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Baldwin praises ‘well-behaved’ crowd

Basketball is truly the country’s national sport.

With more relaxed Covid restrictions, fans are now filling up game venues to watch basketball action live.

The University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball finals series is but one example of how passionate Filipinos are.

American coach Tab Baldwin of Ateneo de Manila University is in awe of how his squad’s championship games against rival defending champion University of the Philippines have drawn huge crowds.

The first two matches of the best-of-three series recorded 18,211 gate attendance at the Mall of Asia Arena in the opener and an even bigger 20,616-strong crowd in Game 2.

So, what more in the winner-take-all decider held late Monday?

“It’s a fantastic spectacle. If people around the world saw this, they would not believe what they see, and it’s such a tremendously well-behaved crowd,” Baldwin said following the Blue Eagles’ 65-55 win last week that tied the series at 1-1.

He particularly likes how classy the audience was.

“I’m in all seriousness. They’re not negative. A little bit creeps in, but I’m American,” he said.

“If this was in America, they would be at each other’s throats. If it was in Serbia, there would be open warfare out there. The guns would come out.”

With the FIBA World Cup making a stop here in the Philippines for the preliminary and final rounds, the whole world will now bear witness to the massive following of basketball.

Even Team USA expressed excitement about playing in front of Filipinos on the biggest international basketball stage to be held from 25 August to 10 September.

Three venues will host the World Cup games: the 20,000-seater MOA Arena and Araneta Coliseum for prelims games and the 55,000-capacity Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan for the final round.

“So, Filipinos should be extremely proud of the spectacle that is created here. And I’m proud to be a part of it,” Baldwin said.

The Philippines may be far from being a powerhouse in the sport but fans from this basketball-crazy nation can surely turn any venue into a packed house.

Truly, it is a spectacle for the entire world to see.

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