Pat Aquino expects a tougher road ahead when Gilas Pilipinas women’s team bid for its first-ever three-peat in the Southeast Asian Games.
The national team head coach said all eyes will definitely be on Gilas in Cambodia for the 32nd edition of the biennial meet next year as the rest of the field tries to foil the defending champion from completing its date with history.
Aquino knows for a fact the Philippines is under the radar of Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand as they bid to end the country’s four-year reign as basketball power in the region.
“Yung ibang teams nakikita ko like Indonesia has been recruiting so much, ang Vietnam meron silang twin sisters na galing sa States (Kayleigh and Kaylynne Truong), and Malaysia now has an Australian coach,” noted Aquino in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the ground floor of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Tuesday.
“So we have to be prepared and try to retain that gold for us.”
The Philippines and Indonesia ended up with a similar 4-1 record during the Hanoi SEA Games last summer, but its 93-77 shellacking of the Indonesians in the first game of the tournament allowed it to retain the gold via the winner-over-the-other rule.
It’s as close as the Filipinas could get to winning back-to-back championships and Aquino believes the team will have to do an even better job if it is going to bring the title back home.
So far, only Malaysia owns the most number of consecutive women’s championships won in SEA Games history with six in a row from 1977 to 1987.
The Malaysians are also the last team to score a three-peat from 2001 to 2007, a feat the Filipinas are trying to duplicate this time.
A longer and more thorough preparation obviously is needed for Gilas women’s team if it is to realize the historic feat.
“In preparation for the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia, we’re really trying to do our best of preparing the team now, that’s why we started (training) early,” said Aquino, also the Gilas Pilipinas women’s project director, in the session presented by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), MILO, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).
“We’ve already been practicing three times a week for the past month already, with the addition of Jack Animam coming back from her injury.”
The 24-year-old Animam was part of the Gilas women’s team that won the breakthrough gold in Manila three years ago, but skipped the Hanoi Games after suffering an ACL injury.
“She’s been out of basketball for more than a year and a half, so it’s a boost for the team (her return),” said Aquino of the five-time UAAP champion from National University. “So we’re letting her feel again how to play. But I’m happy that Jack is back. She will be a big help to us in our campaign.”
Likewise, Aquino will be leaving for the US next week to scout for possible naturalized players and other Filipina talents eligible to play for the country.