The Gilas Pilipinas women opened their campaign in the basketball competition of the Southeast Asian Games with a 63-56 win over Indonesia on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Janine Pontejos led the attack for the Philippines with 16 points and 5 steals. Kelly Hayes added 12 markers and Jack Animam had 9 points and 12 boards. Afril Bernardino chipped in 7 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.
A breakaway layup from Hayes gave the Philippines a 57-50 edge with 3:27 to go in the fourth. Indonesia tried to rally late, but two free throws from Pontejos pretty much sealed the win.
"I'm just happy and thankful that we got past Indonesia. For the past two SEA Games that we played, this is one of the teams that tormented us," said head coach Pat Aquino.
Gilas Women were down by seven points at one point in the first half, but Animam said a halftime pep talk from Aquino in the dugout rallied the team back in the second half.
"Coach Pat reminded us of our hard work and why we're here, that's why we played better in the second half," she said.
"I know it was a bad game," said Aquino. "We were gambling on every defensive possession, giving out so many second chance points, not being patient, trying to be a one-on-one team. We stressed that during halftime, and fortunately we did adjust well and won the game. I told them that you really have to work hard and stay together and be a team out there."
Another factor that led to the Philippines' win was limiting Indonesia's Sophia Gabriel to just 8 points on 2-of-9 shooting.
"We really prepared against Sophia Gabriel. She's been one of the keys for Indonesia in the past two SEA Games, so I felt that if we take her out of the equation, we can do something better," explained Aquino.
Up next for Gilas Women is Malaysia, the back-to-back SEA Games champion which is reeling from a loss.
"We have to be prepared," said Aquino. "I know Malaysia is gonna come back from that loss to Thailand. We have to adjust defensively. Clare [Castro] wasn't a factor today because she was being outran by the Indonesians. We have to make an adjustment for that for Clare to be effective for us."
"The lapses that we made in this game can't happen against Malaysia," added Animam.
Afril Bernardino, Jack Animam, Janine Pontejos and Clare Castro are doing double duty for Gilas Pilipinas Women. Days before this game, the quartet won gold medals in the 3x3 basketball competition, which was included in the SEA Games for the first time.
Gilas won the battle in points off turnovers (25-15) and bench production (19-11).
Gilas Pilipinas women vs. Malaysia on Sunday, 6 p.m.