MANILA (Philippines) - It was loud, full of crazy plays and filled with thrillers at the Manila Masters on May 28-29 as the FIBA 3x3 World Tour went up a level in its return to the Philippines after seven years.
As we let our ear drums recover, let's look back at an incredible two days of action.
Ub are setting the standard
Two Masters, two victories. Ub are more than living up to their top ranking and have set a new benchmark in 3x3.
Their victory in Manila was made more impressive with Strahinja Stojacic limited by an injured leg but it didn't matter as they went back to back to start 2022.
MVP Dejan Majstorovic was unconscious in the indoor conditions, while lefty Marko Brankovic stepped up to the task. And newcomer Nemanja Barac isn't just a defensive specialist, he can do it all and is becoming Ub's glue guy.
The Serbs aren't getting too excited, however. After an opening loss to Princeton in Utsunomiya, they've won nine straight and have Novi Sad's record 34 straight wins across 2018-19 in their sights.
It seems an impossible task but you wouldn't bet against the best team in 3x3.
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Melbourne are stronger than Thor
Welcome back, Australia! After a couple of years away during the Covid-19 pandemic, Australia returned to the World Tour with a bang as Melbourne made a surprising semi-final run.
They had to do it the hard way through qualifying but these big boys didn't tire and played with heart to defy the odds with a semi-final finish which included upsets over Mongolian teams Sansar MMC Energy and Ulaanbaatar MMC Energy in the quarter-finals.
And this shouldn't be a flash in the pan with the team having all the ingredients for 3x3 success. Greg Hire, a former Australia 3x3 national player, has the experience and is joined by sharpshooter Andrew Steel and newcomer Jesse Wagstaff, who looked like he had been 3x3 a pro for years.
A hoops power has now tasted success on the World Tour and a sleeping giant might have emerged.
Mark Tallo is the real deal
Mark Tallo is the No.1 ranked player in the Philippines but might be the No.1 entertainer in 3x3 after being a one-man highlight machine in Manila.
He broke Strahinja Stojacic's ankles with a crossover so sick even AI would nod in approval, produced a crazy dime like he had eyes in the back of his head and also had a Maurice Lacroix buzzer beater for the ages to get Cebu Chooks into Day 2.
Tallo is all in on 3x3 as he eyes global stardom having established himself as the Philippines' main man.
Thought he was crazy in Manila? You've seen nothing yet with Tallo set to go into overdrive in his home Masters in Cebu later in the year.
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Antwerp need to go back to the drawing board
For their first time, Antwerp failed to reach Day 2 of a Masters. In seven previous Masters over the past 12 months, the Belgians had each time made the knock out stages - including five semis - but fell flat in Manila in their first dud of what has been a magical rise.
There were big expectations on the No.2 seed who still reached the final four at the Utsunomiya Opener without a sub but fully loaded in Manila they fired blanks.
The plug was pulled out on Thibaut Vervoort aka 'Must See TV' after the sharpshooter hit just 3 for 16. from 2.
Newcomer Casper Augustijnen struggled in his World Tour debut as Antwerp's chemistry felt off but this might just be a reality check they need to get back to the drawing board and rediscover their best as the FIBA 3x3 World Cup 2022 approaches in Antwerp.
Stephens does it again!
Three years since his breakout at the Chengdu Masters dunk contest, Brodie Stephens won the dunking crown again after spoiling the Filipino party and defeating local favorite David Carlos.
The Aussie with his cap backwards jumped higher than a kangaroo to take down Carlos, who tried pieces of tasty chicken from Chooks-To-Go before his last dunk but it wasn't quite enough to get the W.
The Philippines is an amazing 3x3 destination
Mix the wildest fans with 3x3 and you get non-stop entertainment with a vibe reminiscent of the middle of a club.
That's exactly what we got during two crazy days in Manila as the World Tour returned to hoops mad Philippines for the first time in seven years.
The roof nearly got blown off the ritzy Ayala Mall on an incredible Day 1 when in a fairy tale the two Filipino teams reached the knockout stages so spectacularly.
Cebu Chooks qualified after ice cold Mark Tallo made Manila freeze over to knock out Zavkhan MMC Energy in a do or die game, while Manila Chooks went even one better when they produced a comeback for the ages to eliminate in-form Zaisan MMC Energy in a must-win game to get the fans hyped liked they had watched Pac Man claim the belt.
The Philippines lived up to their reputation of boasting the most passionate and loudest 3x3 fans on the planet.
And the good news is that the World Tour returns to the Philippines in 2022 with the Cebu Masters in October.
We can't wait.