Gilas Pilipinas Women fought tooth and nail before bowing to bigger, more experienced New Zealand side, 78-83, in the quarterfinals of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup on Friday at the Sydney Olympic Park Centre in Australia.
The Filipina cagebelles tried so hard, but eventually faded against the one-player wrecking crew of Charlisse Leger Walker en route to bombing out of the tournament and kissing their chances of gaining one of the four slots in the Paris Olympics goodbye.
A stocky but shifty guard from Washington State in the US National Collegiate Athletic Association, Leger-Walker torched Gilas with 34 points on 13-of-23 shooting while grabbing six rebounds and three steals to tow the Tall Ferns to the semifinals against Japan, which gained an outright semifinal berth after topping Group B of the preliminaries.
Still, Gilas coach Patrick Aquino remains proud of his wards, who booked a 92-81 win over Chinese Taipei to make it to the quarterfinals last Wednesday.
“I just want to say I’m really proud of the girls,” said Aquino, whose wards are already assured of staying in Division A due to their win over the Taiwanese.
“The impact of what we did was really big even though we failed to qualify for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.”
Gilas were able to taste their biggest lead at five several times — the last coming off a three-point basket from Janine Pontejos, 53-48, with 7:22 left in the third period.
But New Zealand roared back behind Leger-Walker’s 14-point output in the third quarter.
Aquino said their performance in the prestigious continental meet proved that they are no longer pushovers and could inspire the future batch of Gilas Women.
“I think young girls back home will be excited back home and pursue their dreams of becoming a part of Gilas,” Aquino said.
“I hope we won’t stop and continue to push ourselves to the limit in search of history.”
Gilas came away with a balanced display of firepower led by Jhazmin Joson and Afril Bernardino, who both tallied 15 points apiece.
Jack Animam finished with her second straight double-double performance and ended up with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Khate Castillo scored all of his nine points coming from beyond the arc but was eventually shut down by the Kiwi defenders.
Vanessa de Jesus, Gilas’ naturalized player from Duke University, had an off night offensively, hitting only 2-of-10 shots and wound up with four markers.