CEBU -- Manila Chooks! mainstay Mac Tallo credited his team's series of scrimmage games against Miami-USA for toughening the squad ahead of the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2023 Cebu Masters.
The top-ranked Filipino 3x3 star and import teammates MJ Hammonds, Marquez Letcher-Ellis, and Tosh Sesay engaged in four total tune-up matches against the Jimmer Fredette-led Miami side which also had Canyon Barry, Kareem Maddox, and Dylan Travis.
"Doon namin nasukat ‘yung chemistry namin. Doon namin nasukat kung hanggang saan kami sa level ng ibang kalaban. It’s been two months, three months na wala kaming nakalaban from ibang bansa," Tallo said.
All four Miami members represented the United States in the sport's World Cup last June and won the silver, losing only to Serbia in the championship.
On Saturday, the Filipino contingent stunned Futian of China in the pool stage of the Cebu Masters, 21-17 behind nine points from Tallo as the program finally ended an almost 16-month quarterfinal drought.
"Ginawa namin lahat. Nilalagay namin sa mentality namin na wala nang umaga," Tallo said. "It’s been a year na hindi kami nakapasok ng Day 2. Ito na ‘yun. Finally, nakapasok kami."
Manila previously blew an 8-2 lead against Vienna-Austria earlier in the day, eventually yielding a 20-14 result that pushed them on the brink of another early exit.
"Napakahalaga ng scrimmage na ‘yun dahil nakilala namin ang isa’t isa. Lumakas ‘yung laro namin, ‘yung trust, doon namin nakuha," Tallo added.
Head trainer Chico Lanete bared that it was Miami that reached out first about having a few preparation games before the weekend.
Both squads evidently benefitted, as Miami went on to win its first ever Masters tourney.
"It feels great. That's what we have been working for. To be able to go out there and get a Masters win is something the United States hasn't done in four, five years," Fredette said on Sunday after Miami edged Vienna-Austria in a thrilling finale, 22-19.
Fredette sank the game-winning long-range shot that handed the USA its first major title since NY Harlem and Princeton in 2019.
"We know that Cebu, at the beginning of the year, was going to be a good tournament for us. We just felt like because it was indoors, and the fans gave us a boost," the former Shanghai Sharks sharpshooter added.
Miami beat Manila in their last scrimmage together on Friday, 19-15, where Lanete already saw encouraging points.
"Yung laro nila, na-a-absorb rin namin. Motivation rin namin 'yun na may mga nakalaban kaming mga (World Cup players). Mismong mga player rin ang nagsabi na napaka-blessed namin kasi may mga teams na gusto makipag-tune-up sa amin," Lanete said.
"Nakikita ko rin sa kanila na nirerespeto rin tayo. 'Di rin tayo basta-basta mag-represent dito sa atin. Natutuwa ako na kahit papa'no, natalo, pero 'yung scores, dumikit. May improvement tayo (from) last year."
Fortunately, Manila was able to translate the good build-up to a victory, putting an end to winless campaigns dating back to October last year in Cebu, Riyadh, Hong Kong, and Manila.
As another 3x3 event wrapped up, Lanete looks forward to his team working on its consistency further for a higher finish in the Masters stage.
"For us, more chemistry pa. Adjustments on defense, and we're good," he said.