MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine women's national team may have lost both of their games on Day 1 of the FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Cup on Friday, but the crowd at the Philippine Arena did not make them feel like it.
Instead, they were showered with love and cheers by the Pinoy fans who went all the way to Bocaue, Bulacan to watch the Filipinas play in the international competition for the first time ever.
It was a rough debut for Team Philippines, as they lost to the Netherlands, 21-11, and to Germany in a heartbreaker, 12-10. Yet they won the hearts of the crowd, who were clearly amazed at the skill level and fighting spirit displayed by the Filipinas.
The Philippines is represented in the tournament by the National University trio of Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, and Gemma Miranda, and Centro Escolar University standout Janine Pontejos.
Against the Netherlands, it was Pontejos who stole the show, as she torched the Dutch from the outside and in one memorable instance, got a block against her much taller opponent. Against Germany, it was Bernardino's turn to wow the crowd with her crafty drives to the basket and athleticism.
Thus, even though they ended the day at 0-2, the Filipinas were still made to feel like winners by the home crowd. For these players, this marks the first time they felt such an outpouring of support from their countrymen.
"Grabe 'yung reaction ng crowd," said Animam, a former UAAP Rookie of the Year and the Season 80 Most Valuable Player, who has won three titles with the NU Lady Bulldogs. "Siguro that was the best part."
"We live for that moment, it was so amazing," she gushed.
Animam could not help but become emotional when asked if that was the first time that they had received that kind of support. The towering Lady Bulldog had played for the Philippines before, particularly in the Southeast Asian Games, but most of the tournaments were abroad where they were watched by only a few people.
"Sobra, 'yun 'yung first time," said Animam, who became choked up even as she spoke. "Sobrang sarap lang sa feeling, kasi 'yung paghihirap namin, meron pala nakaka-appreciate."
Filipinos still have two more chances to watch the women's national team in the FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Cup. They play Spain and Hungary – teams ranked higher than they are – on Sunday at the Philippine Arena.
Animam said the team would very much appreciate it if Filipinos would again come out and support them.
"Hinihiniling ko sa lahat na sana, mas suportahan pa nila kami, kasi ito talaga 'yung kailangan nating lahat," she said.
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