Gilas women hope SEA Games gold paves way for female pro league
MANILA, Philippines — Raring to gain the recognition they deserve, the country’s finest in women’s basketball needed a platform where they can be heard.
With the Southeast Asian Games as its stage, Gilas Pilipinas women sent their message loud and clear with the gold medal dangling around their necks.
“I’m just so happy for the girls, for what they achieved. Now, we hope you will start to recognize us. It’s been a long time, we’ve been doing this since 2015, and now that the gold is with us, and I’m just so happy. I’m not only happy for the girls, but for the whole country and the women’s side,” said national team head coach Pat Aquino, who had long dreamed for female basketball players in the country to have their own league where they can continue to showcase their talents after college.
“Of course as a women’s basketball player, we just want women’s basketball to be recognized so that all the women who aspire to play basketball will have a league to play in after college that’s why we’re asking for more support for us women’s players,” said Gilas women guard Afril Bernardino in Filipino.
The country’s women’s basketball team has always served as only a sideshow to the centerpiece which is Gilas Pilipinas.
But Tuesday night saw the ladies sharing the stage with their male counterparts during the awarding ceremony after winning their first SEA Games gold medal following a masterful 91-71 win over powerhouse Thailand in front of a raucous hometown crowd at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Actually, we always thought we haven’t proven anything yet that’s why we haven’t gotten any support. But now, we really grabbed this opportunity to give women’s basketball a chance,” said Bernardino, who followed up her 18-point, 19-rebound effort in the semifinal with 10 points and 14 rebounds against the Thais.
“We just so proud right now and I guess this is the start that women’s basketball and women’s basketball players will finally get recognized more,” said center Jack Animam after leading Gilas women with 21 points.