(UPDATED) The Gilas Pilipinas Women concluded their gallant run in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup 2023 in sixth place, after an 80-71 defeat to South Korea in the classification phase, Saturday in Sydney, Australia.
The Gilas Women kept in step with South Korea in the early goings and even led, 19-18, after the opening period. South Korea pulled away in the second frame, out-scoring the Philippines 26-15 to build a 44-34 cushion at the break.
But the Gilas Women showed no quit and came within three points, 71-68, midway through the final quarter before running out of steam.
"Again, we fell short, but I'm still proud of the girls. They never gave up, and I think the gaps are closing for us," said Gilas Pilipinas coach Pat Aquino afterward. "I hope that we continue doing this in the future, when we go back. It's a great energy for us, in preparing for the next ones."
The Gilas Women's sixth place finish is their highest ever since they were promoted to Division A of FIBA Asia. The Philippines placed seventh in the 2017, 2019, and 2021 editions of the tournament.
Their historic run in the competition included a confidence-boosting 92-81 win over Chinese Taipei in the group stage -- their first ever win in the preliminary phase since their promotion.
They also pushed New Zealand, a team ranked 29th in the world, to the limit in the playoff. The Gilas Women led in spurts and just fell short, 83-78, to miss out on a place in the semifinals.
Against South Korea, they trailed 66-55 heading into the final period but steadily worked their way back behind the aggressive play of veteran forward Afril Bernardino.
An and-1 play by Jack Animam got them within four points, 70-66, with just under six minutes to go. A Bernardino layup got them closer, 71-68, with 4:32 left.
But Leeseul Kang knocked down a huge three-pointer for a 74-68 spread with four minutes left, giving South Korea some breathing room. Vanessa de Jesus' three-point play kept the Philippines alive, 76-71, but a crucial turnover by Janine Pontejos with under two minutes to go allowed Korea to gain further separation, 78-71.
Bernardino finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Animam and Khate Castillo each scored 12 points. De Jesus struggled, however, going 2-of-13 from the field for five points as South Korea's defense keyed in on the Fil-Am guard.
Jihyun Park torched the Gilas Women for 24 points while Jisu Park had an 11-point, 16-rebound double-double.