The Philippine national women’s basketball team’s preparations for the Southeast Asian Games in August are now in high gear, playing scrimmages against high school men’s basketball teams to toughen themselves up in the biennal meet.
Head coach Patrick Aquino said he is hoping that the strategy will help the Blackwater-backed Perlas Pilipinas to notch the country’s first-ever gold medal in the games.
“We’ve competed against some of the high school teams here. I think we had tune up games with seven of them,” Aquino told InterAksyon. “Sometimes, we would score 50, at times we scored 80. We just want to find out how much we can score against these boys.
“Of course, we were able to compete with them, but talo lang talaga kami sa athleticism.”
Expectations are high for Perlas Pilipinas after the team won the SEABA Women’s Championship last year.
“It will definitely boost our confidence,” added Aquino. “But there’s a lot of pressure on us to win the SEA Games gold.”
In the SEA Games, Aquino will count on his mainstays led by his best scorers Alfril Bernardino, Allana Lim and Camille Sambile– key figures of last year’s successful SEABA campaign.
Joining the them are the holdovers Analyn Almazan, Raiza Dy, Cindy Resultay, Ara Abaca, Jack Danielle Animam, Chuck Cabinbin, Janine Pontejos, Andrea Tongco and comebacking center Clare Castro.
This year’s tournament will be a wide-open race for the gold medal, according to Aquino.
“Host Malaysia even held a mini-tournament which included China and European teams. They’re really determined to keep the crown right in its home soil,” Aquino said.
“Indonesia trained in the United States and Thailand is bringing back some of its veterans. That’s a scary team because itinatago talaga nila mga players nila.”
Despite the tough challenge ahead, Aquino said the team is determined to bring home the gold.
“It won’t be easy, but we really like our chances this time. We’ve been together for two years and I think we’re ready for the task,” he said.
“I think this is our best chance of winning the gold medal.”