THE huge crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum on Sunday solidified the notion that Barangay Ginebra and Star are still the PBA’s most popular teams.
More than 17,000 fans trooped the Big Dome to witness not just the Gin Kings-Hotshots showdown, but also an equally exciting matchup between two emerging teams Barako Bull and Globalport in the curtain-raiser.
The attendance was the largest this conference — even more than what any of the Commissioner’s Cup Finals games between Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine drew two months ago.
“Manila Clasico ‘yan, so parang nakatatak na sa isip ng tao ‘yan,” said Hotshots star James Yap, whose team emerged victorious, 89-82.
“If you base it on fans, (Ginebra and Star are still the most popular teams),” Ginebra star Japeth Aguilar said for his part.
“Our matchup is very exciting and may rivalry talaga,” the high-flying Gin Kings forward explained. “Kaya siya talaga tinatangkilik ng mga fans.”
The marquee matchup looked like it would be a one-sided affair as the Hotshots opened up with a 19-point lead in the in the second quarter.
But the skirmish started to live up to its billing when the Gin Kings went on a run that erased the lead and gained them the momentary lead to the delight of not just the fans, who, in turn, pumped up the players.
“Masarap talaga maglaro pag ganyan yung crowd,” Yap said. “Yung adrenaline mo, talagang sobrang taas. Walang gustong magpatalo.”
“Gusto ko lang magpasalamat sa fans na talagang nandun lagi pag games namin,” the charismatic cager added. “Sana kahit sa games ng ibang teams ganun din at sumuporta sila.”