CEBUANO forward Leonard “Santi” Santillan showed nerves of steel, as he hit a free-throw to give Family’s Brand Sardines-Zamboanga City a thrilling 21-20 win over Butuan City in the finals of the fourth leg of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President’s Cup powered by TM on Tuesday, October 27, at the Inspire Academy in Laguna.
Ousted in the quarterfinals last time out, Zamboanga City played with
renewed vigor and hustle, which was typified by the play that eventually decided the championship game.
With the game tied at 20-all, Santillan rose up and grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled as he was attempting a putback. Needing to make a free-throw to clinch the title, Santillan stepped up and calmly swished one to give Zamboanga City the victory and the P100,000 cash prize. The title was their third in four legs.
Zamboanga City appeared ready to celebrate as they led, 20-16, after a deuce by Joshua Munzon. However, Butuan’s Chris De Chavez refused to lose and his back-to-back bombs tied the tally at 20-all, setting the stage for Santillan’s heroics.
“Nung unang game pa lang, bad start na kami so yung next games, kinailangan naming mag-adjust,” said Santillan. “Mula nun, binigay namin yung 100 percent.”
Santillan finished with six points, while Munzon fired nine markers.
More than that, though, Family’s Brand Sardines felt fulfilled with its bounce back following a shock loss in the quarterfinals of the last leg.
“When we lost that game, I felt like the world was crashing down,” said Troy Rike, who chimed in one point in the win that assured them of the top-seed for the Grand Finals. “But I just reminded myself that if we take care of business, we’re right we need to be even after a bump on the road.”
Heading into the penultimate leg, Zamboanga City Butuan City, Nueva Ecija, and Pasig were way ahead in terms of points.
That didn't change at the end of Leg 4 and those four teams will no longer have to go through the qualifying round of the Grand Finals in the Fiba 3x3-endorsed tournament scheduled for Friday, October 30.
In the ultimate winner-take-all tournament with P1M on the line, the bottom eight teams in the rankings will first figure in knockout bouts with only four advancing into the next round.
Already waiting for them there will be top-seeds Uling Roasters, Family's Brand Sardines, Rice Vanguards, and Sta. Lucia Realtors.
The quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals will still be elimination matches with the best of the best taking home the title of best 3x3 team in the Philippines -- and winner in the "Million Peso Game," of course.