TRUE to form, Family’s Brand Sardines- Zamboanga City Chooks is proving to be the team to beat in the ongoing season of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup, ruling three legs out of four to date and packing much momentum heading into the last leg and finale on Friday.
Composed of national team pool members, Zamboanga City has been a handful for the rest of the 12-team field of the league.
The team chalked up its third leg victory on Tuesday, edging Uling Roasters-Butuan City, 21-20, in a tightly fought finals at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
Zamboanga City also ruled the first two legs of the tournament before Butuan City squeezed in to take the championship in the third leg.
Santi Santillan stepped up for Zamboanga City in their last game providing hustle and scoring the marginal basket from the free throw line.
The team was comfortably ahead, 20-16, inside the last three and a half minutes only to see Butuan City charge back on consecutive two-point bombs by Chris De Chavez to tie the knot at 20-all.
Zamboanga City went to top local 3×3 player Joshua Munzon after to secure for it the win but his attempt at the basket missed.
Fortunately for the team, Mr. Santillan secured the rebound before getting fouled.
The former La Salle player confidently sank his free throw, preserving the win for his team.
Mr. Munzon top-scored for Zamboanga City in the win with 11 points, followed by Mr. Santillan with six.
Teammates Alvin Pasaol and Troy Rike added three and a point, respectively.
For topping Leg 4, the team earned another P100,000.
Zamboanga City is now girding for the grand finals in the FIBA 3×3-endorsed tournament scheduled for Friday where it will be the top seed.
In the grand finale, where a P1-million top prize awaits the winner, the four top-seeded teams earn a direct entry into the quarterfinals, leaving the eight bottom teams needing to go through qualifying where only four will advance to the next round.
Joining Zamboanga City as top seeds are Butuan City, Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards and Pasig City-Sta. Lucia Realtors.
Meanwhile, the Zamboanga Valientes MLV remained determined and committed to their tournament push despite have it challenging to date.
The team made it to the semifinals of the opening leg of the President’s Cup and followed it up with playoff runs in the succeeding legs but has yet to create the big splash it is aiming for.
It, however, is hoping the breakthrough will come in the grand finals.
The Valientes are composed of Zamboanga native Rudy Lingganay, Gino Juamaoas, Med Salim, Arar de Leon and Jonjon Rebollos and is coached by Joseph Romarate.
The team, which has played in different 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 leagues and gone through different iterations since being formed 14 years ago, is on a mission to spotlight basketball talents from the Zamboanga Peninsula and provide them with an opportunity to establish a career in the sport. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo