SANTA ROSA, Philippines – Japan’s Saitama captured its first major title after sweeping the 2022 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 International Quest following a 20-13 conquest of Mongolia’s Zaisan MMC Energy in the final on Friday night, September 16, at the Ayala Malls Solenad here in Laguna.
The newly formed team took advantage of its size and speed against their more spent foes, pulling away late on the way to ruling the one-day meet undefeated across five games to bag home US $10,000.
“I said it back in 2019 and I’ll say it again, I really love the Philippines,” said Japan’s No. 6 player and Tokyo Olympian Tomoya Ochiai, who was part of the Tokyo Dime team that won the first Chooks-to-Go Asia Pacific Super Quest back in 2019.
“New team, it really feels good that we were able to reach the Masters. It’s going to be exciting,” the 35-year-old 3×3 specialist added.
Most importantly, the Alphas are now bound for next month’s Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3×3 World Tour Cebu Masters together with their Mongolian counterparts as the two finalists secured two of the last few spots of the max-level tournament.
Saitama got a main draw seat while Zaisan will figure in the qualifying draw.
Manila Chooks, the lone Philippine team to reach the semifinal round, narrowly bowed to Zaisan, 17-15, to end its bid for a title berth.
The quartet of Chico Lanete, Henry Iloka, Dennis Santos, and Dave Ando were the only local squad to make it to the penultimate stage as both Cebu Chooks and Butuan Chooks ended their campaigns following stinging losses in the group stage.
Saitama’s towering center Teodor Atanasov showed the way in the final with 8 points, while young gun Ryo Ozawa scored 6 in the victory.
Ochiai and Marko Milakovic chipped in 2 points apiece for Saitama, who led by as many as 8 points with only 1:17 left to play after engaging in a nip-and-tuck affair early.
Ulzii-Orshikh Myagmarsuren led Zaisan with 6 points, while Ganbaatar Nyamdorj had 5 in the loss that saw them settle for US $5,000.
It was actually a meeting of familiar foes as both clubs already fought one another in Pool B earlier, with the Japanese side triumphant, 20-11.
Zaisan, though, was the first to reach the championship round after ousting Manila Chooks in the semis. Saitama followed suit after outlasting Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy in overtime, 18-16.
By reaching the finale of the Level 8 FIBA 3×3 tourney, the two are joining Utsonomiya, Sansar, Antwerp, Riga, Amsterdam, Jeddah, Lausanne, Omaha, Ludhiana, and Doha in the Cebu Masters on October 1-2.
Saitama 20 – Atanasov 11, Milakovic 4, Ozawa 3, Ochiai 2.
Zaisan 13 – Myagmarsuren 6, Nyamdorj 5, Chuluunbaatar 1, Batsaikhan 1.
Zaisan 17 – Myagmarsuren 13, Nyamdorj 3, Chuluunbaatar 1, Batsaikhan 0.
Manila 15 – Iloka 10, Santos 2, Ando 2, Lanete 1.
Saitama 18 – Milakovic 8, Ozawa 6, Ochiai 2, Milakovic 2.
Ulaanbaatar 16 – Enkhbat 8, Davaasambuu 7, Gotov 1, Tsogt 0.