Gilas Pilipinas Women is hoping to defend their crown in the upcoming 31st Southeast Asian Games, which will run from May 12 to 23 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Their preparations for the tournament began in February with a pool consisting of Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Clare Castro, Khate Castillo, Chack Cabinbin, Andrea Tongco, Camille Clarin, Ella Fajardo, Kristine Cayabyab, and Karl Ann Pingol.
Angel Surada returns to the lineup for both the 3×3 and 5×5 tournaments. New recruits have also joined the lineup, such as Stefanie Berberabe, Gabi Bade, and Katrina Guytingco. Two notable players will be unable to join, though, as Mai-Loni Henson has a tournament in France, while Jack Animam is still recovering from an ACL injury.
Right now, the focus is to get everyone in sync for the games in May. Most of the players are exclusively training for the national team at the moment.
“They would know how to play together and the chemistry and everything just being together for a longer time,” said Gilas Women head coach Patrick Aquino. “Hopefully, all those time na magkakasama kami, magawa namin lahat ng kailangan namin gawin.”
Aquino knows that there’s a target on their backs after winning the country’s first gold in 2019, marking the first time both the Philippines men’s and women’s teams took home the gold. The Philippines was the underdog when it faced Thailand in the finals. Gilas Women stayed composed and dominated to take a 91-71 victory for its first gold medal in history.
Aquino said Gilas Women is looking forward to the competition and hopeful that they will be able to retain its status as the best team in the Southeast Asian region.
“It’s an awesome experience every time na we will be having a tournament like now, in the Southeast Asian Games. It’s excitement and medyo pressure since you’re the defending champion, and we hope na makuha natin yung gold,” said Aquino.
“Everybody is going to be at us and they really want to take that gold away from us. We’ll try to do our very best. I think the kids are doing a lot of things just to get that gold again.”