The Philippine national men’s basketball team, buoyed by a sellout crowd in Auckland, bounced back with a victory over club team Super City Rangers, 95-77, Wednesday at St. Kentigern’s Gymnasium.
“Big win tonight vs the Rangers. Thanks to all the Pinoys here on Auckland who came out and supported,” wrote assistant coach Josh Reyes on his Instagram account.
After two consecutive losses, the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national squad banked on the warm support of Filipino fans who gobbled up tickets to the tuneup match as early as two weeks ago.
The Rangers missed the National Basketball League playoffs, but were reinforced by several players from other squads, including veteran Tall Blacks campaigner Dillon Boucher.
“It was an honor to coach in what may be Boucher’s last international game. What a class act. Thanks for helping us prepare for the Tall Blacks tomorrow,” said Philippine coach Chot Reyes on his Twitter account.
The win comes on the eve of the final test for Gilas against New Zealand’s Tall Blacks national squad, the 18th-ranked nation in the FIBA World Rankings. The two teams will play in a closed-door matchup to wrap up the tour.
The trip is part of the Philippines’ final buildup for the FIBA Asia Championship that begins on August 1. It has been marked by torrid support from Filipino fans from Napier, Wellington, and Auckland, who came out in full force to support the team in all its public matches.
After its New Zealand training sojourn, Gilas will fly back to the Philippines, where it will take on a selection of PBA stars on July 24 and the Kazakhstan national team on July 26.