MANILA (Philippines) - Cebu Chooks (PHI) thrilled the hoops crazy local fans and ended a long drought for Filipino teams on the pro circuit with a memorable victory at the 3x3 Asia Pacific Super Quest 2022 on April 30, 2022.
The triumph during the one-day 3x3 extravaganza provided a perfect preparation for Cebu, who have qualified for next month's Manila Masters in the same city.
Here's what happened.
The winners: Cebu Chooks (PHI)
They were: No.1 best shooting value and fewest points conceded.
Do you know the last time hoops mad Philippines won a title on the road to the World Tour? Well it was when the No.1 song on the billboards was Happy by Pharrell Williams. That's right, way back in 2014 when Manila West claimed the Manila Masters to spark scenes of jubilation in the Philippines' capital.
No.3 seed Cebu Chooks ended that drought in style with an unbeaten campaign, where they won all five games marked by lockdown D. But they also poured in buckets with star Mark Tallo, the No.1 ranked player in the Philippines, and Mike Harry combining for 61 points.
In what would be an early preview of the final, Cebu laid down their marker with a tight 14-12 victory over No.1 seed Sansar MMC Energy then beat Manila Chooks in a nerve-jangling all-Filipino semi-final showdown.
They impressively held their nerve in another tight final - for the second straight year the title in this event went down to the wire - to become instant heroes in a country that lives and breathes hoops.
But Cebu Chooks won't be partying for too long. They know they can upset some of the top 3x3 teams in the world on home soil in next month's Manila Masters, especially with the support of their dedicated fans.
The runners-up: Sansar MMC Energy (MGL)
The No.2 seed just couldn't get past nemesis Cebu with a pair of heartbreaking two-point losses. The Mongolians, however, did enough to punch a ticket to the Manila Masters as the rising 3x3 nation aims to make a big splash on the pro circuit this year.
If Sansar want to really threaten the best teams in Manila, however, they will need to do a better job scoring as they averaged just 16.2 ppg and relied too heavily on the brilliant one-two punch of Anand Ariunbold and Enkhbaatar Onolbaatar, who combined for 64 of the team's 81 points.
Awesome Ariunbold: The 25-year-old is ranked 19th in his country but expect him to leap up the rankings this season. The 1.96m (6ft. 5in) player's talent is no secret after a breakout at the FIBA 3x3 U23 World Cup 2019 and his game is starting to mature.
Ariunbold showed great chemistry with Onolbaatar in what emerged as a devastating duo. He was unstoppable from inside the arc, shooting at 80%, and an excitement machine throughout to finish No.1 in highlights (17).
If he can become a consistent shooter from deep, he nailed just 15% in Manila, then Ariunbold will be a 3x3 superstar.
The Final: Cebu Chooks 17- Sansar MMC Energy 15
With a Filipino team in the final, the crowd's volume was cranked up to maximum level as they willed on Cebu Chooks. But Sansar MMC Energy stood in the way with Ariunbold showcasing his class with a blow by drive and layup to give the visitors the early lead.
Cebu needed buckets and Mike Harry was a brave man trying to play bully ball against these Mongolian brutes. But Harry was stronger as he scored twice inside in a see-saw of a contest.
Tallo and Ariunbold were having a layup contest as the scores were tied at 11 apiece at the midway point. As they had all tournament, Cebu put the clamps on and shut down Ariunbold but Onolbaatar kept the Mongolians in the contest as this classic deserved a heart stopping ending.
A brilliant steal and dime from Zachary Huang swung the momentum as the home fans willed on their heroes. Needing a two to force OT, the Mongolians had three chances to level up but missed them all to trigger emotional scenes as the Philippines' eight-year curse on the road to the World Tour finally ended.
It really was a thriller in Manila!
The reward: Two tickets to Manila Masters
Cebu Chooks and Sansar MMC Energy qualified for the Manila Masters on May 28-29, 2022. They join Ub Huishan NE (SRB), Antwerp (BEL), Liman Huishan NE (SRB) and Warsaw Lotto (POL) in the 10-team field with four spots still up for grabs in the second Masters event of the season.
1. Cebu Chooks (PHI)
2. Sansar MMC Energy (MGL)
3. Zaisan MMC Energy (MGL)
4. Manila Chooks (PHI)
5. Melbourne Hoop City (AUS)
1. Gan-Erdene Gantsolomon (Zaisan, MGL) 34 pts
2. Mark Tallo (Cebu, PHI) 34 pts
3. Anand Ariunbold (Sansar, MGL) 33 pts
4. Enkhbaatar Onolbaatar (Sansar, MGL) 31 pts
5. Mike Harry (Cebu, PHI) 27 pts
- The top 4 seeds made it through to the semis though newcomers No.5 seed Melbourne City Hoop were unlucky to miss out after having two wins in the pool stage.
- Cebu turned it up on D conceding just 12.6 points per game and no one could score more than 15 points against them.
- Henry Iloka was an absolute beast for Manila Chooks, especially on the glass with a tournament leading 38 rebounds and finishing No.1 in player value (33.6).