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Gilas women, Australia square off in FIBA Women’s Asia Cup today

IT will not be a smooth sail but Gilas Pilipinas women are out to stand ground with hopes of swaying the tides in their favor, even against the basketball krakens of Asia and the Pacific.

Buoyed by long and rigid preparations including a final build-up in Melbourne, Gilas featuring Duke University ace Vanessa De Jesus for the first time begins its campaign against Australia today in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Division A at the Quaycentre in Sydney.

Action sizzles at 5:30 p.m. with the Filipinas seeking a massive upset in the Group B preliminary phase against the mighty hosts. Also in the group are reigning champion Japan and Chinese Taipei. China, New Zealand, South Korea and Lebanon are bunched in Group A as only the top team from each group will book direct semifinal tickets. Second and third-place squads figure in the qualification to the semis for the last two spots.

“We can’t just play here. We have to come out and show who we are and why we’re here,” head coach Pat Aquino told The STAR.

Gilas last faced Australia in the 2021 regional tilt, absorbing a lopsided 120-56 defeat.

But a whole new different Gilas unit is expected to march into the battlefield this time around with hopes of springing some surprises against the Opals in front of their home crowd.

“We have to be more disciplined. We have to play together,” added Mr. Aquino as Gilas eyes not only a retention in the elite Division A.

The tournament, featuring eight of the best teams in Asia and Oceania, will also serve as a gateway to the Paris Olympics next year with the champion getting an automatic ticket. The next four teams will earn seats in the Olympic Qualifying Tournaments or pre-OQT (Olympic Qualifying Tournament), which the world No. 42 Gilas is eyeing to achieve as part of its continuous program.

“We will have to play our hearts out to at least gain a ticket to the OQT or pre-qualifiers. That’s another step for us,” added Mr. Aquino, who’s also banking on the core of his Southeast Asian Games team led by Jack Animam, Afril Bernardino, Janine Pontejos and Khate Castillo.

Also on board are Louna Ozar, Jhazmin Joson, Chack Cabinbin, Mikka Cacho and Angel Surada, Camille Clarin and Ella Fajardo as Gilas shoots to make up for losing its throne in the Cambodia SEA Games. — John Bryan Ulanday

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