Gilas Women look to finish group phase strong after two tough losses

Gilas Pilipinas Women continue to hold their heads up high despite another crushing loss in the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup. 

The Philippines lost to China in the tournament opener and then to Australia on Wednesday, 120-56. But losing to these Asian powerhouses also meant that Gilas gained valuable learnings in the process. 

Following two losses, Gilas Women have one more game in the group phase. A win against Chinese Taipei on Thursday would automatically avoid a possible relegation match later on. The team will have to quickly regroup and shift their focus to the fifth-ranked team in Asia. 

“We’d like to move on and adjust and probably just compete. That’s the main purpose here – compete,” Aquino said ahead of their next game. “And I think with those two tough games that we had, we’ll have another day of competing.” 

Fortunately for Gilas Pilipinas Women, they can bank on their better showing against Australia. After getting caught flatfooted versus China, having played in their first game following a two-year layoff, they found better rhythm on Wednesday. The Opals still dominated the scoreboard, but the Philippines did not make it an easy blowout. 

“I think we showed a lot better effort today. I think we went in with a better mindset,” rookie guard Camille Clarin said. “The first, second, third quarter I think we really gave it our all but we kinda fell short towards the end. So going into our game tomorrow we’re definitely going to focus on giving it our all all the way to the end because that’s what matters. “

After shooting just 6-for-24 from beyond the arc and 30.9 percent overall when they faced China, Gilas Women were able to hit their targets better versus Australia. Led by Janine Pontejos’ 13 points and three triples, the Philippines went 11-for-35 from deep. Khate Castillo, Kristine Cayabyab, Ria Nabalan nailed two shots each from beyond the arc while Clare Castro and Clarin had one apiece. 

Australia fielded a strong team in the hopes of winning the competition, including WNBA player Sami Whitcomb of the New York Liberty. She is a veteran shooter with two WNBA titles under her belt. The Opals also featured other players in the WNBL, but Gilas Pilipinas did not back down. 

“It’s a great experience to face her (Whitcomb), but to be honest when we go into the game we don’t focus on the accolades of whoever we’re facing, we just focus on the goal, which is to win obviously, and to focus on whatever we’re doing as a team,” Clarin said. “But I think the experience is definitely great and hopefully, we can bring the experience that what we learned from today into tomorrow and just go all out.”

The national team has also received a huge boost from the stands regardless of what was on the scoreboard. In the last two games, loud cheers and shouts could be heard from the crowd, thanks to a small Filipino contingent. Among them have been the family of Clarin who flew in from Canada. 

“My family just came all the way from Canada to support me and I really appreciate that,” Clarin said. “But I think for all of us, just having people in the stands and cheer us on after not playing for so long, that really makes what we’re doing here important. So I appreciate all the support that we can get.”

Gilas Pilipinas Women will go all out against Chinese Taipei to wrap up the group phase on Thursday (Philippine time) at 12:00 AM. 

For more updates on Gilas Women, follow the SBP on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To get the latest information on the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2021, check out the tournament’s official Facebook page.