The two Philippine club teams competing in the 2019 FIBA 3×3 World Tour Masters performed beyond expectations in the group stages.
In front of a massive Filipino crowd here at the Katara Amphitheatre, Pasig Chooks and Balanga Chooks shocked the world by going unscathed in their two games in the preliminaries, Thursday evening.
Both Pasig and Balanga went 2-0 respectively to advance to the knockout quarterfinals of this global meet as two of the four seeded squads.
“Our teams showed the world what we have been doing for the last three months,” said Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 commissioner Eric Altamirano. “Unlike past teams that were confused with the rules, Pasig and Balanga only made a few mental mistakes during their games. In addition, they were disciplined.”
Pulling off a cardiac win to sweep Pool C was Balanga.
Down to just three men, after Leonard Santillan sprained his right ankle early on during Balanga’s 19-17 stunner over 2019 Wuxi Challenger champion Riga Ghetto of Latvia, Alvin Pasaol willed his team to a dramatic 20-19 win in overtime over Moscow Inanomo.
With the game heading into extra time, the first team to score two points would win.
Moscow’s Yura Bespalov was able to draw first blood. But the Russians could not even celebrate the shot as Pasaol was waiting in the corner, knocking down a quick deuce to seal the win.
“Unang-una, nagpapasalamat ako kay Boss Ronald [Mascariñas]. Para sa kanya yung tira na ito kung hindi dahil sa kanya, wala kami rito,” said Pasaol. “Kahit dehado na dehado na kami, pinakita namin na ang pusong Pinoy ay hindi titiklop ng ganun ganun lang.”
Not to be outdone was Pasig.
After soundly defeating home team Katara, 21-14, to open their campaign, the reigning 2019 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup champion stunned world no. 1 Liman of Serbia, 19-16, to sweep Pool A.
With the game tied at 14-all with 1:04 left, Serbian import Nikola Pavlovic knocked down a long deuce for the go-ahead basket.
Liman though would put up one last run, cutting the lead to just a solitary point, before Taylor Statham took over and scored back-to-back buckets to complete the massive upset.
“I am very happy in the way our team took care of business today. Beating the number one team in the world is a great accomplishment but we are nowhere near satisfied,” said Statham.
Balanga’s American reinforcement Travis Franklin ended up as the day’s leading scorer with 24 points. Pasig’s Statham finished in second with 18 points.
Completing the top four were Mihailo Vasic of Liman (16) and Adin Kavgic of Piran (15).
Pasig squares off against Riga Ghetto to open the quarterfinals stage of this two-day tournament at 9:45 pm (Manila time) on Friday. Balanga, on the other hand, takes on Liman at 11:15 pm.
“Even we are surprised with the performance of both our teams,” admitted Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 league owner Mascariñas. “But now that we are in the quarterfinals, I challenged the boys to continue the momentum and show the world that Philippine 3×3 basketball is here to stay in the World Tour.”
Santillan will be a game-time decision for Balanga, according to team PT Kharl Oaferina. If the product of La Salle can’t push through, Balanga will have to play the rest of the tournament with just three healthy bodies.
In the other brackets, Piran faces Chooks-to-Go 3×3 Asia Pacific Super Quest champion Tokyo Dime while Novi Sad is pitted against Ljubljana.
Also competing on Friday is Filipino dunk artist David Carlos as he will figure in a three-way Dunk Contest against Vadim ‘Miller’ Poddubchenko of Ukraine and Joel Henry of Great Britain.
Karl Dehesa of Balanga and Angelo Tsagarakis of Pasig could not advance to the finals of the two-point shootout. The two knocked down just four of their 10 attempts — two points shy of making it to the top three.