Saitama pockets Chooks 3×3 Quest, delivers Cebu Masters slot
Santa Rosa—Saitama won its first major title after sweeping the 2022 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 International Quest following a 20-13 win from Zaisan MMC Energy in the final Friday night at Ayala Malls Solenad here.
The newly formed Japanese side took advantage of their size and speed against more exhausted opponents, retreating late on the way to dominate the five-game unbeaten one-day encounter to pocket $10,000.
“I said it in 2019 and I’ll say it again, I really love the Philippines,” Japan said no. 6 player and Tokyo Olympian Tomoya Ochiai, who was part of the Tokyo Dime team that won the first-ever Asia-Pacific Chooks-to-Go Super Quest in 2019.
“New team, it feels really good to have been able to reach the Masters. It will be exciting,” added the 35-year-old 3×3 specialist.
More importantly, the Alphas are now on their way to the FIBA 3×3 World Tour Cebu Masters Chooks-to-Go with their Mongolian counterparts, securing two of the last spots in the max level tournament. Saitama secured a main draw seat while Zaisan will feature in the qualifying draw.
Towering center Teodor Atanasov led the way with eight points, while young Ryo Ozawa provided six markers in the win.
Ochiai and Marko Milakovic scored two points apiece for Saitama, who led by as much as eight points with just 1:17 remaining after engaging in a pinch-and-tuck affair early.
Ulzii-Orshikh Myagmarsuren led Zaisan with six points, while Ganbaatar Nyamdorj had five in the loss which saw them settle for $5,000.
It was actually a meeting of familiar foes as the two clubs had faced each other in Pool B earlier, with the Japanese side triumphing, 20-11.
Zaisan, however, was the first to reach the championship round after handing over Manila Chooks! an 18-16 heartbreaker in the semis. Saitama followed suit after beating Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy in overtime, 18-16.
Reaching the FIBA 3×3 Tier 8 Tournament Finals, the two join Utsunomiya, Sansar, Antwerp, Riga, Amsterdam, Jeddah, Lausanne, Omaha, Ludhiana and Doha at the Cebu Masters on October 1-2.