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Greatest Performance: Marck Espejo’s 55-point game

Playing in a sport where posting records is hard to do, Marck Espejo proved that he is a cut above the rest. In his last year in the UAAP, Espejo led then-defending champion Ateneo de Manila University in an amazing Final Four victory, defying the odds stacked against the Blue Eagles. The five-time Most Valuable Player not only carried Ateneo on his shoulders for another trip to the Finals, but Espejo also registered a league scoring record in an incredible display of his offensive prowess, determination and heart.      Espejo did that two years ago in the UAAP Season 80 semifinals against twice-to-beat Far Eastern University on a balmy Saturday morning. Fans inside the Mall of Asia Arena were all up on their feet in the closing stretch of the fifth set. The raucous crowd were about to witness history unfold before their eyes.  Playing in his final year for the blue and white, Espejo knew that their three-year reign was hanging in the balance. The Blue Eagles survived the nip-and-tuck fourth set to force a decider after going down, 1-2, in the match against the confident Tamaraws. Espejo already had 44 points. In the first four sets the open spiker fired missile after missile to frustrate FEU, which was already committing three blockers on Espejo to no avail. He just kept coming. He was unstoppable. One more final push and Ateneo will get a chance to live to fight another day.   Espejo assumed the Herculean task of providing the much-needed firepower in the deciding frame. He was running on pure adrenaline. Espejo stepped up big time in the deciding frame when he scored 11 of Ateneo’s points. The King Eagle, who held the Blue Eagles together in the fourth frame, wreaked havoc in the fifth set and gave Ateneo an 8-5 lead. FEU closed the gap 8-9 before the Blue Eagles extended their advantage to 11-8 off an off the block kill by Espejo. The Ateneo star finished off FEU with a thunderous spike to cap the Blue Eagles' closing 4-1 assault with the last four points all coming from Espejo.  “’Yung points naman po, hindi ko siya iniisip. Basta iniisip ko lang, ‘pag binigay sa akin 'yung bola, kailangan ko pumuntos, kasi para sa team ko naman 'yun eh,” said the soft-spoken Espejo, whose monster production in the series opener came from 47 attacks, six kill blocks and two aces. The King Eagle pushed Ateneo at match point with a kill block before Espejo put the icing on the cake with a powerful smash that shattered the two-man block of FEU. That was the last of Espejo’s league-record 55 points – the highlight of the Blue Eagles’ 18-25, 25-13, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9 win. WATCH:  “Nagulat nga ako, sabi ko, typographical error ba ito?” said a surprised Ateneo coach Oliver Almadro, who was on his last year with the Blue Eagles before taking over the Lady Eagles the following season The mentor, who in Season 81 steered Ateneo back to the women’s division throne, admitted that no one on his bench knew that Espejo was already putting up record numbers. He just instructed his setter Ish Polvorosa to toss the ball to Espejo for a high percentage attack. “Hindi namin alam. Hindi nga namin alam eh,” said Almadro. “Minsan nga, naano pa ako kay Ish (Polvorosa) - 'Ish, bigay mo na kay Marck, bigay mo na kay Marck.' 'Yun pala, he is making these points na.” Espejo again wreaked havoc in the winner-take-all match, scoring 37 points as the Blue Eagles booted out FEU for a fifth straight championship dance with archrival National University.         However, Ateneo’s dynasty crumbled at the hands of the Bryan Bagunas-led Bulldogs.    It was a painful defeat to close Espejo’s collegiate career. But didn’t diminish the sparkle of Espejo’s performance in his swan song especially is record feat, which might stand as the league’s scoring benchmark for years.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnApr 1st, 2020

UAAP volleyball’s most memorable Finals five-setters (2010-19)

