For the first time under coach Patrick Aquino’s watch, Perlas Pilipinas has finally been showcased in their home court. Though it was in a different discipline, the Level I-ranked team in FIBA Asia can now say that they thrilled their fellow countrymen.
However, this is the only FIBA-sanctioned tournament the national team is playing in.
But with the clamor for increased support for the Women’s Basketball program, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and team sponsor Ever Bilena are doing everything they can to give them more exposure in the build-up to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
“In behalf of the SBP, being the 3×3 program head, una I want to thank Coach Pat [Aquino] and his ladies for taking me in personally, personal thanks for this team,” said coach Mark Solano. “It’s been a fun ride, and I’ve been talking to the bosses this morning. Malaking eye-opener ito para sa lahat ng nanonood ng women’s basketball sa Pilipinas.
“I’ve been talking to them, nakita naman nila kung paano lumaban ‘yung apat na manlalaro natin, and we are praying and believing na this is just the start for greater things ahead for women’s basketball, not only in 3×3 but also in 5 on 5.”
Though Perlas 3×3 lost all of their games in the tournament, the quartet of Janine Pontejos, Afril Bernardino, Jack Animam, and Gemma Miranda fought their heart out – keeping pace with their much-taller and more experienced opponents.
With this, there is a possibility that the quartet will be a last-minute inclusion to Team Pilipinas for the upcoming Asian Games in Indonesia.
“Well we’re hoping na baka mapansin kami ngayon, and there’s still a chance, baka ihabol kami sa Asian Games. You never know. Sabi nga, eye-opener, maybe tomorrow there will be a call from SBP, ‘O isama na natin ‘yung 3×3 women’s’,” disclosed Aquino.
“But just hoping.”
What’s sure is that the Perlas program will leave no stones unturned for the SEA Games.
“For the three of them [Bernardino, Pontejos, Miranda], with the management, which is Boss Dioceldo [Sy, Ever Bilena], we talked already about it, and sabi niya sige we’ll start August, preparing for next year’s SEA Games, FIBA Asia, and if there’s SEABA. At least one year in preparation,” Aquino beamed.
“So probably this coming August, we’ll have tryouts again, we’ll invite players to come in, and probably also I’m expecting mga Fil-Ams to come over also. So hopefully, magkaroon tayo ng magandang preparasyon going to next year’s tournament.”
Upon hearing this, Animam – who is the youngest player in the tournament – could not be more glad for her heroes and her friends.
“Siyempre masayang-masaya kami kasi sabi nga nila, kami ‘yung pioneer nitong World Cup sa Pilipinas,” the reigning UAAP Women’s Basketball Most Valuable Player beamed.
“Sana magtuloy-tuloy yung suporta.”