Gilas Pilipinas Women is sparing no effort in its preparations for the 2021 FIBA Women's Asia Cup, which is slated to run from September 27 to October 3 in Amman, Jordan.
With less than a month to go, head coach Pat Aquino has brought the national team to Lipa, Batangas for centralized trainings to get the team into tip-top shape, despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s good that we can finally start working together," said Aquino, who is also the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director for women's national basketball team, which has started training at the Summit Point Golf and Country Club.
“During these times, it’s a luxury to be able to focus on basketball and that’s why the team is thankful for this opportunity to practice in a safe environment. We’re thankful to general manager Vic de Guzman of Summit Point Golf & Country Club and sales manager Leonardo de Castro of JET Hotel for accommodating the team."
The team features several key players from the gold-winning squad at the 2019 SEA Games in Manila, such as Afril Bernardino, Clare Castro and Janine Pontejos. Also present to carry the flag once more are Ria Nabalan, Chack Cabinbin, Khate Castillo, Mar Prado and Andrea Tongco.
Completing the cast are Kristin Cayabyab, Karl Ann Pingol, Camille Clarin and Ella Fajardo, all of whom are set for their seniors-team debut as the Women's Asia Cup.
Aquino will be assisted by coaches Ramon Garcia, Julie Amos, and Mark Solano with trainer Paolo Gorospe and physical therapist Rassel Urag.
"We have not been together as a team for a while now, so this is a chance for us to rebuild our chemistry with each other," he said.
Gilas Pilipinas Women is set to face a tough battle in Group A of the Women's Asia Cup, as they will take on China on September 27, Australia on September 28, and Chinese Taipei on September 29.
The top four teams from the competition will book a trip to Australia for the 2022 FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup.
Despite the circumstances caused by the global health crisis and the obstacles that lie ahead, SBP is firm in its belief that the Filipinas are capable of bringing honour to the country.
“The pandemic has presented a unique challenge, but the SBP is confident that our team will do the very best they can to represent the country in Jordan," said SBP deputy executive director Butch Antonio.
And to that end, support continues to come in the way of Gilas Pilipinas Women.
“The continued growth of women’s basketball in the country is one of the pillars of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and this is why the federation along with our partners will do everything we can to support our Gilas Pilipinas Women,” said Ryan Gregorio, SBP's special assistant to the president.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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