Despite a forgettable tournament, the Philippine women’s national basketball team achieved a silver lining by remaining in Division A of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup with a hard-earned 70-74 win over India on Friday midnight.
The backcourt tandem of Ana Castillo and Janine Pontejos scored 22 points each while star player Afril Bernardino filled the stat sheet with nine points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and four blocks to help the Gilas Women remain on the top tier of the continent.
Pontejos started the game with eight straight points as the Philippines earned a slight early lead until the Indian charge led by the Kumar sisters helped India build a 19-13 lead to end the first quarter.
It was a to-and-fro second quarter for both squads as Castillo introduced herself with two triples but spitfire Madhu Kumari matched her Filipina counterpart from beyond the arc as India maintained a 39-34 lead at the half.
Castillo and Pontejos continued their hot streak from the outside as Bernardino did the intangibles especially on the defensive end as the Philippines finally took a 55-52 lead in the third quarter.
The Gilas Women finally took off for good in the last canto as Camille Clarin joined the splash party, helping her team erect a 67-56 lead midway in the quarter.
India still pushed back with seven straight points but Castillo secured the game in the final minutes, firing seven points of her own, including back-to-back triples from top of the key.
The Filipinas finally clicked from the outside—a skill they had sorely missed in facing tougher opponents—as Castillo and Pontejos fired seven and four triples, respectively. Gilas Women combined for a total of 15 threes for the game.
Gilas Women also improved in assists with 22 and this was their first game where they had fewer turnovers than dishes with 13.
The Indians were led by four players in double digits, with Pushpa Kumar topscoring with 15 points on top of 12 boards.
With the loss, India is relegated to Division B, or the lower tier of FIBA Asia women squads. As such, they have to top the Division B tournament to be able to re-enter Division A in 2023.
The semifinals cast of this year has also been completed as South Korea nipped Taiwan, 80-74, in the first game while Australia trounced neighboring New Zealand, 72-61, in the second game of the quarterfinals.
The Australians will face defending champion Japan while the Koreans are paired with last editions runner-up China in the semifinals.
Photo: FIBA Women’s Asia Cup Facebook page