SEVILLE, Spain -- Filipino basketball fans were a show of force here on Saturday as Gilas Pilipinas pushed Croatia to the edge of defeat at the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball.
These Filipinos, who comprised two-thirds of the game attendees at the Palacio Municipal de Portes San Pablo, mostly came from various areas of Europe. They rocked the arena, practically drowning the cheers of their Croatian counterparts, to show their support for their hard-court heroes.
Gilas, led by naturalized player Andray Blatche and Rain or Shine stalwart Jeffrei Chan, did not disappoint.
From a 14-point hole in the first quarter, the nationals sprang to life in the next three quarters to wipe out the deficit and put up a three point lead, 69-66 with a few minutes left in regulation. They did this despite Croatia's towering trio of Damir Markota, Ante Tomic and Damjan Rudez, as well as prolific scoring guard Bojan Bogdanovic.
Alas, Croatia was able to tie the score, send the game into overtime where they closed out Gilas, 81-78.
But the magnanimous effort put up by Gilas was more than enough to match the expectations of their fans. To many, the 3-point loss by the 34th ranked Gilas to the 16th-seeded Croats already feels like a victory.
"I think we stunned the world. Philippine basketball has a lot to offer. Not only 'puso' but also skill," said Eric Espanol, who was among the Filipinos who flew from Manila just to watch the games live.
Another Filipino, Aries Batuhan, admitted that he did not anticipate the game to be that close. He said Filipino morale is now at an all-time high because of the outcome.
"There's a chance in the next four games," said Batuhan. "Kasi we did not expect a lot, everybody did not expect a lot. But until the last second, Gilas was there."
"In my book, it was a win," said Ren Cayetano, brother of Senators Pia and Alan Peter Cayetano, who joined the Filipino spectators in Spain.
Young US-based Filipina Maxine David said that against the taller Croats, Gilas showed the value of persistence.
"It's a very, very good game," said David, who hails from the US. "They worked really, really hard."
A Filipino family, who flew from Dublin, Ireland, could not help but share their joy after the game.
Chesa Ramil and her son, Conrad, said they hope that the nationals will be able to get the win against Greece on Sunday (early Monday in Manila).
"It was such a good game," said Chesa.
"We had a chance. We hope they get it tomorrow," said Conrad.