Photo by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas
MANILA, Philippines – Calabarzon or Region 4A – representing the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, and Rizal – displayed that they are a rising force in the Philippine basketball landscape when their Under-16 squad bagged their third consecutive Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Under-16 Pambansang Tatluhan at the Harrison Plaza in Manila.
Calabarzon’s Ley Acosta hit the game-ending triple with 1:52 to play, 21-16, dispatching tough Davao Region for an incredible three-peat in the annual age-group 3x3 competition.
The balanced inside and out game with Twin Towers Jan Rae Atienza and Jan Derick Villarez and the sweet shooting of Ley Acosta was more than enough to hold off a Davao squad that was led by John Rey Pasaol, the younger brother of University of the East star, Alvin Pasaol, and the undersized Wilfred Remollo.
The championship match was close with neither side giving any quarter until Villarez scored four straight points – all off lay-ups and put backs – to break a 12-all tie and put Calabarzon in a position for the win.
But Pasaol, just like his brother routinely does with UE in the UAAP, brought his team back as he scored three of four Davao points to tie the match one last time at 16-all. A shot clock violation and a miscue where Davao failed to clear the ball was costly as Acosta drilled a triple and Villarez scored inside.
Acosta then found himself wide open for the game-winning triple.
“I think our winning three straight SBP Under-16 3x3 titles says we are doing something right in the region,” said one of Calabarzon’s program head Oliver Bunyi who played with La Salle in the UAAP and served as a part of the first Smart Gilas national team program.
“The cooperation between our provincial partners has been incredible. This is for them.”
On his part, Region 4A’s Jan Derick Villarez also credited the win to two of his three other teammates who are all with him playing for Lyceum of the Philippines University Laguna.
"Malaking tulong na kami nila Acosta and Darrell Capaceta mag-teammate na. Alam namin ang bawat galaw namin," said Villarez.
(It's a big help that we're teammates with Acosta and Darrell Capaceta. We know how each other moves.)
The other player of the winning Calabarzon team not with LPU’s Laguna program is Atienza who plays for Stonyhurst Southville International School.
In the Girls’ bracket, the girls of Northern Mindanao Region 10 representing Bukidnon / CDO stopped cold the hot-shooting Charity Grace Gicana who carried her Western Visayas Region 6 (Bacolod) team in the two-day competition.
Early in the game, it seemed that Pangasinan would lose Cheska Apag who was cramping up. Apag was a tower inside for her team while teammate Aloha Marie Betanio sizzled from the outside and made teams pay for her interior incursions.
Incredibly, Apag returned, scored inside after which Betanio strung up 4 straight points to give her side a huge 10-6 lead. With Gicana unable to find the bottom of the net, Bacolod floundered badly as Bukidnon ran away with the title, 16-6.
"Mahirap bantayan si Gicana, pero pinagtulungan na lang namin," explained Betano of their game plan against Bacolod. "At buti nakabalik si Cheska. Hindi sila makapag-match-up sa kanya sa loob."
(It was so hard to guard Gicana, but we helped each other. And it's a good thing Cheska came back. No one could match up to her inside.)
Summarizing the podium finishes in the boys division, Calabarzon bagged first place, Davao Region finished second while NCR North finished third.
Over the girls’ division, Northern Mindanao reigned supreme while Western Visayas and Ilocos Region finished second and third respectively.
“We are thrilled by the participation we received from all our SBP members in our Pambansang Tatluhan program,” declared federation Executive Director Renauld “Sonny” Barrios during the two-day event.
“The level of interest for both 3x3 grassroots and women’s basketball has greatly increased and we have seen this where the players are more skilled and the games, more competitive.”
“It was a tough and exciting tournament,” noted SBP 3x3 Under-16 tournament organizer Mark Solano, himself a former Far Eastern University cager.
“We spotted many new talents who can possibly represent the country and find schools in Manila to play for when they move up to college. That is what this annual competition is all about.”
“The SBP is looking to strengthen the national 3x3 program and as a result, SBP President Al Panlilio has appointed Mr. Ronaldo Magsanoc as the SBP 3x3 National Program Head. Mr. Magsanoc’s experience in local and international basketball is extensive and can only help the program improve to global standards," added Barrios – Rappler.com