CALAMBA – Zamboanga City-Family’s Brand Sardines really wanted to have a healthy
Juan Gomez de Liaño in facing Nueva Ecija in the second leg finale of Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup powered by TM.
Gomez de Liaño missed last Friday’s second leg due to a right ankle sprain, as Zamboanga City easily took down the Rice Vanguards, 21-11, for its second consecutive leg championship inside the INSPIRE Sports Academy bubble at the National University-Laguna campus here.
“Sobrang masaya kung nandiyan si Juan. Mas maganda ang laro, kasi Juan is Juan. Kailangan i-prepare ang mga sarili namin pagbalik ni Juan,” said Pasaol.
“Wala namang may kasalanan sa pagkaka-injure ni Juan. Exciting kapag nandiyan si Juan,” he added.
As the tournament goes into the final three legs, Zamboanga City hopes to cross paths again with Nueva Ecija having Gomez de Liaño in full strength in the Finals.
“Wala kaming pinipiling kalaban na i-downgrade namin na ‘ay wala yung isang star player nila kaya namin.’ Hindi naman ganoon. Lahat ng kalaban namin, itinuturing namin na sobrang galing nila. Na mas magaling pa sila sa amin kaya nagwo-work hard kami para manalo sa kanila,” said Pasaol.
Bannered by the finest 3×3 players in the national pool, Zamboanga City followed up its first leg conquest of Uling Roasters Butuan and remains as heavy favorites to rule today’s third leg starting at 1 p.m.
Unbeaten in 10 games since the opening leg, Zamboanga knows that any misstep will be fatal in its bid to dominate the second season, which has Gatorade as its hydration partner.
“Lahat naman ng teams competitive. Kailangan, hindi dapat kami patulog-tulog sa pansitan. Kasi pag once, napikit yung mata namin, maari kaming matalo,” said Pasaol.
“Kailangan naming manalo, iyan ang parating nasa utak namin. Kailangan ipakita namin sa lahat na nagre-represent kami ng Pilipinas papuntang (Olympic) qualifiers. Ito na ang aming training ground, kumbaga,” he added.
The Philippines’ No. 2 3×3 player scored eight points in the clincher, the biggest basket being a two-pointer over the outstretched arms of Tonino Gonzaga as Zamboanga’s continued to set the gold standard in the now-pro league.
Santi Santillan dropped five of his seven points in a four-minute span as Family’s Brand Sardines went on a 12-5 tear to open up a two-point edge to an 18-9 lead.
Play was stopped late in the game, as Pasaol and Gonzaga were involved in a scuffle after Santillan was fouled by Gab Banal and both players fell hard on the floor. Pasaol and Gonzaga were assessed for unsportsmanlike and technical fouls that cancelled out.
Once play resumed, Nueva Ecija was to able to trim down the deficit to 11-19, before Pasaol closed out the testy match with a two-point basket.
“Hindi ito larong bata,” said Pasaol, regarding their physical game with the Rice Vanguards.
Joshua Munzon contributed four points while Troy Rike rounded out Zamboanga City’s scoring with two.
In the semifinals, Zamboanga City needed a 12-2 run just to eliminate Butuan City-Uling Roasters, 21-18, in the rematch of the first leg Finals.
Nueva Ecija, for its part, overwhelmed the Pasig-Sta. Lucia Realtors, 22-13, in the other semis pairing.
In the side events, famed dunk artist David Carlos reigned supreme in the TM Slam Dunk Contest while Roider Cabrera of Petra Cement Roxas Rockies ruled the TM Two-Point Shootout.