Cebu City—The presence of nine Tokyo Olympic veterans, including the entire Latvian squad that won the gold medal in 2020 Tokyo games, attracted a big, young Visayan crowd in the 2022 FIBA 3×3 Cebu Masters on Sunday night at the SM Seaside Mall in Cebu City.
Teens with smart phone cameras followed the likes of Latvian cagers Nauris Miezis and Karlis Lasmanis, whenever they did warmups around the hallway of the crowded shopping center, asking for photos and selfies.
The big audience picked up as the final game saw Riga of Latvia win the title at the expense of Antwerp of Belgium, which lost the bronze medal to Serbia in the Tokyo Olympiad 13 months ago.
This has inspired organizers, led by Bounty Agro Ventures, Inc. president Ronald Mascarinas to hold more Masters’ events in the Visayas and Mindanao regions in the coming months, and with many Olympians expected to make appearances.
“We would like to do this every year, given the experience na idinaos natin ito sa Manila at sa Cebu. Iba talaga ang crowd dito,” said Mascarinas, who is seeking the green light from FIBA so that they can do similar tournaments in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Miezis, who was named MVP, said his spirits were lifted when teammate Lasmanis agreed to join them and play as a team in Cebu.
“It was fun doing this with Lasmanis. I’m happy that he is back. I love this game. This is a big win tonight,” said Miezis after he lifted Riga of Latvia to a 21-19 victory.
It was their second tour title of the season, after also taking the Montreal Masters.
The Latvians picked up the top purse of $40,000, after doing battle with other Tokyo Olympians like Antwerp’s Thibaut Vervoort, Nick Celis and Rafael Bogaerts.
Antwerp, which also had its share of young fans seeking the team members’ autographs, eventually took home the $30,000 runner-up purse.
Miezis stepped up in the last minute of the finals against Antwerp, with key buckets and the title-winning free throw. He had a game-high 10 points and is currently ranked no. 8 in the world.