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Aquino wowed by young cagebelles’ energy

Gilas Pilipinas women's coach Patrick Aquino welcomes the PBA's plans of creating a league for lady ballers. (Photo from FIBA)

Ava Fajardo and Gilas Pilipinas proved that they are determined to advance to the next level when they ripped Hong Kong, 79-40, in the opener of the FIBA U16 Women’s Asian Championship late Monday at the Prince Hamza Hall in Amman Jordan.

Fajardo, the younger sister of Gilas Women star Ella Fajardo, was at her best, dropping 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field on top of six rebounds, four steals and three assists to lead the Filipinas to their first win in the Division B of this continental tourney.

Gilas coach Patrick Aquino wasn’t surprised with the way Fajardo performed, which was quite similar to how her sister led Gilas Women in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia and the recent FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in Australia recently.

Aside from Fajardo, Ryan Nair was also impressive with 12 points while Alyssia Palma finished with 10 for the Filipinas, who dropped a 21-9 bomb in the second quarter before unloading a 21-8 rally in the third period en route to the easy victory.

“She and Ryan (Nair) already have the experience so I expect them to lead the team. I can tell that this team is really motivated and determined to make it to the next level,” Aquino said in an interview with Daily Tribune.

“But what impressed me the most is the energy level the whole team showed. Despite a long trip going to Jordan, they didn’t show signs of fatigue or jetlag. Sometimes, they get frustrated that they commit mistakes or turnovers, but I told them they’re only humans and they’re young players so it’s only natural to commit mistakes.”

Making it back to the Division A has been the ultimate goal of the Gilas Women U16 squad.

The Filipinas almost made it in last year’s tournament but fell short against eventual champion Samoa in the semifinals.

This time, Aquino stressed that they are determined to go all out to grab the golden opportunity of making it to the Division A and see action in the 2025 DIBA U16 Women’s Asian Championship.

Aquino, in fact, was so confident that his wards can get the job done that he afforded to take a backseat for assistant coach Ai Lebornio during their game against Hong Kong.

“That’s been the set up since I’m more concentrated on the women’s squad. I let my deputies to become more active in the girls’ squad,” Aquino said.

“So, my role is being an active coaching consultant while giving opportunities for them to get the feel of coaching in the international circuit.”

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