Gilas girls primed for Fiba U16 Asian Championship | Inquirer Sports
U16 SQUAD

Gilas girls primed for Fiba U16 Asian Championship

/ 04:10 AM July 11, 2023

Pat Aquino gilas pilipinas women girls

Gilas Pilipinas women coach Pat Aquino. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

National coach Patrick Aquino found no need for pep talks to inspire his charges for this week’s Fiba (International Basketball Federation) U16 Women’s Asian Championship in Jordan.

The girls are already stoked.

“This is the biggest stage of their young careers. But having that feeling of representing the country? They want to prove something, just like their ates,” he told the Inquirer on Monday afternoon, using the Filipino word for older sister to refer to the senior women’s squad that logged a milestone in the Women’s Fiba Asia Cup recently.

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Aquino and the women’s team recently finished in sixth place in the Asia Cup in Sydney, Australia, last week that gave Gilas validation that it belonged in the tournament—something that has eluded the program for years.

The girls, Aquino said, were “eager, excited, and are hoping to finish better than the last time,” hours before the team’s match against Hong Kong.

The Philippines is back in the all-too-familiar city of Amman and will try to improve last year’s botched campaign where Gilas lost to Samoa and fell short of playing in the tournament finalé, where promotion to the top division was at stake.

This crop of youngsters hopes to do exactly that this time with the exploits of the senior’s team in their hearts and minds. This edition of the youth team will be bannered by Ava Fajardo and Ryan Nair, who were both part of the 2022 crew that swept the group phase and then faltered late against eventual champion Samoa in the semifinals.

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Joining the pair are Demicah Arnaldo, Sophia Canindo, Isabelle de Jesus, Ariel de La O, Scarlett Mercado, Alyssia Palma, Naima Navarro, Aubrey Lapasaran, Kimi Sayson and Nevaeh Smith.

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The World No. 56 Philippines was set to battle No. 68 Hong Kong at Prince Hamzah Sport Hall 10:30 p.m. on Monday (Manila time) and will then set its sights on Maldives on Tuesday night before rounding out its pool phase bid against host Jordan early Thursday morning.

The top two seeds from each pool will be advancing to the knockout stage and will have a chance to tab that topflight status that will also serve as a slot in the main tournament in 2025.

Aquino said his optimism is anchored on the lessons the entire women’s program has picked up throughout the years, which is simply looking at each game like a no-tomorrow duel.

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“The lessons we’ve learned is to not take our opponents for granted and play every game as if it’s our championship game,” he said.

“It’ll be hard to expect from these kids, but I know that they will go out there with everything,” he said.

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