Perlas Pilipinas opens SEA Games campaign with early showdown against champion Thailand
Perlas Pilipinas gets a pep talk from no less than Gilas cadet coach Tab Baldwin days leading to the 28th Southeast Asian Games. Jaime Campos

SINGAPORE - The Philippine women’s basketball team faces an acid test right away in its opening game in the 28th Southeast Asian Games when it goes up against defending champion Thailand at the OCBC Arena on Tuesday.

Game time is at 9 a.m.

Perlas Pilipinas hopes to get even against its perennial rival that has been the cause of the team’s heartbreak the past two editions of the biennial meet.

In the 2011 staging in Palembang, Indonesia, the Filipinas suffered a tough loss when the Thais won the gold medal match in overtime, 75-73, after forcing the extra time by firing a clutch buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of regulation.

Two years later in Myanmar, the Thais whipped the same Philippine team, 75-36, to settle yet for another silver finish.

The same format during the past two stagings of the meet will apply this time, with the top team to emerge at the end of the single-round robin competition emerging the gold medal winner.

“First game, championship na agad,” said national coach Patrick Aquino after the team’s practice on the eve of its debut game.

Unlike before, Perlas Pilipinas will be facing the perennial champions early in the tournament, something that could also be advantageous to the squad.

 “I haven’t seen them play together. Pero sabi ko nga rin, it will be beneficial for us din because they haven’t seen us play,” said Aquino, who was appointed as new head coach of the team only this year.

The new-look squad will feature Analyn Almazan, Allana Lim, Shelley Anne Gupilan, Afril Bernardino, Fria Bernardo, Sofia Roman, Camille Sambile, Danica Jose, Ewon Arayi, Cindy Resultay, Raiza Palmera, and Clare Castro.

“I think in the aspect of the game, if they got the height, we got the height. If they got the speed, we got the speed. It will boil down on how you play the game,” said Aquino.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports