CALAMBA – Powered by the country’s finest 3×3 standouts, Zamboanga City-Family’s Brand Sardines turned back undermanned Nueva Ecija, 22-19, to rule the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup powered by TM Grand Finals yesterday inside the INSPIRE Sports Academy bubble here.
Except for the shock third leg elimination, Zamboanga City was simply dominant in the five-legged tournament sanctioned by the Games and Amusements Board.
A composed Joshua Munzon cooled down the Rice Vanguards’ repeated fightbacks, as the Fil-Am nailed consecutive two-pointers for Zamboanga City clinch the P1-million top prize.
The competition toughened Munzon and company, as they continue their preparations for next year’s Olympic qualifiers in Graz, Austria.
Ranged against a team which is playing for the first time in the now-pro league, Zamboanga overcame a tough challenge from No. 4 Pasig Sta. Lucia, 21-16, to advance in the Finals.
Playing without substitutes, Nueva Ecija showed resiliency in ousting No. 2 Uling Roasters Butuan City, 20-19, to clinch the other slot for the championship game.
With the game looking headed into overtime, Tonino Gonzaga delivered a huge block on a driving Karl Dehesa and Jai Reyes nailed the game-winning lay-up in the dwindling seconds for the Rice Vanguards.
Tensions rose after the bruising semis game as players from both teams were reportedly engaged in a shouting match from the backstage before cooler heads prevailed.
Aside from Juan Gomez de Liaño, who was still out with a right ankle injury, Nueva Ecija lost Maclean Sabellina due to a fractured left rib, leaving the squad with three available players.
In the quarterfinals, Zamboanga City topped No. 8 Big Boss Cement-Porac, 21-11, to forge a semifinals duel with the Realtors, who trampled fifth-ranked Palayan City Capitals, 21-13.
The Rice Vanguards carved out a 21-14 victory over No. 11 Petra Cement Roxas ZN to arrange a Final Four showdown with Butuan City, which downed seventh-ranked Bacolod Master Sardines in a low-scoring contest, 16-15.
In the qualifying rounds, Nikki Monteclaro drilled in the game-winning two-pointer as Roxas finally scored a breakthrough win in the second season with a 21-17 reversal of No. 6 Sarangani Marlins.
But the fun didn’t last long for Roxas, as Nueva Ecija had other plans.
Anton Asistio produced 10 points as Bacolod shut the door of 10th-ranked Bicol Paxful 3×3 Pro, 21-10, while Dylan Ababou had 12 points as Porac eliminated No. 9 Zamboanga Peninsula Valientes MLV, 21-14.
Palayan City made quick work of 12th-ranked Pagadian Rocky Sports, 21-7, in the most lopsided match of the Grand Finals.
Roxas’ Janus Lozada dropped seven points in the tiebreaker to beat Porac’s Ryan Monteclaro (six) and Nueva Ecija’s Juan Gomez de Liaño (five) and rule the TM 2-Point Shootout.
The three players ended up tied with eight apiece.