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Gabby Ramos, Gilas Girls face host Thailand in crucial SEABA U18 opener

Gilas Pilipinas Girls will be tested immediately as they face host Thailand in a must-win opener of the SEABA U18 Women’s Championship, which kicks off on Thursday in the province of Ratchaburi.

The 6 p.m. game (Manila time) against Thailand serves as the outright gold medal match since the two other participating teams, Malaysia and Indonesia, have already qualified for the FIBA U18 Women’s Asia Cup Division A. The winner between the Filipinas and the host country will qualify for the FIBA U18 Women’s Asia Cup Division B next month in Shenzhen, China.

The team will leave for Thailand on Wednesday.

“Playing against the host country, especially Thailand, will be a surprise. Our plan is to not let them get close. As much as possible, we’ll dictate the tempo of the game from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” said head coach Julie Amos about Gilas’ crucial game against the Thais on opening day.

Gilas Pilipinas women’s team coach Pat Aquino added, “I’ve seen some of the names (Thai players), and yung iba sa kanila played previously sa (women’s) U16. That’s the only thing we’ve known about them. They’ve been very secretive din.”

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Executive Director Erika Dy accompanied Aquino and Amos to the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday at the conference hall of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, along with the entire team led by captain Ava Fajardo.

Other members of the squad are Gabby Ramos, Naomi Panganiban, Alyssa Rodriguez, Jolzyne Impreso, Margaret Villanueva, Aubrey Lapasaran, Sophia Canindo, Ashley Abong, Tiffany Reyes, Venice Quinte, and Margarette Duenas.

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“As a team, we’re going to play to the best of our ability, play with our hearts, and hopefully, we can come up with the gold,” said Fajardo, younger sister of national team member Ella Fajardo, in the session presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, MILO, Smart/PLDT, and ArenaPlus, the leading sports entertainment gateway in the Philippines.

The team has been practicing twice a day as the tournament approaches, and played tune-up matches against the Gilas women’s national team, Adamson, Far Eastern University, National University, and the boys’ team of UP Integrated School.

After Thailand, Gilas will play Malaysia on the 25th and Indonesia on the 26th.

“We hope they will play well in Thailand. The federation is here to support them with what they need, and we would love for them to come back with the gold medal. But more importantly, I’m excited for them because I know they will come back as better Filipino citizens,” said Dy about the team, which Amos describes as very coachable, having a high basketball IQ, and being very committed.

“In terms of support, we would like to thank our usual supporters Smart, the MVP Foundation, and for this particular tournament, Senator Pia Cayetano’s office was a big help to the girls.”

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