By JONAS TERRADO
Zamboanga City-Family’s Brand Sardines regained its winning form Tuesday night after nipping Butuan City-Uling Roasters, 21-20, to bag the fourth leg of the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
Santi Santillan hit the title-clinching free throw with 2:34 remaining in the final as Zamboanga City won after its myth of invincibility was shattered when it suffered a quarterfinal exit two nights ago in the season’s third leg.
The team of Santillan, Joshua Munzon, Alvin Pasaol and Troy Rike, the winners of the first two legs, weathered the tough challenge of Butuan City, which tied the game after trailing 20-16 on consecutive two-pointers by Chris de Chavez.
By completing its bounce back campaign, Zamboanga City got the top purse of P100,000 while getting P10,000 for producing the fastest game of the leg which came during a 21-7 rout of Pagadian City in Pool D.
That increased Zamboanga City’s earnings to P360,000 going into Friday’s Grand Finals where the winner gets P1-million.
Zamboanga City almost started the fourth leg on a rocky note, surviving Palayan City 19-17 in overtime.
But Zamboanga City got its old form back with the rout of Pagadian to complete a sweep of Pool D before defeating regional rival Zamboanga Peninsula 21-16 in the quarterfinals and dominating Cinderella team Sarangani 21-13 in the semifinals.
Butuan City gave itself a chance to win a second straight leg despite the absence of top player Franky Johnson. who was rested for the Grand Finals.
Even without Johnson and losing to Sarangani in Pool A, the squad composed of JR Alabanza, Karl Dehesa, Chico Lanete and De Chavez was able to stay composed.
Butuan City secured wins over Bacolod-Master Sardines 21-16 in the quarters followed by a hard-fought 21-20 win over Palayan City on a layup by Lanete.
Alabanza, Dehesa, Lanete and De Chavez got P100,000 as an incentive for facing Zamboanga City, which is fielding the national pool preparing for the FIBA 3×3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament.