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Historic moment as Gilas girls make Asiad debut

HANGZHOU, China – History beckons for the Gilas Pilipinas women’s team when it makes its long-awaited debut in the Asian Games on Wednesday.

And awaiting the Filipina cage belles in its opening game in the 19th edition of the meet is Kazakhstan, a perennial contender that made the quarterfinals of the quadrennial showpiece’s last two stagings.

Coach Pat Aquino stressed the need for the team to focus on the task at hand and not on the significance of the 5:30 p.m. game at the SX Olympic Stadium in the history of Philippine women’s basketball.

“The girls are excited and ready for their first Asian Games,” said Aquino, the architect behind the success of the women’s team being promoted in Division A of the FIBA Asia Cup and winning the Southeast Asian Games gold in back-to-back fashion.

“But we have to stay focused mentally and physically.”

Veterans Jack Animam and Afril Bernardino will again stand at the forefront in leading the campaign of the women’s team with support from both the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission.

The rest of the first-ever Philippine women’s team in the Asiad are Janine Pontejos, Chack Cabinbin, Louna Ozar, Khate Castillo, Katrina Guytingco, Stefanie Berberabe, Mikka Cacho, Monique Del Carmen, Andra Tongco, and Camille Nolasco.

The Philippines is with Kazakhstan in Group B along with Hong Kong, and world power and two-time Asiad gold medalist Japan.

Against the taller Kazakhs, Aquino said the team needs to rely on its quickness and outside shooting.

“We have to have a strong start and control the tempo of the game. They are taller than us, so we have to take advantage of our speed and grit,” added the multi-titled coach out of the University of the Philippines.

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