UAAP volleyball fans just love to see matches go the full five sets. It means more action, more suspense and more drama as the game goes to an exciting climax. What more if it happens in the Finals? We’ve listed down some of the exciting five-set championship games in the past decade.     SEASON 74: FEU-UST Men’s Finals Game 2 (Feb. 29, 2012) For the past four years prior to Season 74, University of Sto. Tomas dominated the men’s competition. For two straight seasons, the Emil Lontoc-mentored Tigers had Far Eastern University’s number in the Finals.    In Season 74, the Tamaraws finally got their long-awaited revenge but not after surviving a war of attrition in Game 2. FEU went down, 1-2, in the match with the Mark Alfafara and Salvador Depante-led Tigers determined to keep UST’s five-peat bid alive following a stinging straight-set defeat in the series opener. The Tamaraws, who topped the eliminations, but was forced by De La Salle University to a do-or-die in the Final Four, fought back in the fourth behind JR Labrador and Arvin Avila to drag the match to a dramatic decider. The fifth set went as close at it could get with FEU just keeping a slim lead heading into the final stretch. The Tams moved at championship point off a Labrador off the block hit only to see the Tigers save two match points on a middle attack by Season Most Valuable Player Jayson Ramos and a Depante crosscourt hit. FEU coach George Pascua called time to stop the bleeding before setter Pitrus De Ocampo set up the then graduating Kirk Beliran for the finishing blow off a combination attack to complete the 25-27, 25-15, 19-25, 25-21, 15-13, victory. The Tams ended a four-year title drought for their 25th title overall.              SEASON 76: Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 3 (March 12, 2014) We all know how great Ateneo de Manila University was when they toppled the then four-peat-seeking and thrice-to-beat De La Salle University in the women’s Finals of UAAP Season 76. But in the four games that two proud teams fought, Game 3 decided the fate of the series. Yes, the series didn’t end here, but it definitely shifted the momentum to the eventual champion Lady Eagles and broke the Lady Spikers’ will. The Finals protagonists split the first two games with DLSU moving just a win away from extending its reign. Ateneo took control of the first two sets, but the Lady Spikers were able to mount a comeback to claim the next two to set up a decisive fifth frame. The race to the finish became thrilling as well as controversial.       It started out as a nip-and-tuck battle before DLSU built a 12-8 separation to move within three points from the crown. Drawing energy from crowd, the Alyssa Valdez-led Lady Eagles answered with a 6-1 blitz to move at match point. Ara Galang answered with a hit and a kill block to put the Taft-based squad at championship point. Valdez delivered at crunch time with a kill followed by a through the block kill by Michelle Morente for a 16-15 match point advantage. Then came the controversial call in the last play. DLSU setter Kim Fajardo was whistled for a double-contact as she tried to setup a play close to the net after a poor reception that ended the game, 25-21, 25-23, 18-25, 16-25, 17-15, as the shocked DLSU side held their hands in the air in disbelief.      It was the series’ backbreaker as Ateneo, with momentum on its side, finished off the Lady Spikers in straight sets in the series decider for the Lady Eagles’ breakthrough title and first of back-to-back crowns.   SEASON 78:  Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 2 (April 27, 2016) The then grand slam-seeking Ateneo Lady Eagles and DLSU Lady Spikers faced off in the Finals for the fifth straight time in Season 78. Eyeing redemption after finishing second for two straights seasons, DLSU shocked favored Ateneo led by its graduating hero Valdez in the series opener. The Lady Spikers were looking to finish off the Lady Eagles in Game 2. DLSU seemed to be on the right track when they took the first two sets. But Valdez, the Season Most Valuable Player, carried Ateneo on her back as the Lady Eagles rallied in the next two frames to force a deciding frame. With Valdez leading the way and momentum shifting on their side, the Lady Eagles were able to create a 10-7 separation. DLSU closed the gap, 11-13, only to see Ateneo hammer down the final blows. Jho Maraguinot scored an off the block kill before Amy Ahomiro turned back Majoy Baron to seal Ateneo’s 18-25, 26-28, 25-17, 25-16, 15-11. Valdez registered her then second-best scoring performance of 34 points including 32 kills. But the feat just delayed DLSU’s redemption season as the Lady Spikers took Game 3 and knocked the crown off the Lady Eagles’ heads for a victorious sendoff to graduating stars Mika Reyes, Ara Galang and Cyd Demecillo.     