Filipinos packed the Sydney Entertainment Centre on January 20 for a night of basketball while raising much-needed funds for Sendong typhoon victims.

The entire nation may be gripped by the Australian Open fever but on 20 January, while all eyes were on the 7pm match between tennis aces Daniela Hantuchova and Kim Clijsters, something else has the attention of the 7,500-plus crowd at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

It was the basketball match between the home team, the Sydney Kings, and the Perth Wildcats.

But far from being another night at the Kingdome, anyone scanning the seats would notice something different: sections 8, 9, 10 and 35 were full of Filipinos.

One in eight ticketholders that night were Filipinos. Not that it was a hard sell. The Philippines is a basketball-loving nation and those who migrated to Australia reminisce about the days they were either part of their university’s basketball team or had saved their hard-earned money to watch games at the Araneta Coliseum.

That passion they passed on to their kids who became the next generation of basketball afficionados, eyes glued to the screens when the NBA or PBA championships are on.

Take Manny Diel, one of the Filipinos in the audience who clapped and roared every time the Kings slam-dunked the ball, stomped his feet when referees called foul and boo-ed when the Wildcats aimed for the basket.

He had a big smile on his face when Gerai Grant, Julian Khazzouh or Ben Madgen were on the court. He shook his head in disappointment when the Wildcats scored (although twice he begrudgingly nodded his head at the three-point shots scored by Kings’ rivals).

With less than a second on the clock and the Kings behind by one point (76-75). Diel was among those who stood up and shouted at the top of his lungs, calling on the Kings’ forward Graeme Dann to shoot the free throws to victory.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be and fans went home with their heads low.

Still, it was a good night for both the sport and the typhoon Sendong fundraising efforts. Entertainment and events group Hoopdreamz organised the 6pm pre-game, which saw the community’s own basketball players test their skills at a professional venue.

Marco Selorio, founder of Hoopdreamz, had the basketball connections to make the ‘Filipino Basketball Night’ happen. He also had the support of the local community press and the Philippine Community Council of NSW Inc (PCC NSW Inc) Australia, where he is one of the directors, to spread the word on the event.

The Sydney Kings also showed their support with a third of all ticket proceeds sold by Hoopdreamz donated to typhoon relief efforts.

“We collected $1,000 – that’s from over 200 people from our basketball network. But I think over 1,000 Filipinos supported and watched the game,” said Selorio.

Among those who attended were the Philippine Consul General Anne Jalando-on Louis and the Consul Marford Angeles. Sydney Kings acknowledged the Con-Gen’s presence, inviting her to do the opening toss of the main game.

The Kings may have lost against the Wildcats that night but they sure won new fans, among them the Filipinos who took time out of their weekend to enjoy a game that holds a special place in their hearts.

Red versus Blue

Among those who played in the pre-game were the Hoopdreamz Red team, namely Paolo Policarpio (captain), Brad Collins, Jerome Danganan, Richard Lozina, Deng Majok, Mapagu, Vergel Meneses, Lance Pandanganan, Daryl Pepito, Rey Racuyal, Jay Pena Rhee and Pete Reubert Tandog.

They played against the Hoopdreamz Blue team, which included Anthony Montano (captain), Segun Akinpetide, Rey Bambo, Daniel Briggs, Arfien Burrusjd, Tom Cruz, Gil De Mesa, Errol Gadia, Mel Gile, Chester Taylor, Sean Conrad Venal and PJ Villanueva.

The Reds triumphed over the Blues (58-49) but both teams held the attention of a solid audience - Sydney Kings players, including Graeme Dann, Julian Khazzouh and Ben Madgen, sat on the sidelines to watch the pre-game.

Photo credits: Sydney Kings official facebook site.

Some photos courtesy of Bayanihan News

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