CEBU CITY -- The first leg of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 Patriot's Cup presented by Coca-Cola was definitely one for the books. Many firsts were achieved on Sunday at the SM Seaside City Cebu.
The event was the first to be held outside Metro Manila, as all legs of the President's Cup were hosted by cities in NCR. It was also the first time an import was allowed in the tourney.
However, much like the previous tournament, 12 teams vied to help earn the Philippines a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where 3x3 basketball will be introduced as an event. In addition, the winner was rewarded a cool P100,000 for their gallant stand.
To give some international flavor to the tournament, World no. 14 VetHealth-Delhi 3BL of India and no. 20 Moscow Inanomo of Russia were two of the participating teams. For this leg, the Indians flew to Cebu to personally experience the excitement of playing in the event.
Delhi's unwavering play
Inviting two foreign squads was a way to help raise the competition of the local teams.
Even though Delhi got a chance to participate, they encountered an unfortunate event when Arsh Deep Singh was barred from entering the country due to documentation issues.
Although undermanned, the Indian team definitely made their mark during their short stay in the Philippines.
Down 12-4 to the Tycoon Ballers QC, Delhi never broke its indomitable spirit. Instead, the team slowly chipped away at their opponents' lead with their sound defensive effort and timely two-point shooting.
Clawing from an eight-point deficit, which could have spelled doom for any regular 3x3 squad, they took control and stole the win courtesy of a 17-6 run to close the game.
With this kind of composure, we could only hope the Filipinos can learn from the calm disposition and smart plays that the team ran throughout the competition.
However, Filipinos truly believe in a popular saying which goes like...
Bilog ang bola (The ball is round)
The Gold's Gym Pasig Kings were able to upset the Asian powerhouse, 21-16, in the semifinals.
The quartet of Dylan Ababou, Taylor Statham, Joshua Munzon, and Nikola Pavlovic took advantage of the three-man lineup of Inderbir Sing Gill, Bikramit Gill, and Kiran Shastri in a tough matchup.
A great combination of physical defense and timely outside shooting became the formula of the Filipinos, enough to complete the upset of the top-ranked 3x3 team of Asia.
The two squads were toe-to-toe in a chippy game, where they saw the game tied eight times until it became square at 14.
Pasig was able to hit consecutive two-pointers that seemingly put them comfortably ahead, 18-14, but Delhi again showed their poise, cutting the lead to two, 18-16.
Statham, perhaps the best performer of the tournament, scored a big hoop and somehow the ball went to their import Pavlovic, where he swished the corner two-pointer to call game.
"I feel I like this conference, with the imports brings a lot more talent," said Statham on the new competition. "Those are two great teams we just played. Can't make too many misses and mistakes."
In the Finals, they faced a Basilan Phenom CTC Construction Team that featured Troy Rike, Roosevelt Adams, Franky Johnson, and import Marcus James Hammonds II.
Basilan is definitely for real
Riding the hot hands of PBA D-League standout Franky Johnson, Basilan downed the Balanga squad of Alvin Pasaol, Karl Dehesa, Chris de Chavez, and former FEU Tamaraw Prince Orizu 21-19 in the semifinals.
Johnson's shooting was on-point from the start, scoring the first seven points for his team, he eventually finished with 11.
A great sight from their squad was their great playmaking, evident on Hammonds' game-winner, where he and Adams completed the high-low play off the backdoor cut for the easy one-pointer.
All we could hope is that this team becomes a threat for the four remaining legs of the Patriot's Cup and beyond.
Cebuanos are a force to be reckoned with
Cebu has definitely cemented its place in Philippine basketball lore. The province has produced some of the greatest basketball players today, like five-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, and Roger Pogoy.
With two teams carrying the banner of the city, they displayed that they could hang with the best of them.
Max4-Birada of Cebu, owned by newly-elected councilor and PBA legend Dondon Hontiveros, was bannered by Darrell Menina, Rich Managor, Mark-Gil Panerio, and Elmer Echavez, Jr.
The team split their assignments, winning against MiGuard Vigan, but coming up short against finalists Basilan.
Menina and Panerio also showed off their shooting prowess by drilling numerous two-point baskets not only in their games but in the Two-Point Shootout.
In fact, Panerio was the lone Filipino standing in the finals of that contest, just coming up short against Delhi's Shastri.
There was also one guest team that represented the Queen City of the South, the Southwestern University Cobra squad of Shaq Imperial, Dyll Roncal, Red Cachuela, and import Lamine Thiam.
Import Thiam, though undersized, was a force on offense, showing his guard-like dribbling and shooting skills.
As the big man of the Cobras in CESAFI, the region's premier collegiate league, Thiam also showed his scoring prowess inside, which fueled some incredible comeback efforts from the collegiate squad.
However, their opponents' experience showed as the Cobras came up short in both assignments. We hope to see more of Southwestern U on the national stage, perhaps in Manila to rub elbows with their NCR counterparts.
Aside from the Cebu leg title and P100,000 prize, Pasig booked a ticket to the Poitiers 3x3 Challenge 2019 in France on July 6 to 7. If they win, they will advance to the Lausanne Masters in the same country on August 24 to 25.