CALAMBA, LAGUNA — It’s mission accomplished for Family’s Brand Sardines-Zamboanga City Chooks in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup powered by TM.
Josh Munzon took charge and Zamboanga City took the fight out of the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards, 22-19 (8:49), in a down-the-wire last game of the Grand Finals, Friday inside the INSPIRE Sports Academy here.
Three-man Nueva Ecija was giving the nationals all they could handle. They were only down by one, 19-20, with a minute and a half remaining in the ‘Million Peso Game.’
That was the end of the road for them, though. Munzon’s longball over Jai Reyes crowned Zamboanga City as the best of the best in the Philippines’ pioneering professional 3×3 league.
“From the start, we had a game plan and we stuck to it,” he said while wearing the gold medal in the post-game press conference. “Whether we won or lost, we just continued to do the same things over and over and over. Our will was tested, but the results speak for itself.”
The top player in the country and Alvin Pasaol each scored seven points. Meanwhile, Santi Santillan and Troy Rike combined for eight markers.
With that, Zamboanga City has topped four out of the five legs as well as the preseason inside the ‘CalamBubble.’
All in all, they take home P1.35M as well as much valuable experience heading into the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Without a doubt, the nationals were challenged up until the end.
Even sans a substitute — with Mac Sabellina still nursing a fractured rib — the Rice Vanguards were going toe-to-toe with Munzon and co.
They even had a chance to steal the championship, but Gab Banal’s long-range try fell short.
Zamboanga City hauled down the rebound. Then not long after, Munzon hit the shot that etched their names into the history books.
“Those are the shots I’ve been taking the tournament,” he said. “It felt good coming out of my hands. I was confident about that shot.”
Moments later, the Filipino-American waved goodbye not just to all their fallen opponents, but also the ‘CalamBubble’ that has housed Chooks 3×3 for more than two weeks.
The runner-up finish rewarded Nueva Ecija with P300,000.
More than that, though, the league newcomer won hearts after fighting through the loss of Juan Gomez de Liaño from Leg 2, and then Sabellina since the semis of the Grand Finals.
Jai Reyes topped the scoring column for them with eight points. while Banal and Tonino Gonzaga both chimed in six markers.
Rounding out the podium is another upstart in Pasig-Sta. Lucia Realtors who received P100,000.
Meanwhile, ‘Air’ David Carlos still reached great heights in his last flight, ruling his fourth Slam Dunk Competition out of five.
In the Two-Point Shootout, Petra Cement-Roxas reigned supreme for the fourth time out of five thanks to Janus Lozada.
Up next for Zamboanga City — who will be rechristened to Manila Chooks — will be the FIBA 3X3 Doha Masters from November 20-21.
ZAMBOANGA CITY 22 — Munzon 7, Pasaol 7, Santillan 4, Rike 4.
NUEVA ECIJA 19 –– Reyes 8, Banal 6, Gonzaga 6.