The Gilas Pilipinas Women’s 3X3 team endured a baptism through fire in their stint at the 2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup, and they hope that their experience has battle hardened them enough to make a splash at the FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup in China on May 22.
The 10th seeded Filipinas are grouped with lower ranked nations Chinese Taipei, Vanuatu, and Samoa in Qualifying Group A, with only the top squad advancing to Pool C. Awaiting the Qualifying Group A winners in Pool C are powerhouses Japan and Sri Lanka.
With the challenge of making it past the qualifying group in mind, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) women’s basketball program director and head coach Pat Aquino is confident the Philippines has the right arsenal going into the tournament.
“You have to qualify to the main tournament. The goal is to make it there,” Aquino said at the Philippine Sportwriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday. “We will try to reach the next phase.”
Returning to the national 3X3 team are Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, and Janine Pontejos. FEU Lady Tamaraws center Clare Castro will make her debut in the 3X3 squad. This group of players are already familiar with each other because of their stints in the 5-on-5 national team, and Aquino is confident they can bank on that familiarity.
“They’ve been playing since early January,” Aquino told SLAM Philippines. “With the system that I have for 5-on-5, na adapt naman nila for 3X3.
The trio of Animam, Bernardino, and Pontejos represented the country in the 2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup held in Bulacan. It is an experience they hope will bring them success at the Asian level.
“Malaking tulong na nakalaro kami sa FIBA World Cup,” Pontejos said. “Nakakuha kami ng diskarte sa kanila kasi ang diverse nila maglaro.”
“Yung mga natutunan namin na technique, or kung paano namin maprepreserve yung energy namin para hindi kami ganun mapagod. Yun siguro yung dadalhin namin sa Asia Cup,” Animam added. “Hopefully magkaroon kami ng masmaganda compared sa nagawa namin sa last FIBA World Cup.“
CEU alumna Pontejos salvaged a lackluster World Cup campaign in 2018 by being named as the tournament’s top shooter, after coming away with the gold medal in the Shoot-Out Competition which featured players from both the Men and Women’s divisions.
Three-time UAAP MVP Bernardino and one-time UAAP MVP Animam are key parts in Aquino’s Lady Bulldogs team that now touts an unprecedented 80 game win streak in the college ranks.
Standing at 6-foot-4, Castro adds much needed height to the squad, which is desperate to make their mark in international competition. Aquino is confident that she can play well alongside Animam on the 3X3 floor.
“Not just the height, but she has a good post play that we really need and for rebounding also,” Aquino said of Castro. “When we played before sa World Cup, we really lacked in height.“
“With Clare Castro there, we can mix her up with Jack,” Aquino added.
When asked about the team’s chances should they make it to the tournament proper, Aquino was bullish on the team’s chances for making an impact.
“Always hope high, syempre we will always hope high,” Aquino said.
The Gilas Pilipinas women’s 3X3 team opens their campaign against Samoa at the BBG Maxcity Changsha Shopping Mall on May 22.
Photos from FIBA.com