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Gilas women back to the grind as international stints loom

September 8, 2021 | 4:28pm

The Gilas Pilipinas Women squad during the 30th Southeast Asian Games / Luisa Morales

MANILA, Philippines – After a long break, the Gilas Pilipinas women’s team is back in training with hopes of quickly making up for lost ground as international competitions return to action starting with the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup this month.

The Nationals have buckled down to work this week, staying at the JET Hotel and the Summit Point Golf and Country Club in Lipa, Batangas under a bubble setup to brace for a tall order in the Asia Cup set Sept. 27 to Oct. 3 in Amman, Jordan.

“It’s good that we can finally start working together. 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,” said Gilas women’s program director and head coach Pat Aquino.

Aquino and his wards last saw action in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which they ruled with a twin-title in 3×3 and 5-on-5 events.

Almost two years since then, they will be in for a tough comeback after being drawn in Group B of the Asia Cup with powerhouse clubs Australia, China and Chinese Taipei.

Sans anchor Jack Animam due to her Serbian pro league stint, Gilas will lean on its SEA Games core composed of Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Chack Cabinbin, Khate Castillo, Clare Castro, Ria Nabalan, Mar Prado and Andrea Tongco.

Making their 5-on-5 team debuts are US NCAA Division I standout Ella Fajardo, Kristin Cayabyab, Karl Ann Pingol and Camille Clarin after their 3×3 youth stints.

Aquino, meanwhile, will be assisted by Ramon Garcia, Julie Amos, and Mark Solano with trainer Paolo Gorospe and physical therapist Rassel Urag.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), led by president Al Panlilio, also assured its full support to the Gilas women’s much-awaited comeback.

“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 SBP Special Assistant to the President Ryan Gregorio.

“Under the leadership of SBP President Al Panlilio and our Program Director and head coach Pat Aquino, our Gilas Pilipinas Women have grown by leaps and bounds already. Competing in Division A is proof of that and so was the double gold-medal haul in the last SEA Games. 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,” added Butch Antonio, SBP Deputy Executive Director.

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