Pinays On Court

Through the success of the women’s national team Perlas Pilipinas, the future of Philippine women’s basketball becomes brighter than ever.

Playing with hearts on fire, the Philippine women’s national team Perlas Pilipinas made history as they ascended to the top tier of FIBA. (rappler.com)

In early September of 2015, the basketball-loving Filipinos were all eyes as the national team Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 was making waves in the FIBA Asia Championships. As they slayed giants one after the other, a team of passionate Filipino basketballers made history on the world stage – the women’s national team Perlas Pilipinas.

Ranked 58th by FIBA, Perlas Pilipinas finished their campaign Group B with 4 straight victories with the last one being a promotion/relegation game victory against India (ranked 39th). It took a lot of hustle and heart for Perlas Pilipinas to beat a top tier team in order to ascend to Level I – and they did with a remarkable display of passion.

Down 8 points before the end of the second quarter, Afril Bernardino spearheaded a Perlas rally scoring 16 points to give them a 2-point lead by halftime. Showing that they are unintimidated by their South Asian opponents, Perlas took control of the rest of the game holding off a late rally by India thanks to a career night by Bernardino with 32 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 5 steals. Allana Lim was also clutch for Perlas with a 20-point 9-rebound performance and converted a crucial three-point play to seal the win.

It’s no secret to the world how Filipinos play with hearts on fire in a game that they have loved for generations. Through Perlas Pilipinas’ stunning showcase of grit, tenacity, and passion for the game, the world now knows that Pinay basketballers are not that far behind from their male counterparts. They entered the tournament with something to prove, and they came home as heroes. However, what they did not know at the time is that their triumph will create a giant ripple that will shape the future of Philippine basketball.

At the onset of the 41st season of the PBA, the Women’s 3×3 Invitational Tournament became a new regular addition to the country’s premiere basketball league.

“The PBA is looking to expand and one of the most exciting areas we’ve looked at is in women’s basketball,” said PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa. “We believe that there is a lot of potential here.”

Held every Wednesday and Friday in the respective game venues, Pinay basketballers ages 18 – 25 competed for the first ever PBA Women’s 3×3 title and a 50,000 pesos cash prize. Perlas Pilipinas standouts themselves are among the distinguished players who participated in the tournament.

“This tournament is a great opportunity for our basketball fans to see how good our lady ballers are,” said PBA Deputy Commissioner Rickie Santos who was also named Commissioner of the Women’s Tournament.

On the 14th of January, the women’s team of Blackwater Elite composed of Perlas Pilipinas’ Camille Sambille and Aliana May Lim, with Kathrine Sandel and Fria Bernardo was awarded the first-ever Women’s 3×3 crown. After the first salvo of the tournament proved to be a rousing success, things are looking bright for the future of Pinay basketball. The tournament, after all, did more than shine the spotlight on the remarkable talented female athletes of the hardwood courts – it provided them an avenue to continue their playing careers after graduating from school and also, outside national tourneys.

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Blackwater Elite led by Perlas Pilipinas’ Camille Sambille and Aliana May Lim captures the first-ever PBA Women’s 3×3 crown. (pba.inquirer.net)

Beyond the talent and success that put the world on notice, the light that Filipina basketballers ignited with their hearts on fire have inspired others like them to come out of the shadows. Today, we celebrate the dawning of a new era in Philippine basketball – one where both men and women will work hand-in-hand in shaping its future.

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