History was made during the 2018 FIBA 3x3 World Cup as a women's team represented the Philippines for the very first time. The group of Janine Pontejos, Gemma Miranda, Jack Animam, and Afril Bernardino became pioneers in their sport, hoping to inspire not just the stakeholders in Philippine basketball but possibly the next generation of women players as well.
The Philippines lost all of its matches in Pool D, bowing down to Netherlands and Germany in the opening day before faltering again versus Spain and Hungary. They fought with pride but they struggled to overcome better, stronger, and significantly more experienced opponents.
"Well I just want to say I'm proud of the girls for the effort, for the hard work they did today, for the past two days, three days," head coach Pat Aquino said. "This will start something big for us hopefully in the future."
The amount of effort the girls put in against all their opponents should not be questioned. The Philippines was seeded last out of 20 teams and had to face third-seeded Hungary and fourth-seeded Netherlands. Save for their very first game against Netherlands, victories were within reach for the Philippines. There were near upsets but breaks of the game were not on their side. The losses were not really about the lack of height or talent, but about a huge disparity in experience.
"It's more of adjustment. For example, if they hold you, and then you do the same, but you're the one called for the foul. So sometimes, the adjustments from that point onward, it's hard," expressed Aquino. "It's inexperience as first timers, but I'm still proud of these girls."
"The competition is tough especially with the physicality," shared Animam, who had to battle taller opponents at the center position. "You can't just simply box out, because if you just box them out, they'll just push you. You've got to counter whatever they do to you.
"Maybe if we were able to master 3x3 basketball, then maybe we can get the win," Animam went on.
Pontejos, Miranda, Animam, Bernardino, including Aquino, are all decorated figures in women's basketball. They garnered unparalleled success at the collegiate ranks. They have numerous MVPs and championships among them. As part of Perlas Pilipinas, they raised the Philippines to Level 1 in FIBA Asia Women's. However, as they themselves would attest, 3x3 basketball is different. It was a humbling and learning experience to say the least.
"I learned a lot from this because this was our first time," Miranda said. "We need to work on our weaknesses."
More often than not, there is a price for making history. Because it was the first time for Philippine women's basketball, the girls had to fail first to learn, grow, and develop. They had to learn how to walk first before they could run. Fortunately, the losses endured in the past three days were welcomed with humility and a sense of purpose.
"I want to thank everyone who supports women's basketball. I hope you continue to support us in our future competitions," voiced Bernardino. "We can gain more experience, more learnings like this. I hope we get more opportunities like this."
"It's such a thrilling feeling to represent the country in the FIBA 3x3 World Cup," Animam said with excitement. "For us four, of course we're happy that we're the first. We were entrusted to carry the Philippine flag in the World Cup."
The Philippine women's 3x3 team ended the tournament with a mixture of disappointment and fulfillment. Still, these losses will serve as building blocks for the future of 3x3 basketball and the sport in general.