Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

New Zealand Tall Blacks: From boos to cheers

NZ Tall Blacks: From boos to cheers
by rick olivares

The cheers were not lost on the New Zealand Tall Blacks following its FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament semi-finals exit at the hands of Canada, 78-72. 

The crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena heartily applauded the New Zealand team as they huddled up at center court. 

When the Tall Blacks made their debut in the tournament against the Philippines, they were lustily booed by the crowd with many unfamiliar with their pre-game ritual of performing the Haka, that is performed to welcome guests, to acknowledge great achievements, to bid a fallen comrade or loved one goodbye, or to issue a challenge.

After their huge win over the home side, the Tall Blacks played France, this time the crowd both equally cheered and booed them in a 66-59 loss. Then against Canada, there were all cheers.

The boos in the first game, I think I expected that because it was against the home team. That’s fine. The first time I got here, I said all along that the Filipinos love basketball. Maybe the cheers that we got tonight was an appreciation for the way the guys played.”

“Yeah, I noticed that,” said injured center Isaac Fotu of the boos that turned to cheers. "That means a lot to us as a team if we can win fans over. I think Filipinos can identify with hard work. And that’s what we put in every game. We fought until the very last second."

"New Zealand and Senegal flew under the radar,” noted Canada head coach Jay Triano. “Especially, New Zealand who I understand lost by a huge bunch in Europe. But they earned everyone’s respect with their superb discipline, team play, and hard work. They have much to look forward to."

The New Zealand Tall Blacks spent their camp in four countries — Japan, China, Latvia, and lastly, Lithuania. In China, the Tall Blacks swept Belarus, Japan, and China in the first round of the Atlast Tournament. They met a Lithuanian selection in the semis in China and lost by 15 points. The Tall Blacks concluded the pocket tournament by defeating China’s Team B for third place (they limited the Chinese to 22 points in the first half).

In Latvia, they spotted an Iran team a 10-point lead in the fourth period but lost, a situation they found themselves in their OQT matches in Manila versus France and Canada. Without an injured Corey Webster against Latvia, NZ was destroyed by 30 points, prompting the OQT scouts to not highly rate them. In their final tune-up match, they played the Lithuanian national team tough but ultimately lost by double digits.


Watch the New Zealand Tall Blacks' pre-game Haka vs Canada. Click on the link.

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