Wilkins-Balanga Pure crowned new 3x3 champs
MANILA, Philippines – For the fourth time in as many legs in the 2019 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 Patriot's Cup, there was a different champion.
Wilkins-Balanga Pure topped arch-rivals Gold's Gym Pasig Kings in the final, 21-17, at the SM Megamall Events Center on Saturday, July 13.
And the X-factor for Balanga was the return of Santi Santillan, who missed the first 3 legs.
"Laking bagay ni Santi kasi lalo kaming lumaki. Grabe din 'yung mga shots niya," said Alvin Pasaol of Santillan, who was a huge part in the then-1Bataan Risers' 2nd place finish in the President's Cup two months ago.
(Santi is an important player because he is big. He also hit some big shots.)
With Balanga behind 8-9 midway through the finale, Santillan knocked down a quick deuce to spark a 7-2 run that gave their side a four-point lead.
"Sabi ko sa sarili ko na kapag bumalik ako ng 3x3, dapat champion ako. Na-miss ko 'yung larong ito," said Santillan.
(I told myself that when I go back to playing 3x3, I should win a championship. I missed this game.)
Pasig's one-two punch of Taylor Statham and Joshua Munzon rallied their squad back, cutting the lead to just 2 points with 2:29 remaining, 16-18.
Prince Orizu, though, was able to stop Balanga's bleeding while Pasaol sent Balanga to championship point with 1:55 minutes left.
Pasaol then made sure to end the game, scoring on a tough runner over Nikola Pavlovic and Taylor Statham with 1:26 minutes to spare to bag the P100,000 pot.
Pasaol and Santillan had 8 and 7 markers respectively, while Karl Dehesa added 5 points.
Munzon paced Pasig with 10 points, all on deuces.
Pasig and Balanga will enter the Grand Finals on July 27 still at the same venue as the 2nd and 3rd seeds respectively as both are tied with 310 points in the tournament endorsed by FIBA 3x3 and sanctioned by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
Balanga dropped VetHealth-Delhi 3BL down to solo 4th (290 points) after taking a thrilling 21-20 semifinal win.
In the other bracket, Pasig eliminated third leg champs Phenom-Basilan Steel, 17-7. Still, Basilan will enter the last leg as the top seed with 330 points.
The top 4 teams will automatically gain a quarterfinal berth for the fifth leg that has P1 million and a ticket to the 2019 Jeddah Masters as top prize.
The bottom 8 teams, on the other hand, will compete in a knockout stage to advance to the quarterfinals.
In the side events, Delhi's Kiran Shastri won the Coca-Cola Two-Point Shootout for the fourth straight time, while Jebb Bulawan ended David Carlos' four-peat bid in the Coca-Cola Slam Dunk Competition.
Wilkins-Balanga 21 - Pasaol 8, Santillan 7, Dehesa 5, Orizu 1.
Gold's Gym-Pasig 17 - Munzon 10, Statham 6, Ababou 1, Pavlovic 0.