MANILA, Philippines – For 16-year-old Gilas girl Ella Fajardo, the team’s bronze medal-finish in the 2019 FIBA 3×3 Under-18 Asia Cup felt like a fairytale ending after being at the mercy of 2018 champion China in the past games.
Together with teammates Kristine Cayabyab, Angel Surada, and Camille Clarin, the Gilas Girls shocked the competition by taking down the Asian powerhouse, 14-11, in the battle for third place last Saturday, August 24.
“Thankfully they always say: ‘Third time’s a charm.’ We won against China and got the bronze medal,” Fajardo said on Tuesday, August 27, during the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association forum at the Amelie Hotel.
The New Jersey-based baller recalled that she first faced China with the Philippine team during the FIBA 3×3 Under-18 Women’s World Cup in Mongolia, where the squad fell, 21-12.
The Gilas Girls met the defending champion once again in the opening game of the regional tournament, but lost 16-14.
“It was definitely pressuring. Having to play the third time, what were the odds to win against them?” recalled Fajardo when she realized Philippines had to lock horns with China for the bronze medal.
“But we just played Philippine basketball, showed the world that we deserve to be on that stage and that we can pull off with a win [against China].”
Australia took home the championship while Japan settled for silver in the tournament.
Fajardo, a product of the Milo BEST Center grassroots program, is a standout of the New Jersey Sparks Elite Youth Basketball League and is currently playing for Gill St. Bernard’s School.
Although she will not be able to commit to the 2019 Southeast Asian Games 3×3 squad because it’s in conflict with her high school’s basketball season, Fajardo is looking forward to the next time she will get to don the country’s colors. – Rappler.com
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