Tuesday, October 19, 2010

RP cagebelles to focus on SEABA tilt

Being dropped from the 16th Asian Games-bound Philippine delegation could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the women’s national basketball team.

And with the pressure of competing in the Guangzhou Asiad already out of their backs, coach Haydee Ong said they are now focused on winning the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) championship.

The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) decided to drop the women's basketball team from the country’s Asian Games roster after the draw of lots for the basketball tournament was held on October 7 before the RP cagebelles’ qualifying tournament.

The POC set as a criterion the need for the women’s team to win the SEABA gold, to earn a chance to compete in the Guangzhou Asiad, slated from November 12 to 27.

But the SEABA, the qualifying tournament for the RP cagebells, will be held from October 24 to 29 at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila. This will be the first international tournament in women’s basketball that the country will be hosting since the 1991 Southeast Asian Games.

A silver medal or a loss will mean the Philippines will have to pull out of the Asian Games, and doing that with the draw of lots over would get the country suspended or earn a sanction from FIBA Asia and the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee (GAGOC).

"For a while, we had hoped to participate in the Asian Games. Kumbaga ay bonus na lang kung ma-include kami. Kung hindi naman okay lang," Ong said, who is now aiming to give the country its first international title in women’s basketball.

Ong added that they have prepared for two years, building up a highly-competitive team in the process.

The entire team – from co-captains Sylvia Marie Valencia and Joan Grajales, Filipino-American recruits Joan Jacob and Ana Pineda and Filipino-Canadian Cassandra Tioseco to their homegrown teammates – were united in saying that they would rather prove their worth in the SEABA tilt and defer any attempt to join the Asiad.

"It's disappointing that we couldn’t go to the Asian Games, but there are certain things that are beyond our control. The good thing is that we still have the SEABA; at least we have a venue to prove that we’re deserving of our slot in the Asian Games." Ong said.

"This will be the first time that the Philippines will be staging an international tournament, so maganda siguro kung mananalo din tayo ng ating kauna-unahang kampeonato."

"I feel we have a good chance in the tournament, especially since we’ll have the homecourt advantage here. And number two, the core of the team has been practicing for the last two years, so cohesion won’t be a problem," Ong sressed. "Speed, shooting and defense, departments that we lacked before we plunged into training, have all improved a lot."

Other members of the team are Aurora Adriano, Merenciana Arayi, Angel Jo Gloriani, Ma. Ana Tolentino, Bernadette Mercado, Diana Rose Jose, Maria Lalaine Flormata and Chnovin Borja.

The Filipinas will play Singapore on opening day, followed by games against Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The cagebelles should finish in the Top 2 after the single-round eliminations to qualify for the winner-take-all championship on October 29. – Jon Perez/KY, GMANews.TV
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