BOCAUE — Janine Pontejos never lost hope.
Even though the Filipinas bowed out of the 2018 Fiba 3x3 World Cup women’s tournament winless through the four games in the group stages, the 25-year-old sniper always believed.
“Kahit natalo kami, hindi po ako nawalan ng pag-asa na itayo yung (bandera ng) Pilipinas kasi may natitira pang Shootout,” she said, as the hopes of the nation wrested on her shoulders.
Despite the encouragement of her teammates, Pontejos still came to the Philippine Arena on Tuesday tense. Not helping was the cold air inside the arena, which hampered her from heating up minutes before her run.
“Sobra po akong kinakabahan. Umpisa pa lang, nanlalamig na ang kamay ko. Sobrang hirap po kasi ang lakas ng aircon, eh ang nipis ko po,” she said. “Nung maglalaro na ako, sobrang lamig ko pa rin. Kahit nung kinamayan na nila ako, malamig pa rin kamay ko. Kailangan talaga pawisan ako.”
Practice makes perfect, and that’s exactly where Pontejos put her mind into, focusing on the rack as if she was just going on her usual shootaround.
“Inimagine ko na lang, nagdi-drills kami,” she shared.
And then, the fire came out.
Pontejos blazed through the racks and even buried eight straight long balls, capping off her amazing run with another pair of money balls to wound up with 14 points.
Nerves, though, didn’t leave the Centro Escolar University standout, especially after Alexandra Stolyar of Russia equaled her mark and left the tiebreak to be decided on who got to 14 points the fastest.
“Sobra pa rin akong kinakabahan. Nag-pray na lang ako kay God na kung ano yung kalabasan, proud pa rin ako, kahit second or third man ang makuha ko, basta nakapasok ako dito sa finals,” she said.
The basketball gods did smile on her, with Pontejos clocking in at 41.86 seconds against Stolyar’s time of 49.92.
Pontejos gave the Philippines its first-ever medal in the senior level of the 3x3 World Cup as she made her mark as the best sharpshooter among the best.
But even in victory, Pontejos’ feet remains on the ground.
“Hindi ko po iniisip na ako yung best. Nakikipag-compete lang ako sa kanila. Pare-pareho lang po kaming players so kailangan mag-compete ka rin talaga,” she said, baring that the lone goal on her mind was to make the country proud.
“Yung bansa natin yung nire-represent natin so kailangan hindi ka matakot sa kanila,” said Pontejos, who also bested male ballers in Croatia’s Marin Hrvoje and Maksim Dybovskii of Russia in the competition.
“Sa akin po, yung gold medal na ito, pinagmamalaki ko po siya kasi ito po yung first gold medal natin sa World Cup. Sobrang proud po ako na ako po yung nakakuha nito,” she said. “Ipinagmamalaki ko po na Pilipino ako at para sa Pilipinas ito.”