IT felt like 2006 all over again for Gabe Norwood.
Norwood, instrumental in clamping down on Jordan’s naturalized player Jimmy Baxter, said he drew a lot of energy from the crowd when Gilas Pilipinas beat Jordan, 77-71, on Friday night before a sellout crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The gangling 6-5 guard compared the athmosphere at the MOA Arena to the 2006 US NCAA tournament when his George Mason University completed a magical ride all the way to the Final Four before losing to eventual champion Florida.
“I thought that I was back in the Final Four,” an exhausted but delighted Norwood said after emerging from the Gilas dugout. “I thought it was George Mason 2006 all over again.”
Jordan coach Evangelos Alexandris recognized that the crowd had an effect on their game.
“All this atmosphere was against us,” Alexandris said through a translator. “We missed many free throws, easy baskets and we had easy turnovers without reason why we lost the ball.”
Norwood was the lynchpin of the Philippines’ defense, holding down Baxter to only 14 points after Jordan's naturalized player exploded for 30 against Chinese Taipei in the opener.
Norwood said he anticipated having a tough time against Baxter.
“First thing I did was just to keep him in front of me. He is a strong guy, he takes a lot of jump shots, he is a strong player,” Norwood said.
But Norwood, who also had eight points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals, refused to take the credit saying it took a team effort to stop Jordan’s pick-and-roll off Baxter.
“That’s team defense. Coach (Chot Reyes) came up with a great game plan. I just did my part and the bigs made their part," the Rain or Shine star said. "That was a team concept. You have to have bigs helping and helping me do my job.”
Norwood hopes the crowd will continue to give Gilas a boost.
“There is nothing like it. If this continues, it’s going to be a real homecourt advantage. It’s a blessing to be playing in a situation like it,” said Norwood.