September 21, 2023
MANILA – Hardened by a couple of tournaments in the past two months, national coach Pat Aquino believes that his charges are going to make the most out of their debut in the 19th Asian Games.
“The girls are really eager to play. Especially this being our first-ever Asian Games appearance. They want to represent the country well,” he told the Inquirer shortly after practice at Aero Center in Quezon City on Wednesday afternoon.
“The Jones Cup and the Korea stint were great measuring tools for us going into the Asian Games. We wanted our new players to gain experience as a lot of them are new to what we’re doing. So those tournaments gave us something heading into Hangzhou,” he added.
The Women’s squad is bunched with regional powerhouse Japan, Kazakhstan, and Hong Kong in Group B play that unfurls on Sept. 27 at Shaoxing Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium.
Gilas takes on the Kazakhs first, but Aquino is finding comfort in having to see that squad during the Asia Cup Division B held in Thailand where they finished only sixth.
“They’re tall but we’ll manage against them,” he said.
In deference to the national federation, Aquino begged off from revealing his final roster but went on to assure that his old reliables are going to reprise their roles: cornerstones Jack Animam and Afril Bernardino along with deadeye guard and longtime captain Janine Pontejos.
Animam, who will open a new chapter of her pro career in China, will be joining the team as soon as they arrive in Hangzhou.
Aquino said that the short-term goal for the squad is to make the quarterfinals. And as soon as Gilas does just that, then they’ll continue plotting.
“I think that’s a reachable goal for now,” he said. “If and when we get there, then we’ll go for another goal.”