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MOA Arena new mecca

SEEMINGLY, the MOA Arena in Pasay City has dislodged the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, as the basketball mecca in the Philippines.

I say this because the MOA Arena has consistently attracted record crowds to Philippine Basketball Association games. 

Was it triggered by the Fiba Asia Cup in August, when spectators steadfastly flocked to games that featured Gilas Pilipinas?

I believe so. 

The brilliant showing by Gilas Pilipinas lured hordes nonstop, reaching crescendo proportions when Gilas, after toppling one good team after another, arranged the pivotal clash with South Korea for an outright berth to the Fiba Worlds.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the MOA was bursting to the seams during the Gilas-South Korea match. 

And the evening became the most memorable of 2013 when Gilas defeated Korea in convincing fashion, sending thousands delirious and making many of them stay to share in the extremely euphoric moment with our players, most of whom were with tears of joy.

The Korean conquest sent Gilas to the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain, ending a 35-year drought.

But more than anything, it restored faith in the Filipino ability to shine in the only game they consider religion next to Catholicism.

Thus, the advance to the Fiba Worlds reconfirmed our commitment to the game and, lo and behold, the historic moment happened right there at the MOA Arena, admittedly a state-of-the-art edifice that can stand side by side with the best not only in Asia but also in the world.

Only on Sunday the growing fame of the MOA Arena ballooned all the more when a record 20,596 spectators in a PBA game showed up and went home hoarse after watching San Mig Coffee escape with an 83-79 victory over Barangay Ginebra.

Even as it was only San Mig’s fourth win against seven losses—coming after losing an 18-point margin—it dealt Ginebra’s only second loss while renewing the Mixers’ playoff bid as they tied Meralco, Alaska and Barako at 4-7 cards.

All five teams are behind Ginebra at 9-2, Petron Blaze 8-2, Rain or Shine 8-3 and Talk ’N Text 7-3.

If trends are to be the gauge, then expect another banner crowd today when Petron battles Barako at 8 p.m. after the 5:45 p.m. clash between TNT and Air21 (2-9).

Times change and things change.

It used to be that the basketball fulcrum was the Rizal Memorial Coliseum on Vito Cruz, Manila, that featured the Yco-Ysmael classics from the 1950s to the 1960s.  Then the Cubao Big Dome at the height of the Crispa-Toyota rivalry from the 1970s to the 1980s.  Briefly, it was at the Ultra in Pasig in the 1990s.

Is the basketball exodus now gravitating toward the MOA Arena—if it hasn’t yet?

Here’s to Hans Sy, the moving spirit behind the construction of the MOA Arena.

  

THAT’S IT. Here’s a glass to the Philippine Sportswriters Association headed by Jun Lomibao, my sports boss here, for choosing Gilas Pilipinas as the “Athlete of the Year” in the year past.  Any other choice would have brutalized beyond repair the reputation of the country’s oldest news organization.  Cheers, Lomi!

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