Metro Star Realty and Team Core booked their ticket to the HoopBattle Championship in China after finishing on top of the first ever Vivo HoopBattle Championship Philippines last Sunday (July 29) at the Market! Market! Activity Center, which aired live on ABS-CBN S+A and via livestream on sports.abs-cbn.com.
Led by 6’7 Jamal Thomas, who was also named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, Metro Star Realty dominated Team Core, 21-10, in the final match to win the P200,000 grand prize of the 3×3 basketball tournament brought to the country by Ayala Malls and ABS-CBN Sports with co-presenter Vivo Philippines and in cooperation with Virtual Playground.
Thomas and teammates Joseph Navarro, Reinier Quinga, and Argene Sabalza will represent the Philippines in the HoopBattle Championship in China later this year, where they will battle foreign teams for up to P3 million worth of prizes.
“It’s mission accomplished for me. I’ve always wanted to make my lola proud and make a name for myself and my family. I’m totally humbled and blessed,” said Thomas, who is currently a practice player for a local professional basketball team.
Team Core, composed of Maharlika Basketball Pilipinas League players Axel Torres, John Vidal, John Cauilan, and JR Alabanza, also qualified to play in China, and took home P100,000 as the tourney’s second best team.
“For me sobrang saya ng feeling, sobrang blessed, kasi hindi namin hiniling pero binigay ni God. Sobrang thankful kami. Mahirap pero sabi nga nila mag-enjoy lang,” shared Torres, whose team played undermanned with JR Alabanza getting injured prior the games.
Both teams emerged on top after a single round robin elimination with six other teams that topped the Vivo HoopBattle legs held in different Ayala malls this July. The Metro Star Realty beat Team Ballers in the semifinals, while Team Core defeated Team Arellano University 2 in their own knockout game. The other teams that made it to the last eight were Just Coco led by Prince Rivero, Team Enderun bannered by former Batang Gilas Mike Dela Cruz, and Team F4 led by UP Fighting Maroon AJ Madrigal, and Team BS Susim Shipping.
In an exhibition three point shootout, the tournament’s best long-range shooters Marco Sario (Team Ballers), AJ Madrigal (Team F4), and Mike Dela Cruz (Team Enderun) also bested Chinese players Jason Song, Camel Luo, and Young Sean, drawing cheers from Filipinos watching live in the venue. Song and Luo play for Chong Son Kung Fu in the ASEAN Basketball League, while Sean played in the 2014 FIBA 3×3 World Tour.
HBC president Temple Deng said he is very happy with the turnout of the first HBC event outside China during an interview with ABS-CBN Sports anchor Andrei Felix, who hosted the event with UAAP basketball analyst Bea Daez and NCAA courtside reporter Roxanne Montealegre.
“Just one word, amazing. I love it. They were very entertaining. Their performances were amazing,” he said.
The tournament, which aims to highlight the both upcoming and undiscovered basketball talents in the country, started with 48 teams composed of players from both amateur and professional ranks. It was played under the strict guidelines of FIBA and sanctioned by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
“This only shows how big 3×3 basketball already is here in the country. Players from all walks of life came to participate here. I know we even had a surprise team composed of security guards of an Ayala Mall. In terms of the level of play, these guys have obviously been playing a lot of 3×3,” ABS-CBN Sports head Dino Laurena shared.
AMSI Inc. general manager Gabby Katigbak also said they look forward to more partnerships like the Vivo HoopBattle that gives Filipino athletes a chance to showcase their talent.
Fans who watched the event yesterday also enjoyed special appearances by OPM star Inigo Pascual and athletes Ponggay and Therese Gaston, Bobby Ray Parks Jr, Chris Tiu, and Jimmy Alapag. ABS-CBN Sports anchors Martin Javier and Renren Ritualo also served as commentators for the livestream of the games.
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