MANILA, Philippines – National University (NU) guard Afril Bernardino wrapped up one of the most dominant UAAP careers in recent memory in fitting fashion on Wednesday, as she helped the Lady Bulldogs claim their third straight women's basketball title.
Bernardino submitted one of her trademark all-around performances, tallying 18 points, six rebounds, nine assists, and three steals in a 96-72 victory over De La Salle University in Game 2 of the UAAP Season 79 Finals.
The huge win, which saw NU lead by as much as 40 points in the fourth quarter, was their 48th consecutive victory dating back to 2014, and allowed them to complete a "three-peat."
"Thankful ako kasi naging part din ako ng championship," said the soft-spoken Bernardino, who was named MVP of the women's basketball tournament for the third consecutive season. "Super blessed din ako na maraming sumusuporta sa akin."
In her final season with NU, Bernardino cemented her status as the top women's hoops player in the Philippines, averaging 19.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 4.6 steals, and 1.6 blocks per game. She finished the season with 91.86 statistical points.
Her closest pursuer in the MVP race – her own teammate, Gemma Miranda – was a far second with 79.46 SPs.
The blessings just continue to pour in for Bernardino. Even as she now shifts her focus on academics, she will continue to work and train with the NU women's team – all in the hopes of fulfilling her dream of playing in the WNBA.
According to NU coach Pat Aquino, plans have been in set in motion for Bernardino to hopefully get a tryout with a WNBA team.
"Wala pa namang (concrete plans), but our boss has been talking with the WNBA people, so medyo clear view na. Magpapadala kami ng tapes or video niya," Aquino said.
"Hopefully, parang Kiefer Ravena or Bobby Ray Parks," he added, referring to two former UAAP superstars who have also tried their luck in the United States in the hopes of making it to the big leagues.
It will take a lot of work on Bernardino's part, Aquino warned. While she is clearly the best player in the Philippines, she still has some ways to go if she wants to make a breakthrough in the United States.
"She has to improve her dribbling skills and her shooting ability, and build up a bit more," Aquino said of Bernardino, who made only 25% of her three-pointers in Season 79 and committed 4.4 turnovers per game.
"But 'yung attitude niya and heart niya of going hard every time, it's one advantage already," he said.
Bernardino is more than willing to put in the work to get there.
"'Yung first dream ko is to play basketball lang," she said. "Hindi ko ine-expect na makakarating ako sa ganito. They asked me if I want (to play in the WNBA), siyempre nag-yes na rin ako."
"Blessed ako na nabigyan ako ng opportunity," she added.
"I will just continue to work out. Hindi ko pa alam 'yung plan, pero 'yun ang sinasabi nila – just continue 'yung conditioning, and I'll just prepare lang kung ano man ang mangyayari."
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