Gilas Pilipinas Women left Tuesday, Sept. 21 for Amman, Jordan, five days before plunging into action in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup.
Coach Pat Aquino’s squad boarded a plane bound for Dubai where they took a connecting flight for the Jordanian capital where the tournament is staged from Sept. 27 to Oct. 3.
Odds are stacked against Gilas in its bid to improve on the seventh place two years ago in Bangalore, India.
The Philippines opens its Group A campaign against China on the 27th followed by Australia on the 28th and Taiwan on the 29th. The top team in Group A advances to the semis while the second and third placers meet in a playoff.
The team that finishes last will face its Group B counterpart in a match for seventh place.
But Aquino has preferred to put any high expectations, given that the team will finally see action for the first time since winning the gold in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games on home soil.
“I have no expectations for this tournament, I am just happy that my players have a chance to compete on the biggest stage once again,” said Aquino. “At the end of the day, the opportunity to even play basketball is more than we hoped for so we are just going to go out there and do our best.”
Veterans Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Clare Castro, Andrea Tongco, Chack Cabinbin, Ria Nabalan and Mar Prado and first-timers Ella Fajardo, Camille Clarin, Ann Pingol and Kristine Cayabyab make up the 11-player roster for the continental tournament.
The national cagebelles have been training under a bubble setup at Summit Point Golf & Country Club in the weeks leading up to the tournament, a situation Aquino described as a big challenge.
“Each and every day was a challenge — from the swabbing to the team practices but we need to prioritize our health,” he said. “Our mental toughness was also tested during our camp but I feel like that will help us compete against the continent’s best teams.
“We have to take advantage of every opportunity we get to be on the court. Our situation is unique but it will help us in the long run,” added the long-time mentor.