Gilas Women aiming big in first-ever Asian Games stint
Thus declared Gilas Pilipinas coach Pat Aquino when asked about his goals in the 19th Asian Games, where the program is making its first-ever appearance.
It didn’t take too long for Aquino to reach for the logic behind such a lofty target for his debuting charges, who are going into the Hangzhou, China, showpiece battled hardened by the Jones Cup and a recent stint in a South Korean tournament.
“We need to have markers, you know,” Aquino said in a chat with the Inquirer shortly after the team’s practice on a humid Wednesday at Aero Center in Quezon City.
Having markers, Aquino said, shows the squad that it is making strides. At the same time, it also allows the program to be seen through a different lens.
“We need to have something to let us know we’re getting places. I don’t want us getting caught up in the chatter that everything we’ve been pulling off is just a fluke,” he said.
“We want to put forth an idea that the Philippines is a team that is always ready to spring surprises, that there’s something about this team. I don’t want opponents to think and say ‘Ah, it’s just the Philippines.’ I want to strike fear into them, even if it’s just a little bit,” he said with a chuckle.
After a milestone campaign in the Asia Cup in Australia and a gilded run in U-16 Women’s Asian Championship that resulted in a promotion to the top division, the women’s program is indeed making headway. Ranged against such developments, Aquino understands it would be a shame to go for an easy goal.
Gilas Women have moved on from the old tactic of showing up and simply trying to avoid getting blown out, and that is the image they hope to uphold when the games at Shaoxing Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium get going on Sept. 27
The Philippines first battles Kazakhstan, followed by Hong Kong, and then regional heavyweight Japan.
“They’re tall but we’ll manage against them,” Aquino said of the Kazakhs.
Gilas will be relying on old reliables Jack Danielle Animam, Afril Bernardino, and Janine Pontejos and a slew of returnees and newcomers whom Aquino begged off from identifying in deference to the national federation’s official announcement.
Animam is shaping up as Gilas’ foremost weapon in the bid due to her size and a renewed zest brought on by a fresh pro contract with Wuhan Shengfan in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association.
“I think that’s a reachable goal for now,” Aquino said. “If and when we get there, then we’ll go for another goal.”
A strong outing in the Asian Games could become a nifty springboard for the next edition of the Asia Cup which will cut a path for the program’s biggest goal: The World Cup.
“I’m happy that other nations now know that we are capable of doing something. They are now aware that we’re out for battle. To have that feeling is good for us all. But I want us to reach for another mark. Again,” said Aquino.
“We took the long way but we’re still going places.”