International basketball never stops for the Philippines.
After Gilas Pilipinas 5.0 ended its FIBA Asia Challenge Cup campaign, there will be another national team making headway in their own international competition.
Perlas Pilipinas, the Philippine National Women’s Basketball Team, will compete in the 2016 South East Asian Basketball Association Championship for Women from September 20-26 in Malacca, Malaysia.
Two-time UAAP champion mentor Pat Aquino of the National University Lady Bulldogs was appointed as the head coach for the team and he is set to bring 12 players with him.
These players are Allana Lim, Amby Almazan, Ryzza Palmera-Dy, Cindy Resultay, Chack Cabinbin, Andrea Tongco, Jack Aminam, Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Shelley Gupilan, Camille Sambile and Ara Abaca.
Unfortunately, Arayi Merenciana was ruled out due to dengue.
The Ever Bilena-backed squad started their preparations as early as May, although there were some hiccups along the way. Aquino explained, “Maraming na-postpone na training at mga kailangan naming gawin out of the country competition.”
“I think the focus of SBP was with the OQT so parang nawala yung mga program namin, but we were coping up with what we have and siguro naman it’s enough time to have at least three to four months na training.”
For Aquino, the goal is simply to win the championship.
“It’s the bragging rights to be South East Asian champion,” the 45 year old mentor shared.
“No qualification whatever. I think it’s just ranking in South East Asia. Siyempre on our part, pride is at stake.”
There has been a renewed focus on Perlas Pilipinas ever since the team reached Level I of the FIBA Asia Championship. With more eyes on them comes pressure.
“I think we’re pressured to win because after that FIBA thing that we leveled up, everybody’s eyeing on us again. It’s good in a way that we are being ranked as to be the next champion, but siyempre yung pressure on us nandun pa rin,” stated the Lady Bulldogs mentor.
One factor which could prove detrimental to Perlas Pilipinas’ championship hopes is their size disadvantage. Aquino divulged that Thailand, Malaysiya and Indonesia have taller players than the Philippines.
Nevertheless, Aquino had faith with the cards he was dealt with.
“Binabawi naman natin yan with speed and I think women’s basketball in the Philippines is more talented as far as I’m concerned, as far as I’ve seen everything. They have the talent to win the championship also,” he furthered.
Aquino had to split his time between Perlas Pilipinas and National University these past few months. Not only did he have to split his time, but he will also bring with him two current Lady Bulldogs in Bernardino and Aminam. Any complications due to their absences from NU, though, were laid to rest.
“I think we asked for a break at that time and we’re glad that the UAAP board has approved our request,” Aquino clarified.
A possible consequence of a SEABA championship is the momentum it will have to push for a professional league for women’s basketball. Aquino hoped that would be the case as the wait for that particular league has been long enough.
“The whole Philippines is recognizing that there’s women’s basketball and by getting a championship in SEABA hopefully it continues.
“I think the PBA is planning to have a Women’s Philippine Basketball Association like the D-League. They’ll have a two conference next year and hopefully it’s a good start,” Aquino concluded.