Pat Aquino determined to keep Division A status for Gilas Women

Under his helm, Pat Aquino helped Gilas Women become one of the top women's basketball teams in Asia. FIBA (file photo)
By Dugout Philippines

MANILA - The Philippine women’s national team has come a long way ever since Patrick Aquino took over the position as head coach back in 2014.

After what seemed like hitting a new low at the Southeast Asian Games in 2015, things quickly turned around when Aquino led the team to historic promotion to Division A of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup in the same year.

Among one of the other changes the national team has gone through is the name change from Perlas Pilipinas to Gilas Pilipinas Women’s.

Despite a different moniker, don’t expect any less effort or “puso” from Aquino and his squad.

“SBP [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] wanted to ensure that the basketball program we have is a unifying brand from the men’s team to women’s to the youth,” Aquino explained. “Gilas represents puso and all teams are working together towards a common goal to make the nation proud.”

After their promotion in 2015, Gilas Pilipinas Women’s were able to retain their spot in Division A by beating DPR Korea, 78-63, back in 2017.

Not only had they broken into the top division of the Women’s Asia Cup, Gilas Women’s had managed to keep their spot among Asia’s best for another year.

They’ll be up for the challenge once again this Sept. 24-29 to hang on to their Division A spot at the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup 2019.

If you need a coach that has experience in maintaining a certain level of success for multiple years in a row, there aren’t many better choices than Patrick Aquino.

When Aquino is not coaching the Women’s national team, he also coaches the Women’s team of National University in the UAAP, a collegiate league in the Philippines.

Aquino and the Lady Bulldogs successfully completed a five-peat this past season, serving as further evidence that the 48-year-old head coach really, really, knows what he is doing.

He knows that there is much preparation that needs to take place for a team to succeed and that’s why Gilas Women’s have been pretty busy in the summer leading up to the Asia Cup.

“Our summer training in Taipei last May helped us benchmark where the team is on an international scale,” Aquino said. “We had several games with one of the strongest teams in Taiwan. We also have been practicing 5-6 times a week, and we’ve been having a series of tune up games against different teams.”

The squad in training featured the likes Afril Bernardino and Jack Danielle Animam who played at Asia Cup 2017.

The 23-year-old Bernardino was one of the best players for Gilas Women’s in 2017, putting up 8.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest, while 20-year-old Animam was also a much needed post presence who recorded 4.8 boards per game.

Their improvements throughout this summer will be a huge factor to how the Philippines does at the Asia Cup.

Coach Aquino also got a boost for his Asia Cup preparation with the team’s participation at the 41st William Jones Cup in a return to Taipei once again.

“For a young team like us, we are very fortunate to gain experience at the Jones Cup,” Aquino said. “Several benefits that we can highlight is the fact that the games helped us with the chemistry since our team is mixed of local players and last minute [additions] that came in.”

The Gilas Women’s Jones Cup squad included newcomers like Arnecia Hawkins, Mei-Lyn Bautista, Kelli Hayes, and Elisha Bade.

In Taipei, they were able to face the New Zealand national team and the Chinese-Taipei national team – both opponents they could face at the Asia Cup.

“It was a good avenue to gauge our team. Where we are lacking, and what are the adjustments we need to take. Playing in an international tourney, no matter if it’s against a national or commercial team will always be beneficial for us. Knowing their brand of plays is still different from experiencing it. Being familiar with their systems will be a great help for us this coming FIBA Asia Cup.”

Though Aquino and his team went winless at the Jones Cup, they gained valuable experience for the upcoming regional competition.

The likes of contenders in Korea, China, Australia, and 3-time defending champions Japan might pose an even bigger challenge to overcome should their paths cross.

“They are all accurate shooters and their level of play is higher than other countries we have faced,” Aquino admits. “Given that they have been together for a long time; they are very familiar with how their teammates play. They will be hard to beat, but we just have to go out there and play together.”

Aside from the games against the heavyweights of Asia, a key matchup for the Philippines could be against India who were recently promoted from Division B in the previous edition of the Asia Cup.

Adding more fuel to the flame of this potential clash is that the Philippines originally won their promotion to Division A by beating India back in 2015, relegating the losing team to Division B as well in the process.

Now that India are serving as hosts in 2019, Aquino is anticipating an exciting game should that end up facing each other.

“Regardless of when or how each of us got promoted to Division A, we are here and are expected to represent well,” Aquino said. “I think no matter what team they play, India will play hard and leave everything out there. It will always be great playing a team who has so much passion and motivation no matter the results are in the end.”

Similar to India, Aquino will require his team to give it their all no matter who they should face.

In the end, it will be up to them whether or not they can win and stay in Division A of the Asia Cup.

It won’t be until late September until we know if they can accomplish that goal, but for now we know that Aquino will have his team as prepared as possible for the tournament ahead.

“The team needs to strengthen their offense and make sure they are also solid on the defensive end. The easy part will be to scout the players of the teams: know their individual tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. As a team, we need to trust the system and make sure we can execute. It will be challenging for us especially the super teams we are up against but we will prepare and win every possession as much as we can,” he concluded.

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