Kranj of Slovenia proved too experienced for Manila West, 21-12, holding the Filipinos without a basket in the last five minutes in advancing to the semifinals of the FIBA (International basketball Federation) 3×3 World Tour Finals at the Xebio Sports Arena in Sendai, Japan.
Later in the day, however, Kranj ran into red-hot Novi Sad, the No. 1 seed, and lost convincingly, 22-13, while Saskatoon of Canada set up a championship clash with the Serbians by upending Bucharest, 19-16.
In the anti-climactic final, Novi Sad demonstrated why it is the top-ranked team in the world by outclassing Saskatoon, 21-11, to earn $20,000 and a ticket to the FIBA 3×3 All-Stars in Doha, Qatar in December. The Canadians, perhaps the most physically prepared team in the tournament, was taken out of the championship early as the Serbians came up with their best performance in the two-day event.
Unlike Bucharest, Kranj didn’t go to the Manila West game with an air of complacency.
Seeded third in the tournament, the Slovenians, who swept Pool C to draw Manila West, the No. 2 team from Pool B, as quarterfinal opponent, displayed a decisive familiarity of the demands of the fledgling FIBA event as they took control when the Filipinos began fading defensively in the last half of the match.
The quartet of KG Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, Rey Guevarra and Terrence Romeo failed to score in the final 5:13 that negated their effort to claw back at 14-12 after trailing, 11-6.
Guevarra, the Meralco Bolts forward, came off the bench to score six straight points with two long 2-pointers to put pressure on Kranj.
But Manila West, which beat Sao Paolo on its first game, fizzled out after that.
A step slow on defense against an aggressive team clearly attuned to the nuances of the international 3×3 game, No. 10 Manila West, which lost to No. 2 Bucharest Saturday, 15-13, also found trouble managing the 10-second shot clock and getting off shots against the taller and heavier Slovenians.