She may have represented the Philippine women’s team many times before in whatever disciplines it may be — the regular 5-on-5 or the 3 x 3 — but Afril Bernardino is still in search for the Southeast Asian Games gold medal.
The rest of the Gilas women’s basketball team is on the same journey and they are pumped up to win it in front of the hometown crowd.
“Priority talaga is to win the SEA Games,” Bernardino told FOX Sports Philippines.
Bernardino will be one of the returning key players going to see action for the Philippine squad in the biennial meet. The former UAAP Most Valuable Player and member of the multi-titled National University Lady Bulldogs was also busy representing the national team in different tournaments.
Just recently, Bernardino helped the 3 x 3 squad in garnering additional points needed for a possible berth for the Olympics.
From November 14 to 17, she will be helping the Gilas women’s team compete in New Zealand in a pre-qualifying event for the Olympics, this team in the regular 5-on-5 format.
According to head coach Patrick Aquino, our Gilas women’s squad will be bracketed along with China, Korea and host New Zealand and it will be a tall order for the Filipinas to salvage a win there and qualify to the next qualification phase, which will be held in February next year.
Only two teams will advance in the next qualifying round.
But for Bernardino, the coming tournament less than a month from now will be a good build up for our Gilas women’s team preparing for the SEA Games as the squad will be competing against powerhouse teams from the Asian region.
The country’s cagebelles had just retained their status in Division 1 in FIBA Asia Cup.
“May tsansa kasing mag-gold tayo sa SEA Games,” said Bernardino. “Dito talaga tayo naka-focus, pero malaking tulong na makakalaro tayo sa New Zealand kasi malalakas yung kalaban doon. Mas magiging ready tayo pagbalik natin to compete for the SEA Games.”
Bernardino will be one among the key players included in the Gilas women’s team competing in the pre qualifying tournament for the Olympics along with Fil-Am Kelli Hayes, a standout from University of California Los Angeles, and mainstays Jack Animam and Janine Pontejos.
Other members of the squad include Chack Cabinbin, Gemma Miranda, Kate Castillo, comebacking players Danica Jose and Bea Daez, Eunique Chan, Andrea Tongco, Ria Nabalan and Clare Castro, who still needs to get an approval from her collegiate team Far Eastern University.
The team that will be sent to the pre qualifying tournament for the Olympics is likewise the same squad that will be fielded in for the SEA Games unless there would be changes at the last minute.
(Photo from Afril Bernardino’s Facebook)