Gilas Women keeping heads high despite 2 big losses

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 29 2021 04:13 PM

It was another tough game for the Gilas Pilipinas Women against a powerhouse Australian team. FIBA.basketball
It was another tough game for the Gilas Pilipinas Women against a powerhouse Australian team. FIBA.basketball

The Gilas Pilipinas Women's team are determined to stay the course after back-to-back blowout defeats to two of the top teams in the world.

The Filipinas have struggled so far in the FIBA Women's Asia Cup, losing 143-52 to China in their first game, then absorbing a 120-56 setback against Australia on Wednesday morning in Amman, Jordan.

The Opals, ranked third in the world by FIBA, scored the first 11 points of the game and never looked back. They limited the Filipinas to only 30% shooting while making nearly 50% of their shots. 

Even without superstar center Liz Cambage, Australia dominated inside and scored 44 points inside the paint. They also had a 68-25 rebounding edge. New York Liberty guard Sami Whitcomb flirted with a triple-double, tallying eight points, seven rebounds, and seven assists.

"It's really hard," admitted Gilas Women coach Pat Aquino. "It's a tough group that we're in. I think, being the smallest among the group and having a game with those more experienced players, we tried to get there."

"We try to improve every day, every game, and we hope that we could be competitive in the future," he added.

Veteran guard Janine Pontejos led the Filipinas with 13 points, and Kristine Cayabyab added 10 markers. But Clare Castro, their tallest player, struggled from the field as she made just one of 12 shots for three points. 

Still, the Filipinas felt they fought as well as they can against a powerhouse team that is coming off a stint in the Tokyo Olympics.

"We showed a lot better effort today," said Camille Clarin, who had six points. "I think we came in with a better mindset."

"I think the first, second, third quarters, I think we really gave it our all," she added. "But we kind of fell short towards the end."

Despite their 0-2 record, the Philippines can still make it to the semifinals of the tournament. 

The group winners will be seeded into the semis, while the second- and third-placed teams will play in a crossover game for the two other semifinal berths. The Gilas Women can stay in the hunt for a place in the semis should they pull off an upset against Chinese Taipei in their game at 12 midnight.

"Going to our game (against Chinese Taipei), we'll definitely focus on giving it our all, all the way to the end, because that's what matters," said Clarin.

Aquino, for his part, is hopeful that the lessons they learned against China and Australia will serve them well against Chinese Taipei, which also has a 0-2 record.

"Having the girls play and get experience against these two tough teams we played, we'd like to move on and adjust, and just compete," he said. "That's the main purpose here -- compete."

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