On 19th of July, 10 of us boarded flight PH173 to Manila as the first ever Women’s Basketball Team from Bhutan. Our team consisted of 10 players: Sangay Choden (22), Zimbiri (23), Yeshey Om (21), Sonam Choden Tshering (22), Sonam Yangzom Yonten (24), Tshering Pem (23), Sonam Pelden (19), Tshering Lhaden (22), Ongzin Lhamo Dorji (27) and Namzay Kumutha (26). Our coaches Sonam Tashi, Taylor Belmont, Allison Drennan and Kirk Sheplay also joined us on this trip.
During our 2 weeks stay there in Manila we played a total of 12 games. Our first international game was played on the 21st of July against Rizal Technological University where we lost by 3 baskets with a score of 56-62 at the end of the 4th quarter. That evening we had another game scheduled with St. Paul’s University where it ended in a close win for us by half a basket with a score of 64-65 points. As excited as we were about this first win we had to brace our excitement for the many games that we were yet to play in the next few days. Our third game was played against Don Bosco Technological College which was rather an interesting game as we ended up in a draw of 66-66 points with no overtime.
Playing these few games we realized that we had to not only play smarter but toughen up physically as well since the teams in Manila were a lot more aggressive compared to here in Bhutan. In our fourth game we lost to San Beda College Alabang with the final score of 57-67 points, this defeat made us realize that we needed to play as a team and strengthen our defence as they were continuously cutting along the baseline. So the next day on 24th July, we played against Rizal Technological University again and this time instead of another loss we surprised them with our good defence, executed our offensive plays, and most importantly talking on defence which gave us a win by 54-50 points.
Our main challenge for the entire trip was getting use to the humidity there especially while playing even though almost all the basketball courts were located indoors with huge fans (we were literally sweating buckets). In our sixth game we was played against Adamson University, the University league champions and we lost by 17 points with a final score of 46-63 points.
However, that weekend we saw more than just basketball courts. We travelled 4hrs south of Manila to the neighbouring city of Batangas and played a local team called Lady Pirates in their local sports coliseum for an exciting game opener before the NCAA Division-I game and won with 64-69 points. We spent the weekend there in Batangas conducting a coaching camp for children who were 16 years and below and the turnout was more than 100 boys and few girls. We led them into a group stretch and the children were divided accordingly based to their age. They practiced right and left hand layups, defence positions, form shooting, baseline jumpers and ball handling skills.
We had a 7am game the next day upon our return to Manila against a University court on 6th floor which ended up in a miserable loss as we were thrashed in the first 2 quarters. The following day we were invited by the Philippines Women’s University to their pep rally for an exhibition game against their team and we won that game. In the evening we played against ChangKai Sheg Univeristy in Chinatown and it was yet another victory for us even though it was a low score of 34-39 points. With only 2 more games left, we moved to a close by city of Cavite where we were hosted by Josh Manthey from Kids International. We went to Tent City and took part in their regular feeding program.
We also held another coaching clinic and had only girls from a local foundation home. In the end we also had shooting competition where we gave away t-shirts as prizes.
Our second last game we played against Our Lady Faith University and lost to them by 46-51 points even though we had a great lead in the beginning, their swiftness beat us to a loss. And finally our last game in Manila was up against La Salle University and with a close score of 53-56 points.
Since day one of practice in Bhutan until our first game in Manila, we saw vast improvement in our players, from the way they played on the court, to the way the strategic defence and the plays were executed. We not only played cohesively as a team but also managed to keep calm under pressure. Being the First women’s Basketball team to be trained in such a short duration by the American/Australian coaches and perform as well as we did, we are very proud of how far we have come. We now have many goals to achieve for the future of Women’s Basketball here in Bhutan. Not only with the development of the sport but by giving young women the equal opportunity to learn and play basketball alongside the men in our country.
One of my teammates Sangay Choden summarized her trip as: “It was a great experience and a good exposure which we wouldn't have got from here in Bhutan. We got to learn a lot of new things and played like a team. We met a lot of people and it was fun learning and teaching at the same time. It was the best thing and we should encourage the younger generations to play basketball. Go team Bhutan.”