Gilas Pilipinas Women returned from Amman on Tuesday.
Though not winning the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup, the Philippine Women’s National Basketball Team still accomplished their mission — to remain in Division A.
Sounds like the mission was easy right? Well, it was far from a smooth ride for Gilas Women.
“I’m just so happy. I’m very, very happy with the girls,” said Gilas Women head coach Patrick Aquino.
“They didn’t stop competing.”
The competition did not begin for the Gilas Women program in Amman. Well, it began three months prior to the continental meet.
Back in August, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas was already planning to send the team to a bubble training. However, with the rising COVID-19 cases in the country, almost the entirety of Luzon was put under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Because of it, Gilas Women could not conduct a tryout while inviting just 12 players with only two being Filipinas based abroad in Camille Clarin (Canada) and Ella Fajardo (USA) due to travel restrictions.
Once training camp went underway in early September, the team figured in numerous testings. Meanwhile, Typhoon Jolina hampered the early part of their bubble.
Once the team left, Gilas Women was beaten soundly by powerhouse teams Australia, China, and Chinese-Taipei by an average margin of 65.3 points.
And on the fourth day, they had to fight for their lives against India.
“I know for the past three games, we were struggling definitely. But today, I know they played together and as a team,” said Aquino.
Against India, Gilas Women got an added boost as Overseas Filipino Workers in Jordan went to Prince Hamza Hall to cheer on the team. Also, there was Clarin’s family who flew all the way from Canada.
And that added boost was instrumental in their 74-70 win over India to remain in Division A.
“Everywhere we go, there’s lots of Filipinos around the world and fans come out and support us. Filipinos really support our athletes and our journey here,” he expressed. “For me, the big factor is the audience because they boosted our energy to win this game.
“Without them, probably, we won’t be as lucky as today.”
But Aquino also can’t help but express gratitude to those who made this possible.
Of course, that includes the hardworking men and women of the SBP, headed by president Al Panlilio, executive director Sonny Barrios, special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio, and Butch Antonio.
Then there’s support from Summit Point Golf and Country Club and Jet Hotel who hosted their bubble training. Additional support came from Smart, San Miguel Corporation, and Wilnor Packaging.
Last but definitely not the least, Aquino commended the players of the team, namely Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Clare Castro, Khate Castillo, Ria Nabalan, Andrea Tongco, Chack Cabinbin, Mar Prado, Kristine Cayabyab, Ann Pingol, Clarin, and Fajardo, for the sacrifices they made for the country.
“I’m really so happy being here and competing with the girls. Us bringing them out here even with all those bubble trainings and coming here, I’m just so proud of the girls,” he said. “Hopefully, we can do it every time there is this kind of tournament.
“The goal of this team is to compete and compete and play well with the very best.”