Debacle at Amman: An Assessment of Women’s Gilas Pilipinas

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The Japan Women’s Basketball Team remained the queens of Asian basketball, edging out Australia in a 67-65 thriller. The victory, in a way, erased the pain of defeat they experienced against the Americans in the Tokyo Olympics. Also, the Japanese maintained their stranglehold in women’s basketball in this part of the world. They remain as favorites to vie for the crown in the upcoming FIBA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

Our Women’s Gilas Pilipinas, on the other hand, suffered a terrible beating in the group stage of the tournament. The Gilas Women experience in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup exposed all the weaknesses that need to be addressed if they want to compete against the best in the world.

Assessing The Gilas Women - Game High PH

Walloped by 196

Gilas Pilipinas was crushed by a combined 196 points in the group stage. The disparity in height, talent, and lack of international experience was evident in the three games, and so does the lack of preparation as well as the youth. All of these factors make up for the fatal combination that led to the shellacking at Amman, Jordan.

China handed the team a 91-point beating in their first game. It was already over by the second quarter when the Chinese took advantage of their height and put Filipina big Claire Castro in early foul trouble. But even with her manning the middle, there was no stopping the Chinese juggernaut as they hoisted a 70-point lead after three quarters and easily coasted to victory.

Australia capitalized on their outside shooting and trap defense to steady but surely put away Gilas Pilipinas. They consistently pounded on our small guards and trapped them on the pick and roll. This allowed either their forwards to make mincemeat of our defense or have a field day shooting from long range. The result was a 64-point drubbing in the hands of the Australian Opals.

By contrast, in the opening quarter, the team showed excellent spirit against the ranked 34th Chinese-Taipei squad. However, the lack of cohesiveness and experience took its toll on the team as the game went along. Once Chinese-Taipei clamped down on our shooters, the game was eventually settled. Gilas Pilipinas was trounced by 41 points.

The team, however, got a consolation prize when the Philippines beat India, 74-70, in the classification phase. Anchored on the heroics of Ana Castillo and Janine Pontejos, the victory ensured that the country will not be at the bottom of the standings and will not be relegated to the FIBA Division B.


Assessing The Gilas Women - Game High PH

Murphy’s Law

Everything that could go wrong for the Gilas Women as they prepare for the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup did go wrong for them. Jack Animam was unavailable, and it deprived the team of much-needed height and ceiling. Some of the veterans and stalwarts were missing and were replaced by the relatively young and inexperienced.

Worse, they did not have enough time to prepare for the campaign. They only had two weeks — barely enough for a campaign of this magnitude. As the experience of their male counterparts in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament last July 2021, training, practice, and preparation showed they make a difference, even with a team that is full of youth and lacking experience.

More than the lack of height, experience, and talent, it was the limited time for preparation that Patrick Aquino points to as the culprit behind the debacle. Aquino, of course, was right. With new players and some veterans unavailable, only adequate time for preparation could have saved Gilas Pilipinas from that fate that eventually befell them at Amman. Unfortunately, the present situation deprived the team of even that luxury.


How they should move forward?

Having enough preparation, however, will not address the fundamental problems of Gilas Women: the lack of height, talent, and athleticism. The prep phase will allow the team to perform better, but it is doubtful whether it will give the team a fighting chance, much less allow them to go over the top.

The team remains ranked no. 7 in Asia with their victory over India, but the difference between Gilas Women and the rest of Asia’s powerhouses is very glaring. To be crushed by such a huge margin in a field of eight is a serious matter, and if the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is serious about women’s basketball, it is high time they upgrade, go to the grassroots to develop young talent, and train our players to make it competitive not only in Asia but in the world.

They need to aggressively recruit in and out of the country to address our problem in the center and the forward position (and of course, ensure that they complete the requirements FIBA requires of them). Height is might in basketball, and the way the Chinese and Australians toyed around our players should open the eyes of our basketball leaders that we should have players capable of holding their own against those dominating centers if we want to really make it that far. There are those Europeans and Americans who are as tall, but more skilled and athletic.

Having said these, we tip our hats off to Gilas Women for their gallant stand.

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