Pasig, Balanga barge into Doha Masters quarterfinals

Two Filipino ballclubs have punched their tickets to the quarterfinal round of the FIBA 3×3 World Tour 2019 Doha Masters.

Chooks-to-Go-backed Pasig and Balanga swept their preliminary round games to qualify for the knockout stages of the 12-team tournament held at the Katara Amphitheater.

Pasig, backstopped by Joshua Munzon and Taylor Statham, plowed through Katara and Liman to top Pool A. Balanga, with Travis Franklin and Alvin Pasaol starring at the forefront, produced exciting finishes over Riga Ghetto and Moscow Inanomo to rule Pool C.

Pool C Game 1: Balanga Chooks 19, Riga Ghetto 17

Behind the impressive showing of import Travis Franklin, Balanga Chooks scored the first victory for the Philippines in the Doha Masters courtesy of a 19-17 squeaker over third-seed Riga Ghetto.

The former Colorado State Ram and NBA G-League campaigner tallied Balanga’s first 10 points, with six coming from beyond the arc. Alvin Pasaol joined the scoring fray at the 5:50 mark, as his two-pointer pushed Balanga to its biggest lead, 12-5.

The Latvian club stormed back to the ballgame though with a 9-2 run, orchestrated by Kārlis Lasmanis and Agnis Čavars. A reverse layup from Čavars, the 11th-best 3×3 player in the world, tied the game at 14 with 2:30 remaining.

Artūrs Strēlnieks wrested the lead, 15-14, for Riga with a split from the free-throw line. Two missed charities by Nauris Miezis at the final 1:54 left the door open for Balanga. After Franklin and Lasmanis traded baskets, Pasaol sank another deuce that gave the Filipino squad a 17-16 advantage.

Lasmanis would force another deadlock at 17 with a layup, which turned out to be Riga’s final field goal in the contest. Franklin knocked down the go-ahead basket with 19 seconds to go, before Karl Dehesa extended the lead to two for Balanga with a free throw. Miezis and Čavars then flubbed their two-point attempts that could have sent the game to overtime.

Franklin paced Balanga with game-high 14 points, along with four rebounds. Lasmanis led Riga with eight markers and eight boards. Lasmanis though committed eight of Riga’s 11 turnovers.

Pool A Game 2: Pasig Chooks 21, Katara 14

The duo of Taylor Statham and Joshua Munzon proved too much to handle for hometown bets Katara, powering Pasig Chooks to a 21-14 triumph in the preliminaries.

Ranked eighth in the tournament, Pasig jumped on the Qatari club early with Statham and Munzon scoring nine of their team’s first 13 points. Back-to-back two-pointers from Munzon, the Philippines’ top 3×3 player, pushed Pasig to a commanding 13-5 lead over ninth-ranked Katara.

At the 3:43 mark and Pasig ahead by 17-12, Munzon electrified the crowd with a one-handed baseline slam over Fadi Abilmona. Statham would then score his squad’s final three points, with his floater over two defenders cementing the seven-point win for Pasig.

Statham registered nine points and six rebounds, while Munzon added seven markers. Aaron Mitchell carried the fight for Katara with nine points and four boards.

Following their loss to Pasig and a 22-11 thrashing from Liman, Katara limped out of contention for the Doha Masters crown.

Pool C Game 2: Balanga Chooks 20, Moscow Inanomo 19 (overtime)

Undermanned Balanga Chooks booked a seat in the Doha Masters quarterfinals with a 20-19 overtime thriller against sixth-ranked Moscow Inanomo in Pool C preliminaries. Alvin Pasaol sank the game-winning two-pointer in the extra period, leading Balanga to a two-game sweep of pool play.

With Leonard Santillan suffering an ankle injury following an early collision with Riga’s Artūrs Strēlnieks, the 11th-seeded Balanga side faced the highly-physical Russian club with just three men. Similar to their first game, Travis Franklin opened the scoring for Balanga, before Pasaol took charge at the end of regulation and in overtime.

Moscow grabbed an 11-7 lead at the 4:14 mark on a Semen Debda two-pointer. But Balanga slowly climbed their way back into the match, with Pasaol tying the game at 16 with two free throws in the final 1:38.

The University of the East stalwart then scored on an off-balance shot to push Balanga ahead 18-17. Denis Bergman would silence the pro-Filipino crowd with a bucket which tied the game at 18.

With 11 seconds left, Karl Dehesa missed two free throws that could have iced the victory for Balanga. Retaining possession in the final eight seconds, Balanga had a last stab at the basket, only for Franklin to flub his jump shot as time expired.

That set up Pasaol’s heroics in overtime.

As both squads traded missed two-pointers, Yura Bespalov scooped in a reverse layup over Pasasol which gave Moscow a 19-18 headway. Pasaol would then drift to the right corner, receive a quick pitch from Franklin and launch the long jumper over the outstretched arms of Denis Bergman.

Franklin scored 10 points while Pasaol added nine for the quarterfinals-bound Balanga side. Debda paced Moscow with nine markers.

Pool A Game 3: Pasig Chooks 19, Liman 16

Relying on Taylor Statham’s bull-strong play near the basket, Pasig Chooks claimed the scalps of tournament top-seed Liman, 19-16, to sweep their preliminary round assignments.

The competitive matchup saw neither team take a lead greater than two points up until the game’s final minute. After Nikola Pavlovic’s go-ahead two-pointer at the 1:04 mark, Joshua Munzon extended Pasig’s lead to three, 17-14, with a layup off a nifty crossover against Aleksandar Ratkov.

With 26 seconds left in the match, Stefan Kojic would sink two free throws which drew Liman closer, 17-16. Statham, who finished with game-high nine points, finished off their Serbian counterparts with back-to-back field goals, effectively sending Pasig to the knockout quarterfinal round.

Munzon and Pavlovic combined for eight points and 10 rebounds for Pasig. Mihailo Vasic led Liman in scoring with six markers.

Photo credits: Chooks-to-Go 3×3

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