Even with all the Philippine teams out of the 2019 Chooks-to-Go Manila Challenger, the crowd never left the SM Fairview Events Center while they ooh-ed and aah-ed at the best 3×3 teams the world has to offer.
And it’s a memory that will stick in the mind of world number two 3×3 player Karlis Lasmanis of eventual-champions of the tournament Riga Ghetto.
“This amazing crowd and the championship,” said the 25-year-old Latvian on what makes this tourney one of his most memorable. “The atmosphere here is better. The people have something special — it’s their passion or something.
“They really love basketball here. You can really feel that.”
The Manila Challenger is actually the second time Lasmanis is here in the country.
Back in 2018, he was part of the Latvian quartet that finished in fifth place during the FIBA 3X3 World Cup.
This time around, he made sure that his stay in the Philippines was worth it. Besides leading Riga Ghetto to the top to win a ticket to the 2019 Jeddah Masters and a cool USD 15,000, he was also crowned as the tournament MVP after averaging 7.2 points in the tournament.
“This is my second time here. I was happy to win because it was really tough, took a lot of energy from us,” he admitted as they only won their games by an average margin of just 3.0 points.
And Lasmanis also saw how tough the Philippine teams have become as they needed to go through the wringer before beating Balanga Chooks in pool play.
“This is the second time we played. They are a tough team. In this game, it’s always hard. You have to be more focused than the other team,” he opined while recalling their 19-17 loss to Balanga back in the Doha Masters.
After experiencing Manila on a different light, Lasmanis and the rest of Riga can’t wait to do it again come next season.
“If this Challenger returns, we’re going to be back.”
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