CHANGSHA, China -- The women will be representing the Philippines in the main draw of the 2019 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup.
The Gilas Pilipinas 3x3 women's team completed a sweep of their group in the qualifying stage after picking up a 22-5 victory against Vanuatu, Thursday afternoon in Changsha.
After picking up wins against Samoa and Chinese Taipei on the first day, the Philippine team was already assured of a spot in the next stage of the tournament where tougher competition awaits. Still, they headed in their final assignment focused on the task at hand.
Although the Filipina ballers ended up allowing a two-point shot from their opponents to open the match, they were quick to wrest control of the match with their dominance in the shaded area. Afril Bernardino and Jack Danielle Animam powered their offense early and then Clare Castro subbed in and add even more points from the paint.
However, it was Janine Pontejos who starred in the match for the Philippines as she torched the net from long range. The reigning queen of the FIBA 3x3 World Cup Shootout, Pontejos nailed four two-point shots in the game to finish with 11 points. She converted on the game-winner that abruptly ended the match with still about three minutes remaining on the clock.
The Philippine women's team now owns the most lopsided win of the tournament (21-1 against Samoa) and the third-fastest win (7:01) against Vanuatu).
"We're happy to qualify for the main draw," said head coach Patrick Aquino. "But as I told the girls, we don't want it to end there. Japan and Sri Lanka are tough opponents but we really prepared for this tournament and we're ready to push ourselves to the limit. I think what made us confident was the fact that we gained a lot of experience from the (2018 FIBA 3x3) World Cup. We went up against the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Hungary and gave them good fights."
Pontejos, Animam, and Bernardino were in that team that also included Gemma Miranda. However, learning their limitations from that tournament, Aquino decided to add height in the 6-foot-4 Castro.
"I was surprised when coach said I'll be joining the 3x3 team because I have no experience," said Castro who scored three points against Vanuatu. "I'm lucky because my teammates really spend time teaching me the things they learned from the World Cup and I'm also learning from every game we play."
Next up for the Gilas 3x3 women's team are Japan and Sri Lanka, the third- and sixth-ranked teams in the tournament.