The inaugural 2023 Smart-NBTC Girls Have Next, powered by Fil-Nation Select, concluded with an action-packed final on Sunday.
Fil-Nation Select-USA showed its pedigree, beating local powerhouse National University Nazareth School 63-54 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena to become the inaugural champion for the division.
Led by Harvard University-commit Nina Emnace’s 17 points, the Fil-foreigners fended off a gritty challenge from the Lady Bullpups and emerged as the first-ever girls’ champions of this tourney.
The tourney was sponsored by Smart, SM, Strong Realty and Development Corp., Under Armour, and Molten.
The Lady Bullpups battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit in the third quarter and took the lead with back-to-back baskets from Cielo Pagdulagan, 43-41.
However, Emnace drilled a three to regain the lead. The game remained nip-and-tuck in the final frame, as a triple from Rachelle Mendoza got NUNS within six, 52-58, with 4:32 remaining.
The Fil-fors had the answer, though, and Isabella De Jesus provided the dagger with a three of her own for the biggest lead of the game at nine with 2:32 ticks left.
Fil-Nation Select head coach Roger Mantua commended his wards for persevering to win the championship despite the short preparation time.
“I believe that was a well-earned win. The girls were just playing hard and stayed disciplined. There were a few lapses, but I think the girls were able to overcome that. They overcame the obstacles, and we can see the results. They played together as a team,” he said.
The biggest grassroots event was also supported by Tecno, Regent, Rebisco, Jollibee, San Miguel Corp., Maynilad, Rebel Sports Pilipinas, MNL Kingpin, Gatorade, Swish App by NBN23, Victory Liner, Jasper Jean, Darlington, Exped, Mr. Freeze, Coach E Basketball School, Lighthouse Events, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. The event continues today with the All-Star Game and Division 2 and 1 Finals.
All games will be livestreamed on Facebook on the NBTC, Smart Sports, and Puso Pilipinas pages.