Perlas Pilipinas reiterated its call for support for women's basketball after wrapping up its FIBA 3x3 World Cup campaign.
Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos, Gemma Miranda, and Jack Animam introduced the Philippine women's squad on the global 3x3 stage. Despite failing to advance to the playoffs, they were able to put on a show in front of the home crowd.
Seeded 20th out of 20 teams, the Pinays never backed down. They proved to the world that they can compete against bigger and more experienced opponents.
But after this milestone, what's next for the Filipina cagers?
National coach Pat Aquino is hoping that this World Cup stint will lead to more international exposure, including the Jakarta Asian Games in August. As of now, Perlas is not part of the Philippine contingent competing in the tournament. "Well we're hoping that we'll get noticed after this. There's still a chance that we'd be included in the Asian Games. You never know," Aquino said.
Regardless of its status for the upcoming Asiad, Perlas is looking to begin recruiting new players as part of its buildup for other competitions.
"We'll start in August preparing for next year's SEA Games, FIBA Asia, and if there's SEABA. At least one year in preparation," shared Aquino. "We'll have tryouts again, we'll invite players to come in, and I'm expecting Filipino-Americans to come over also. Hopefully, we can prepare well going to next year's tournaments."
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), through 3x3 program head Mark Solano, assured that they are communicating with stakeholders, including team sponsor Ever Bilena, to discuss future plans for the team.
"This is a huge eye-opener for everyone watching women's basketball in the Philippines. I've been talking to the bosses, they saw how the four players fought," said Solano. "We are praying and believing that this is just the start for greater things ahead for women's basketball, not only in 3x3 but also in 5-on-5."
Aquino is positive that with the right amount of support and a continuous program, Perlas is capable of reaching greater heights.
"I think we can represent the country at its best all the time. By supporting us, they won't be embarrassed. Actually, we did it already, we're in Level 1 in Asia," Aquino said, highlighting the team's incredible feat of gaining elite status back in 2015.
"The girls are really working hard for it. I know we still have so much more to give. I know we can still give recognition to the country. Maybe we'll get an award or a medal or a championship in the near future," the mentor went on.
"Maybe this is the spark for women's basketball in the coming years. We'll continue what we're doing for the country, for ourselves, and hopefully, you'll be there to support us."