MANILA, Philippines—Team Philippines has always known it would face an uphill climb in the 2018 FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Cup, as this is the first time that the women's team is competing in the tournament.
Their inexperience showed in their games on Friday, when they bowed to the Netherlands, 21-11, and then to Germany, 12-10. Though they played well in stretches, the Filipinas were unable to consistently put everything together for 10 minutes, and struggled to defend their taller foes.
Still, that they were competitive against higher-ranked squads – the Philippines is the lowest seed in the women's division, No. 20 – showed that the Filipinas have what it takes, said coach Patrick Aquino.
"I felt that we could be in that level. We could play in that level again, we could compete with other countries, the European countries," he said.
Jack Danielle Animam, one of three National University players on the team, also pointed out that their performance on Day 1 showed that the women's team is in dire need of more exposure in this kind of basketball.
"Yeah, we've been into championships, but this is different. You're up against (the world), so we need that exposure and experience, so that we can be in their level," said the center, who has won three UAAP titles with NU and was the MVP of UAAP Season 80.
Animam compared the team's situation to the Boston Celtics in their Eastern Conference finals showdown against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "Boston, they have good players (like Jason) Tatum," she said. "But the Cavs, they have more experience, so they win."
That kind of experience and exposure is what the team needs, said Animam.
"We need a lot of this, and we need to experience a lot of this so we can be in their level, for world-class," she stressed.
Ahead of the tournament, Animam said that she believes they can pull off some surprises against the higher-ranked teams. She believes that just on Day 1, they already fulfilled that goal.
" 'Yung Germany, alam ko kinabahan sila sa amin," she said. "We could beat them, but it's a matter of experience. They're better than us, because they have a lot of experience, so more exposure pa."
Janine Pontejos, the diminutive guard from Centro Escolar University who ran circles around the Philippine opposition, acknowledged that their height disadvantage was a factor.
"Maganda naman ang pinakita namin, tingin ko, pero na-short pa rin kami kasi sobrang lalaki nila. So nahirapan din kami bumox-out, humabol. So feeling ko 'yun ang kulang sa amin, kaunti pang aggressive pa," she said.
The Filipinas' schedule does not get any easier. They play No. 12 seed Spain at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday, and No. 3 seed Hungary at 7 p.m. on the same day.
They need to win both games to keep their hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals alive; no small task for the squad.
"We will review our game today and review kami ng games ng mga kalaban namin earlier like Hungary and Spain," said Aquino.
"Babawi po kami. May dalawa pang kaming games so kailangan namin bumawi para yung mga tao naman ma-encourage magsuporta sa amin," said Pontejos.
Spain currently has a 2-0 record in Pool D, while Hungary is at 1-1.
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