The Gilas Pilipinas Women’s Team broke through with a 92-81 win over Chinese-Taipei in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2023 Wednesday in Sydney, Australia.
This marks the first pool play win of Gilas since being promoted to Division A in 2015. With this win, they claim the third spot in Group B and will advance to the qualification stage for the semifinals, where they will face the second seed of Group A. This win also ensures that Gilas will not be relegated to Division B, and will finish no lower than sixth in the tournament.
“This is for the country, for the program, for the federation,” head coach Pat Aquino said proudly. “I hope this is not the last win for us in the pool play. More to come for us.”
Fil-Am sensation Vanessa De Jesus continued to shine bright, erupting for 25 points on 57.9 percent shooting to lead all scorers in the game. She was backed up by Gilas veterans Afril Bernardino and Jack Animam, both of whom tallied massive double-doubles. Bernardino finished with 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Animam recorded 16 points and hauled down 15 boards.
“Personally, I’m really happy,” Animam beamed, getting emotional during the post-game press conference. “Coming back from an ACL injury, this is my redemption year. I don’t know if I’m going to be the same Jack as before. This game means so much to everybody, especially back home.”
After two tough losses, the Philippines started the game out strong. After falling behind by three points midway through the first period, they clamped down defensively and only allowed two more points in the final four minutes of the opening quarter. De Jesus, Bernardino, and Animam teamed up to lead Gilas in a 14-2 run to take a nine-point lead at the end of one.
Gilas continued to control the game in the second period, building a double-digit lead heading into the half.
In the second half, Chinese-Taipei tried to go on several runs to get back in the game. They were able to cut the deficit down to six points near the end of the third, and four points midway through the fourth. But both times Gilas had answers.
De Jesus scored four points in a 6-0 mini run to rebuild a double-digit lead heading into the fourth. In the fourth, the mainstays took over. Animam and Bernardino closed the game strong with crucial baskets to end the Chinese-Taipei run.