei Kings on Sunday, March 10.

“For the next game, I’m going to try to communicate with him (Abando) about the injury, and he will try to assess the injury and check out if I will try to play Rhenz a bit more,” Kim said through an interpreter. 

“The top of the list is Rhenz’s health so I’m not trying to force him to play right now.”

The Chiba Jets tripped the New Taipei Kings in the other semifinal duel, 92-84, to arrange the championship showdown dangling a million-dollar prize against the Seoul SK Knights.

Japan’s premier playmaker Yuki Togashi was the ringleader of the game-defining 7-2 run that sealed the deal for the Jets.

Without injured star Jeremy Lin, the Kings leaned on the former NBA sensation’s brother Joseph Lin, who took the scoring cudgels and dropped a team-high 21 points.

Former Bay Area sniper Hayden Blankley also chipped in 17 for the Kings.

Chiba’s Shuta Hara nailed the go-ahead basket that put the Japanese squad ahead, 85-82, with 2:19 left, before Togashi drove and put in a soft floater, 87-82, 1:21 to go.

Austin Daye then nailed a turnaround jumper with 68 ticks to go to make it 87-84, before he was soundly rejected by Xavier Cooks with under 30 seconds left.

Togashi finished with 28 points and 5 assists, while Cooks added 24 on 10-of-13 shooting. 

The Scores

First Game 

Seoul SK Knights 94 – Warney 38, Oh 20, An 13, Williams 9, Choi 5, Kim 3, Yaung 2, Song 2, Choi 2, Lee 0, Heo 0.

Anyang 79 – Carter 21, Wilson 14, Abando 11, Choi 11, Jeong 10, Park 8, Kim 2, Lee 2, Lee 0, Jung 0, Ko 0.

Quarters: 23-26, 45-40, 67-58, 94-79.

Second Game

Chiba Jets 92 – Togashi 28, Cooks 24, Mooney 22, Hara 13, Brown 3, Ogawa 2, Nishimura 0, Kanechika 0, Okura 0, Arao 0.

New Taipei Kings 84 – Lin Jo. 21, Blankley 17, Yang 16, Daye 13, Davis 8, Manigault 7, Wang 2, Lee 0, Su 0, Lin C.P. 0.

Quarters: 32-25, 50-47, 66-67, 92-84.

— Rappler.com

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