CEBU CITY, Philippines – As hours slowly ticked away, Cebu Chooks and its sister team Manila Chooks are zeroing on their goal to make the Philippines proud.
Taking an acid test on the opening day (October 1) is the Manila Chooks who are in dire need to make it to the main draw as they take on the 12th seed Ludhiana INDBL team of India at 1PM in the first of the three scheduled games in the Qualifying Draw.
Only one among the three lowest seed teams – Manila Chooks, Ludhiana INDBL and Doha QSC, will make the Main Draw of the Chooks-to-Go FIBA 3×3 World Tour Cebu Masters that will start after the opening ceremony at 2:35 PM.
Manila Chooks will play Doha QSC at 2:10 the game that will determine who will advance to the Main Draw.
Meanwhile, home team Cebu Chooks will need all bring their best game as they face the top seed and world ranked Antwerp of Belgium in Pool A action, right after the Opening Ceremony.
Mac Tallo, Zach Huang, Mike Harry Nzeusseu and Brandon Ramirez will have their hands full against World ranked no. 9 player, the 6-foot-5 Nick Celis, another 6-foot-5 Bryan De Valck, 6-foot-3 Dennis Donkor and Thibaut Vervoort who also stands at 6-foot-5.
The next assignment for the Cebuano squad is the 8th seed Omaha 3Ball at 7PM. Team Omaha is made up of the 5-foot-10 Trey Bardsley, 6-foot-10 Mitch Hahn, 6-foot-1 Malik Hluchoweckyj and the 6-foot-3 Dylan Travis.
Cebu Chooks want to avenge a frustrating loss to the hands of the Belgian squad at the 2022 Fiba 3×3 Dubai Expo Super Quest last March.
Meanwhile, Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. (BAVI) president Ronald Mascariñas granted the wishes of the Sisters of Mary School Girls town and surprised the school with a donation of P1,400,000.00. On top of that, the godfather of Philippine 3×3 also pledged sports equipment to the school and one Chooks-to-Go meal every month for all the 2,220 students of the school, his visit last Thursday afternoon.
Mascariñas and the country’s top players, retraced the same steps they took that led to the birth of their mission to develop the sport of 3×3 basketball in the Philippines.
Mascariñas was warmly welcomed by the students of the Sisters of Mary School Girlstown, the same place where Chooks-to-Go organized an age group 3×3 basketball tournament in 2019 which broke the world record for the most number of players with 3,043 participants.
“Three years ago, nangako kami na babalik kami dito pero nangyari yung pandemic,” said the president of Chooks-to-Go. “Humihingi kami ng paumanhin at babawi kami sa inyo. Sa nakikita ko rito sa Sisters of Mary Girlstown, maganda ang kinabukasan ng ating bansa dahil sa inyo. Sana makatulong itong aming regalo sa inyo para sa operasyon ng Girlstown,” added Mascariñas.
As a show of gratitude to Mascariñas and Chooks-to-Go, the students of the school prepared a program where they displayed their various talents to entertain their benefactors and guests.
Accompanying Mascariñas in visiting the school were the teams of Cebu Chooks made up of Mac Tallo, Zach Huang, Brandon Ramirez, Mike Harry Nzeusseu, and Vince Tolentino and Manila Chooks composed of playing coach Chico Lanete, Dennis Santos, Henry Iloka, Dave Ando, and Ken Holmqvist. Nzeusseu gamely sang along with one of the students to the tune of “Pusong Bato” which delighted the entire audience.
“I have never experienced anything like this back in Canada,” said PH no. 3 player Brandon Ramirez. “It’s definitely life-changing. Both Cebu and Manila Chooks will be fighting for everyone here when we compete not just in the Cebu Masters but in all our tournaments.”
School Principal Sister Laresa Morasa, SM, said in thanking Mascariñas, “Matagal namin kayong hinintay. Ang mga bata, madalas nagtatanong kung kelan babalik dito ang Chooks-to-Go. Nagpapasalamat kami sa Chooks-to-Go. Worth it ang paghihintay namin.” RCM with PR from Chooks-to-Go.