It was the Filipina ballers who led Philippine campaign on the first day of the 2019 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Changsha, China.
The Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 women's team opened their bid with a merciless 21-1 drubbing of Samoa. The team had a balanced attack featuring the brilliance of Afril Bernardino, the inside strength of Jack Animam and Clare Castro, and the outside sniping of Janine Pontejos. It was the veteran guard who abruptly ended the match with a long two-point shot.
They followed up with a 16-13 victory versus Chinese Taipei in a highly physical affair. Chinese Taipei banked on their shooting skills to stay in the game at the start but it the Filipinas dominated the battle in the shaded area.
The Philippines was down 4-6 in the early goings but Pontejos and Bernardino powered a 7-0 run. They scored mostly inside incursions, which also worked wonders for them as Chinese Taipei fell into the penalty situation. The East Asian tried their best to get back into the ball game in the last couple of minutes but the Filipinas managed their lead well.
"I'm so proud of all of us especially coach Pat (Aquino). We got here and he really took care of us. We're all enjoying our visit here. We're always talking to each other on the court," said skipper Bernardino. "We're so happy we won two straight games."
With their two wins, the path is now clear for the Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 women's team to qualify for the Pool Stage.
They will battle Vanuatu tomorrow to close out the qualifying stage. The worst case for the Philippine women's team now is a 2-1 win-loss tally and they hold wins against the two teams who could also finish with the same record, giving them the advantage in moving forward.
After their two games, Bernardino is the leading scorer for the group with 12 points already. Castro and Pontejos both have nine and Animam has logged seven points.
"Very proud of the girls. They really worked hard for it," said coach Patrick Aquino. "The experience they got from the World Cup, they brought here. We lack exposure and I know we can build more on this 3x3."
Gilas 3x3 women have perfect first day
The Gilas 3x3 women cruised to the largest winning margin in FIBA 3x3 history as they dominated Samoa, 21-1. Gilas defeated Chinese Taipei 16-13 later in the day.
The Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 men's team had a very different result.
After arriving in Changsha, China late Tuesday night because of a long delay in Xiamen, the men's team started out flat in their opening game against Thailand. The team led by coach Ronnie Magnasoc was not able to shoot-around early that morning as the practice court was wet by the time they got there.
Thailand hit their shots from the outside early as they slowly built their confidence. The Philippine team fought back with highlight plays from Ricci Rivero and RJ Abarrientos, aided by the rebounding and toughness from 3x3 newbie Barkley Ebona. However, the Thais knew how to manage their lead and the time as they ended up scoring a 14-11 victory.
What made matters worse for the Philippines was that Rivero rolled his ankle late in the match. He iced it immediately in the hopes of playing their next game but he could not put a lot of weight on it, prompting his coach to pull the plug.
The Philippine men's team had a much better performance against the strong team of Qatar as they slowed the game down because they had no substitute available. Even if they were giving up a lot of size, Abarrientos led a courageous fight as his long shots drew wild cheers from the crowd. The spitfire guard scored 12 points in the match but was it still was not enough to score a victory as they lost to Qatar, 21-17.
According to coach Magsanoc, Rivero will not be available for the rest of the tournament.
"Ricci is out for the rest of the competition as he can hardly walk," the coach said. "We're trying to keep the swelling down by icing and elevating his injured foot."
The men's team still has games against Iran and Samoa tomorrow but they'll have to do it without a substitute.