Altamirano: PH players 'getting better' at 3x3

Phenom Basilan edges Wilkins Balanga (1:22)

072719 CTG 3x3 Highlights (1:22)

The second conference of the 2019 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 wrapped up on Sunday after five legs of intense competition.

The Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 Patriot's Cup presented by Coca-Cola closed out with a Quest-level grand finals showdown that saw the Phenom-Basilan Steel outlasting the Wilkins-Balanga Pure in an overtime thriller to capture the trophy and the million-peso prize.

"This is one for the books, it's very historic," said league commissioner Eric Altamirano. "We have a new champion, and then the championship is really something that for sure a lot of people will talk about because up to the last second, you never know who will win."

Twelve teams battled for four championships before the final stage. Gold's Gym-Pasig, VetHealth Delhi 3BL from India, Phenom-Basilan, and Wilkins-Balanga reigned supreme in each of the four legs. This is in stark contrast with the results of the President's Cup, the league's season opener, where Bataan and Pasig alternated as winners in the five-leg tournament.

"From the time that we started up to now, you will see that there's a big improvement," said Altamirano. "Most of the teams now are getting better and more competitive. It showed this conference because we had different champions every leg compared to the first conference where it was very predictable. It's a good sign that the level of playing 3x3 is getting better."

The Philippines improved to 28th in the world and 6th in Asia in the FIBA 3x3 men's rankings as of July 27, but the points accumulated from the Patriot's Cup grand finals are yet to be added. The goal is to reach the world's top 24 by November 1 to book a ticket to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament on March 2020.

The Magiting Cup scheduled to begin in September will contribute more points for the country. The next edition will feature another all-Filipino tournament, unlike the recently-concluded one where a foreign guest team was invited and each team was allowed to field in an import.

In addition, the Philippines will continue competing in the international stage to gain more experience. The newly-crowned champion Phenom-Basilan will fight for the flag in the 2019 FIBA 3x3 Jeddah Masters in October, while the runner-up Wilkins-Balanga will see action in the 2019 Xiongan Challenger in August.

"Obviously, when you get to the international competition, they're way, way ahead of us," said Altamirano. "We only started playing this year and most of the teams there have been playing for the last ten years. But again, everything is a learning curve for us. Every time we join, we learn something and then we bring it here in our league. Hopefully, in the future, we'll be a team to reckon with."