In Cameron Gliddon’s mind it didn’t feel like a home game but his Australian Boomers hung tough and claimed a win over the Philippines at Margaret Court Arena on Thursday night.
Gliddon’s 16 points led the Boomers to a 84-68 win and saw them move to 3-0 in their FIBA World Cup qualifying group, a victory over Chinese Taipei at the same venue on Sunday will confirm Australia’s place in the second round of qualifying with two games remaining.
The Boomers managed to confirm that their fast-subbing, high-pressure game plan is reaping rewards no matter who they play, or how loud the crowd – with the team undefeated since moving into Asia last year as part of FIBA’s new qualifying system.
The all-NBL based Boomers suffered a scare midway through the second term, after former NBA centre Andray Blatche and a youthful Gilas Pilipinas helped the away side to a 30-25 lead as thousands of Filipino supporters screamed in support.
“It didn’t feel like we were here [at home] to be honest,” Gliddon said.
“But that kind of atmosphere makes it fun, whether they the crowd are cheering for them or cheering for us. Our huddles had to be tight and we had to solve some problems.”
Much of the 6500-strong crowd threw their support behind the underdogs, but the Boomers settled, kept making their subs, playing fullcourt defence and gradually wore down the visitors.
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In the third term Gliddon’s three three-pointers helped break open the contest, before the visitors started rotating players with a mind to their home clash with Japan this weekend, a game could decide second place in the group.
“It started with our defence, and we got a lot of stops with Mitch Creek and others in transition, and that builds momentum,” Gliddon said.
“That’s when we started to pull away and our rebounding effort was big too, guards included and our defence fuelled our offence.”
Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis was able to spread the minutes across his 12 players, and saw contributions from all, including guard Mitch Norton who only joined the side on Sunday night as a late replacement.
Creek had 12 points and 11 rebounds, Mitch McCarron pulled in 10 rebounds in just 14 minutes and every Boomer scored while the team enjoyed a 50-30 rebound advantage.
Philippines centre June Mar Fajardo led the visitors with 15 points.
Warrnambool guard Nathan Sobey only played four minutes, but Lemanis said he was fit and simply the odd man out as others have been in previous games.
The night also provided a big win off the court for Australian basketball, drawing many passionate Filipino-Australians to the event, and hopefully the NBL, WNBL and other competitions can find ways to bring more of those fans into the fold.
What Lemanis now wonders what the crowd will be like when Australia has their return clash in the Philippines during the June/July window. The venue is yet to be announced but they could face a packed house of up to 20,000 at the Mall of Asia Stadium.
“It’s a great precursor to how the game is going to be in the Philippines – it’s going to be awesome,” Lemanis exclaimed.
Blatche, the NBA veteran turned Philippines import, said he felt good after 25 minutes on court in his first game in three months.
The Boomers play Chinese Taipei at Margaret Court Arena on Sunday at 3pm, with tickets still available for the game.