SANTA ROSA – Saitama captured its first major title after sweeping the 2022 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 International Quest following a 20-13 conquest of Zaisan MMC Energy in the Final, Friday night at the Ayala Malls Solenad here.
The newly formed team from Japan took advantage of its size and speed against their more spent foes, pulling away late on the way to ruling the one-day meet undefeated across five games to bag home USD 10,000.
“I said it back in 2019 and I’ll say it again, I really love the Philippines,” said Japan no. 6 player and Tokyo Olympian Tomoya Ochiai, who was part of the Tokyo Dime team that won the first-ever Chooks-to-Go Asia Pacific Super Quest back in 2019.
“New team, it really feels good that we were able to reach the Masters. It’s going to be exciting,” the 35-year-old 3×3 specialist added.
Most importantly, the Alphas are now bound for next month’s Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3×3 World Tour Cebu Masters together with their Mongolian counterparts, securing two of the last few spots of the max-level tournament.
Towering center Teodor Atanasov showed the way with eight points, while young gun Ryo Ozawa provided six markers in the victory.
Olympian Tomoya Ochiai and Marko Milakovic chipped in two points apiece for Saitama, who led by as much as eight points with only 1:17 left to play after engaging in a nip-and-tuck affair early.
Ulzii-Orshikh Myagmarsuren led Zaisan with six points, while Ganbaatar Nyamdorj had five in the loss that saw them settle for USD 5,000.
It was actually a meeting of familiar foes as both clubs already fought one another in Pool B earlier, with the Japanese side triumphant, 20-11.
Zaisan, though, was the first to reach the championship round after handing Manila Chooks! an 18-16 heartbreaker in the semis. Saitama followed suit after outlasting Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy in overtime, 18-16.
By reaching the finale of the Level 8 FIBA 3×3 tourney, the two are joining Utsonomiya, Sansar, Antwerp, Riga, Amsterdam, Jeddah, Lausanne, Omaha, Ludhiana, and Doha in the Cebu Masters on October 1-2.
Saitama 20 – Atanasov 11, Milakovic 4, Ozawa 3, Ochiai 2.
Zaisan 13 – Myagmarsuren 6, Nyamdorj 5, Chuluunbaatar 1, Batsaikhan 1.
Zaisan 17 – Myagmarsuren 13, Nyamdorj 3, Chuluunbaatar 1, Batsaikhan 0.
Manila 15 – Iloka 10, Santos 2, Ando 2, Lanete 1.
Saitama 18 – Milakovic 8, Ozawa 6, Ochiai 2, Milakovic 2.
Ulaanbaatar 16 – Enkhbat 8, Davaasambuu 7, Gotov 1 Tsogt 0.