THERE is no way to go but up for Gilas Pilipinas women after proving that they belong in the same atmosphere with Asia’s best.

Gilas showed improvement by leaps and bounds in the 2023 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup with a commendable sixth-place finish, paving the runway for its takeoff to newer heights sooner than later.

“I think the gaps are closing for us. And I hope we continue doing this in the future or when we go back,” said coach Pat Aquino as Gilas, including players and coaching staff, made the most out of its first-time experience in Australia.

“We came here to compete and not just to play the relegation games.”

And Gilas did.

Ranged against the Asia’s basketball giants in Sydney, the Filipinas stumbled early but picked up themselves and turned to fiercer warriors with gallant fights after one another in the tournament.

Gilas bowed to Australia, 105-34, and Japan, 95-57, in blowout fashions but learned its lessons right away by stunning Chinese Taipei, 92-81, to end its group phase campaign in style and punch a breakthrough playoff ticket.

The historic win dragged Gilas out of the relegation match for only the first time since its Division A promotion in 2015. From there, Gilas barely missed the Final Four with an 83-78 loss against New Zealand before falling short anew versus South Korea, 80-71, in the battle for fifth.

At sixth, Gilas thus claimed its best finish in a long while since placing fourth in the 1984 Asian championships.

“I hope this spark would create a burning fire in the coming years. We just have to keep pushing.  Four of the teams here played in the Olympics and the World Cup. I think it’s about time for us to  belong with the best,” Mr. Aquino beamed. — John Bryan Ulanday