WHILE the spotlight is more on its high-profile counterpart on the men’s side, Perlas Pilipinas is also quietly preparing as a team for big battle ahead.
The Philippine women’s cage team will be leaving for Malaysia by month’s end to play in a series of tune-up games to prepare for the FIBA Asia Women’s Cup set in Bangalore, India this July and the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia the month after.
National coach Patrick Aquino said all members of his 17-women training pool are heading for Kuala Lumpur for some exhibition matches against the Malaysian women’s team and the Malaysian Under-16 boys squad.
Afril Bernardino and veteran Ewon Arayi lead the Perlas pool that also include new addition Daniela Nopuente, who lived in the US but was born in the Philippines.
The games will be played from April 28 to May 1.
“We need to play tune-up matches to prepare us for the Fiba Asia. Alam naman natin iba na ang level ng competition doon,” he said on Good Friday.
It’s the first time the Philippines will be competing in the tournament set July 23 to 29 after a long while. Perlas Pilipinas made sure of that after topping Level 2 of the 2015 Fiba Asia Women’s Championship in a campaign that earned the team a promotion to Level 1.
In India, the Philippines will be up against world powers China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Fiba Asia first-timers Australia and New Zealand.
“Mabigat ang competition kaya kailangan talagang extensive ang preparation natin,” Aquino added.
The experience of playing against world-class women’s team will definitely be a big boost to the Filipina cagebelles’ ambitious bid to finally nail a first ever gold in the SEA Games, according to the national coach.
Perlas tumbled to a fourth-place finish during the last edition of the biennial meet in Singapore two years ago after settling for the silver medal in 2013 and 2011, respectively.
“Siyempre yung gold talaga ang target natin, kaya hopefully, our stint in the Fiba Asia Cup would help us in attaining our goal,” said Aquino.
The national mentor is hoping the team could also join this year’s Jones Cup women’s basketball tournament before proceeding to the SEA Games, although he surmised the tournament would be held too close to the biennial meet.
The rest of the Perlas pool includes Allana Lim, Raiza Palmera Dy, Camille Sambile, Clare Castro, Chack Cabinbin, Janine Pontejos, Cindy Resultay, Ambie Almazan, Ara Abaca, Gemma Miranda, Andrea Tongco, Jack Animam, Shelley Gupilan,and Lovely Sto. Domingo.