Pat Aquino sees big impact of Fiba Asia feat on Gilas Women program – rezal404

New Zealand's defense put a lot of pressure on Philippines playmaker Vanessa de Jesus.

New Zealand’s defense put a lot of pressure on Philippines playmaker Vanessa de Jesus. —PHOTO BY FIBA ​​ASIA

Gilas Pilipinas’ run in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) Women’s Asia Cup came to an end on the wings of defeat on Friday but that wasn’t enough to shake national coach Pat Aquino’s optimism on the program’s growing potential.

“The impact of what we did today is really big,” he said on the heels of an 83-78 loss to New Zealand at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Center that cost them a ticket to the semifinal round of the showcase and a slot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments for the Paris Summer Games.

“As Afril (Bernardino) said, it’s a big leap—a giant step for us in making us competitive and not just [pushovers] here … I feel like with this performance, more kids back home will be following us and aiming to be one of [the members of] the Gilas Women’s basketball team.”

Since its promotion to Division A seven years ago, the Philippines has always been playing for survival, finding itself in relegation games in each edition of the tournament.

That all changed last Wednesday, when Aquino’s charges took down Chinese-Taipei, 92-81. But Friday’s outing, while it resulted in a loss, cemented the belief that the Philippines truly belong at this level, according to Aquino.

“Our goal was to really compete and show that we belong. The win against Chinese-Taipei is what is needed for that, you know. With that win, confidence is overflowing right now,” he said. “Being in this position now—[we realize how] much bigger [things are] out there.”

Jhazmin Joson proved worthy of a future cornerstone of the program by stepping up his offense when needed most.  —PHOTO BY FIBA ​​ASIA

Jhazmin Joson proved worthy as a future cornerstone of the program by stepping up his offense when needed most. —PHOTO BY FIBA ​​ASIA

After a sluggish start, Gilas cleaned up its act in the middle periods behind the sweet shooting of Jhazmin Joson and Khate Castillo. Jack Animam dealt damage from within to help the Filipinos take a slim 69-68 lead heading into the final frame.

Men in Lithuania

But against a Tall Ferns squad playing so much poise, the Nationals fell prey to fouls, errors and late frosty shooting.

“The compound was probably getting low at that time. I think we made some crucial errors in the end and [gave] them more fouls,” Aquino said. “But we did that to ourselves. If we played well or we played composed … there was probably another way of looking at this game.”

Joson and Afril Bernardino both finished with 15 points, while Animam chipped in 14 more while plucking down 11 rebounds.

“If we won this game, it would’ve been another [piece] of history for us. And that’s what we want. I hope we don’t stop and [we] keep pushing ourselves to the limit, making our country proud,” he went on.

Meanwhile, the men’s team arrived in Lithuania on Friday to continue polishing its game for the Fiba World Cup that the Philippines will be cohosting on Aug. 25.

National coach Chot Reyes said he is pleased with how his charges—particularly Scottie Thompson and Rhenz Abando—are progressing despite coming out empty-handed in the two friendlies the squad figured during its stop in Tallinn, Estonia.

“So many positives,” he said. “Definitely there are some negatives, too, the two most glaring are our rebounding and our inability to start strong. Those are the two things we have to continue working on in the future.”

In the Kaunas, the Gilas brain trust is arranging at least four tune-up games over the course of 10 days. Barring any changes in plans, the Nationals will be taking on Ukraine first in a match scheduled this Saturday night at 11 pm (Manila time).

Far from game shape

“It’s obvious that we’re still very far from being in any kind of competitive game shape but you know, we’re not supposed to be in game shape yet at this point because we have to make sure that we peak at the right time ,” Reyes said of the buildup which is being patterned from Gilas’ preparations during the 2014 edition of the World Cup.

“We don’t want to peak too early and burn out in the end. So that’s all part of the process. I’m very happy. I’m very satisfied with the effort. Sure, there’s a lot of things to work on but those are things we knew coming in that are going to be a challenge.”

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