By Mark Manez
VIGAN, Ilocos Sur - They were supposedly spending their respective summers at home, but destiny had something in surprise for Team NCR.
Lhoriel Flores dropped five long range missiles, including the championship-clinching dagger that sent his team to the Palarong Pambansa 3x3 gold medal over a resilient Ilocos Region side, 21-19 at the Quirino Stadium Open Courts, Friday evening.
Amidst the full house open court crowd, they remained calm and poised in avenging their counterparts' stinging upset loss against the hosts earlier in the distaff side.
The boys of coach MJ Sabangan survived several scoring deficits before the title showdown with the Northern Warriors.
They split their preliminaries with contrasting results. They dealt CAR with an abbreviated 21-8 masterclass before getting tripped by ARMM, 14-16.
The Stalwarts also needed extra energy in surviving Central Luzon's size and sniping skills before taking a 21-20 decision.
Completing the medalists for the event is Bicol Region.
The victory also gave the Stalwarts their 91st gold medal in the overall medal race. They also collected 64 silver and 47 bronze medals.
Perennial rivals to the throne Calabarzon and Western Visayas are at second and third overall respectively with their 52-43-63 and 40-41-48 total hauls.
Cordillera Administrative Region sits at distant fourth with their 25-21-20 collection, their best performance in recent years. Rounding up the top five is Central Visayas with 23 gold, 20 silver and 27 bronze medals.
Not far behind them are SOCCSKSARGEN with 21 gold, the same number of silver and 28 bronze medals. Central Luzon is at seventh with 18-21-22; Northern Mindanao with 15-18-24; Cagayan Valley collecting 11 gold, 8 silver and 23 bronze medals.
Davao Region remained at eleventh overall with their 10 gold, 20 silver and 22 bronze output; Bicol with 8-15-27; hosts Ilocos Region with eight gold, 10 silver and 27 bronze medals; Caraga with eight gold, 10 silver and 17 bronze medals; Eastern Visayas at 14th with eight gold, 10 silver and 8 bronze medals; and Mimaropa with four gold, 11 silver and nine bronze medals.
Still yet to win their elusive gold medals are Zamboanga Peninsula (eight silver, 18 bronze medals), and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with one bronze medal.