The qualifying stage of the 2019 FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup saw two Philippine squads make history – albeit in contrasting way.
First off, the Gilas Pilipinas Women’s 3×3 quartet of Afril Bernardino, Clare Castro, Janine Pontejos, and Jack Animam punched their way to the history books of FIBA 3X3 after handing Samoa a 21-1 whipping to open their qualifying stage campaign in Changsha, China.
“These are the best players that we have,” said head coach Patrick Aquino about his squad.
This was the first-ever 20-point rout recorded in a FIBA 3×3 Asia-sanctioned tournament. Moreover, it was the fastest game in the women’s side so far, since the Filipinas needed just 7 minutes and 34 seconds to dispose of their opponents.
After their 16-13 win over Chinese-Taipei later in the day, Gilas Women’s 3×3 can book their ticket to the Asia Cup proper with either a win over the 0-2 Vanuatu or a Chinese-Taipei loss to Samoa.
Awaiting the winner of Qualifying Draw A are Japan and Sri Lanka in Pool C of the continental meet.
On the other hand, Gilas Pilipinas Men’s 3×3 ended up on the wrong side of Philippine 3×3 basketball history.
This is the national team’s first-ever loss to a fellow SEABA member in open competition. The last time a Philippine squad lost to a Southeast Asian squad was back in the 2017 FIBA 3X3 Under-18.
The boys’ squad – composed of Amsali, Michael Malonzo, Harvey Pagsanjan, and Andrew Velasco – suffered a 17-21 loss to host Malaysia during pool play.
Against Thailand, the young Filipinos faced a 4-10 deficit early.
“As a part of the building and sustaining the continuing program for the SBP, three national team players (Rivero, Amsali, and Abarrientos), who represented the Philippines in last year’s FIBA World Cup U23 in China, will join forces with UAAP standout Barkley Ebona to participate in the open competition,” said Gilas Men’s 3×3 mentor Ronnie Magsanoc.
It did not help that Rivero, the highest ranked player in the squad at 178, suffered a right ankle sprain with three minutes left in the game.
With a 0-2 record, the chances of Gilas Men’s 3×3 to advance to the tournament proper look slim heading into their matches against Iran and Samoa.
The Philippines is currently in a crucial stretch in the race to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The country is currently down to 34 in the men’s side, while the women’s is at 31.
If the country makes it to the top 24 by October 31, 2019, it has a chance to compete in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Points can be gathered by participating, hosting, or winning a FIBA 3×3-sanctioned event.