Gilas women face major test vs Indonesia; men bow to hosts – rezal404

Gilas Pilipina's Women SEA Games 2023

After a strong showing against Singapore, the Gilas Pilipinas women will next battle dangerous Indonesia. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/ARIYA KURNIAWAN/IG: @ARIYAKURNIAWAN16

Two wins into the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, coach Pat Aquino feels it’s time to empty his sleeve of aces.

“You always try to save something for the big games,” he told the Inquirer on Thursday.

And for his courageous band of Gilas Pilipinas women, it doesn’t get bigger than this.

The Philippines battles Indonesia on Friday at Morodok Techo National Stadium in a game that could decide the Gilas women’s bid for a third straight gold medal in the biennial meet.

“That’s a key game,” Aquino said in a phone call. “Indonesia has already beaten all the top teams. Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. We’re the only ones left in their way.”

After running host Cambodia through a shredder with a 60-point rout (114-54) in their first game, the Filipino women put on a defensive clinic in the third quarter and limited Singapore to five points there for a 94-63 victory.

Gilas Pilipinas at the SEA Games 2023. -CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Ariya Kurniawan |  Instagram @ariyakurniawan16

Gilas Pilipinas at the SEA Games 2023. -CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Ariya Kurniawan | Instagram @ariyakurniawan16

It was the second straight win for the Philippines. And it was a timely one as the men’s team dropped a 79-68 defeat to a heavily reinforced Cambodia squad in a later match on Thursday.

With six naturalized players who hogged almost all the minutes in a short rotation, Cambodia zoomed to a 26-14 lead in the first quarter and never looked back until the tension-filled ending, when a late timeout by the hosts fired up the emotions of the Filipinos.

Unlike in the women’s division, the men’s tournament will have a crossover semifinals, meaning the men’s difficult 1-1 start to the tournament hasn’t doomed the team’s gold medal recovery project just yet.

The women’s easy results, meanwhile, have allowed Aquino to distribute minutes of his players as evenly as possible, a key factor since the team will be playing in consecutive days to the finish.

“We try to mix and use everyone to manage time for them to not get tired that much,” Aquino said.

It also keeps the team from exposing too much to the prying eyes of scouts.

Khate Castillo led the Nationals with 14 points while Ella Fajardo, Afril Bernardino and Clare Castro tossed in twin-digit outputs.

There will be no more hiding on Friday as the Philippines is expected to go all out against an Indonesia squad bannered by two naturalized players—Canadian-born Kim Pierre-Louis and American Peyton Alexis Whitted.

Pierre-Louis, who helped Indonesia finish third in Division B of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Women’s Asia Cup in 2021, had 18 points and seven rebounds while Whitted, a 6-foot-3 forward who played professionally in Belgium, added 16 points and six rebounds in Indonesia’s 85-57 rout of Malaysia on Thursday.

Indonesia finished with a silver last year in Hanoi, Vietnam, and will be aching to get back to the Philippines.

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