Gilas Pilipinas U16 squad makes waves in Asian tourney
As far as Patrick Aquino is concerned, the Gilas Pilipinas women’s team competing in the Fiba U16 Women’s Asian Championship Division B has not accomplished anything yet.
“There’s still two games to play,” he told the Inquirer on Monday via a phone call from Amman, Jordan, where the tournament is being held.
The team completed a sweep of Group A with a 94-65 rout of Samoa at Prince Hamza Hall late Sunday night — a big night for Filipino women after a thrilling win by the national footballers over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Brezice, Slovenia.
The Gilas Women booked an outright semifinal spot where they could have a rematch against Samoa or face dangerous Kazakhstan.
But even the director of the national women’s program understands that whatever happens from this point onward in the tournament, the current squad represents something special for the sport.
“This is practically a core for the future of the women’s program,” Aquino, also the architect of a dominant National University run in UAAP women’s basketball, said. “The girls based abroad, they’re in a U16 team so obviously by having their passports at that age, we no longer foresee any problem for them to represent the country in the future.”
Playing far from the spotlight generally reserved for the sport, the young Gilas women have been dominant, with only a 92-86 victory over Syria—a game where the team led in double figures—ending with a close margin. The Philippines also routed Indonesia, 104-68.
Kristan Yumul and Gabriella Ramos have been spectacular for the U16 squad. Yumul is averaging a team-best 25 points per game, torching opponents from beyond the arc, where she is hitting nearly half her shots so far (20 of 41, 48.8 percent). Ramos, meanwhile, is averaging a monster double-double of 17.3 points and 14.7 rebounds so far.
“Kristan, she’s really a knock-down shooter. Her demeanor is so calm and coaches have been saying she’s like [former PBA Most Valuable Player] James Yap. Gabbie, on the other hand, works really hard,” Aquino said.
“Everyone has been making big contributions in their way,” Aquino said.
Playmaker Natalie Panganiban (14 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.0 apg) and center Samantha Medina (7.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) have come up huge in the tournament for the Philippines under coach Brian Rosario and his deputies, Julie Amos and Mark Solano.
And Aquino isn’t a bit surprised.
“I was really optimistic about this squad,” he said. “Of course, coming from the last time we competed here in 2009, I always knew that our opponents would be bigger and really physical. But I knew this team was talented enough to compete.”
And Aquino wants the Filipino girls to compete hard until the very end.
“All we have right now is a great start,” he said. “We’re hoping the team can finish stronger.”
No matter what the ending will be, however, the team has proven it can serve as a solid foundation for a revitalized program, one that has ruled the last two Southeast Asian Games after being dominated by regional rivals in the past.
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