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After historic FIBA Asia stint, PH belles eye Asiad glory

The Gilas Pilipinas women's team will try to make a good impression in its first ever Asian Games under head coach Patrick Aquino. (Photo from FIBA Asia)

Competing in the Asian Games for the first time gives head coach Patrick Aquino and his troops more reason to be excited about.

Just a month ago, the Philippine women’s basketball team achieved its highest placing in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in Sydney, Australia, where it finished sixth in the tournament.

The Philippines came so close to securing a berth in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament after pushing New Zealand to the limit in their crossover quarterfinals match.

In the Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia last May, the Filipinas settled for a silver medal.

But the cagebelles are not done yet in achieving milestones and they want to continue their journey ahead of the Hangzhou Asian Games. They will have two international events lined up as part of their preparation – the upcoming William Jones Cup and the Women’s Korean Basketball League.

“After Australia, we took a few days off and then we went back to practice again,” Aquino told Daily Tribune. “Hopefully, we could continue doing that. We have all the pool players coming in, so we have two tournaments lined up – the Jones Cup in the first week of August and then the last week of August, the WKBL before going to the Asian Games, which is our first Asian Games.”

Gabi Bade, a returning player from last year’s gold-medal winning team in Hanoi, and the newest member of the squad, Malia Bambrick, who will play as a naturalized player, bolster the Gilas women’s team’s campaign in the Asiad.

Bade, daughter of former Philippine Basketball Association and Metropolitan Basketball Association player, Cris, has been practicing for a week now.

Bambrick, on the other hand, is  a legitimate US NCAA Division 1 player who played for Pepperdine and just recently with Long Beach State. She is expected to arrive on Wednesday this coming week.

Standing nearly six feet, Bambrick was chosen as a naturalized player as Gilas still couldn’t get Mai-Loni Henson, a French League veteran, who was on the radar of Aquino as early as four years ago, on board.

But Aquino is not discounting the possibility of having several other prospects before the Asian Games, including guard Angie Robles of Denver University.

“The Asian Games have similar rules with the SEA Games when it comes to naturalized players,” said Aquino. “So we can bring in other prospects as well.”

Another new player added was Kacey dela Rosa, who will join her Ateneo teammate Jhazmin Joson in the Jones Cup.

Other players playing in the Jones Cup will also be composed of returning players like  Sofia Roman and Stephanie Berberabe as well as Monique del Carmen.

Mainstays Jack Animan, Afril Bernardino and Janine Pontejos will continue to lead the squad along with Joson and Louna Ozar, two players who were added in the recent FIBA Asia tournament, but made quite a good reputation in their debut as Gilas players.

Conspicuously missing in the Jones Cup squad are Khate Castillo, Camille Clarin and veteran guard Chack Cabinbin as they all had to give way for the other pool members, but they are expected to be back in time for the Asian Games.

Young stars Ella Fajardo and Vanessa de Jesus went back to the United States to be with their respective collegiate squads.

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