SEASON 79: Ateneo-DLSU Women's Finals Game 2 (May 6, 2017) Just like the previous year, DLSU stared at an Ateneo squad determined to drag the Season 79 Finals series to a deciding battle. The Lady Eagles were able take a 1-2 match advantage. The Lady Spikers regrouped in the fourth to put the match in another wild wind up. Riding the momentum of its fourth set win, DLSU raced to an early 6-2 advantage and looked poised to go for the kill as the Lady Spikers stretched their advantage to 10-4. Ateneo fought back, chipping away DLSU’s lead to close in, 9-12. Tin Tiamzon gave the Lady Spikers more breathing room only for Jho Maraguinot to cut DLSU’s lead to three once again. A Majoy Baron quick attack pushed the Lady Spikers at championship point before Maraguinot threw in the white towel after sending her attack long as DLSU walked away with a 19-25, 25-14, 18-25, 25-18, 15-10, victory and a 10th overall title.       SEASON 79: Ateneo-NU Men's Finals series (May 2 and May 6, 2017) It was the Ateneo Blue Eagles perfect season. The Marck Espejo, Rex Intal, Josh Villanueva and Tony Koyfman bannered Blue Eagles completed a rare 16-0 season sweep. But the Ateneo had to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to achieve the feat especially in the Finals series where the Blue Eagles needed stave off the gritty Bryan Bagunas and Fauzi Ismail-led NU Bulldogs in five sets twice. And in both games, Ateneo had to comeback from a 1-2 match deficit. Espejo dropped 29 points to lead the Blue Eagles to a 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13, Game 1 win. The Season MVP again went firing on all cylinders in Game 2 as he scored 27 points including a 25-of-49 attacking clip in Ateneo’s 18-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-18, 15-13, title-clincher. Ateneo claimed its third straight crown.    WORTH MENTIONING SEASON 70: FEU-Adamson Women's Finals Game 3 (March 2, 2008) When we talk about dramatic five-set finishes, the meeting between FEU and Adamson in Game 3 of Season 70 women’s will always be included in the classic list.   Yes, it happened 12 years ago. But hey, it deserves recognition. The Lady Tams boasted of a deep roster of talents in Rachel Anne Daquis, Maica Morada, Season MVP Wendy Semana, Majo Cafranca, Anna Abanto and rookie Shaira Gonzales. On the other hand, the Lady Falcons had Sang Laguilles, Angela Benting, Jill Gustillo, Michelle Segodine, prized libero Lizlee Ann Gata and Janet Serafica. After splitting the first two games, Adamson came a set close to its first-ever crown in Game 3 after taking a 2-1 match lead. But Daquis came alive in the fourth helping breathe new life to the Nes Pamilar-mentored Lady Tams. The fifth frame started out close before FEU unleashed five unanswered points to turn a 2-4 deficit to a 7-4 lead. Adamson responded with two straight points to move within one, 7-6, only to allow the Lady Tams to again pull away. Shirt-tugging Morada pushed FEU at match point, 14-8, off a kill before Benting saved a point for Adamson. But a late substitution on Segodine, who was supposed to take serve, by service specialist Jennifer Hiponia proved to be fatal. Hiponia under tremendous pressure put too much power on her serve as FEU escaped with a 14-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 15-9, victory and its 29th title overall.             SEASON 80: Ateneo-FEU men’s Final Four (April 21, 2018) It wasn’t a Finals game but the performance of Marck Espejo in this historic Final Four battle against FEU in Season 80 made this five-set clash worth mentioning. The then four-peat-seeking Ateneo was pitted against twice-to-beat Tamaraws. Espejo rewrote history as he carried the Blue Eagles on his back with a 55-point game to escape with a 18-25, 25-13, 24-26, 25-23, 15-9, win that forced a do-or-die match. The five-time MVP had a monster production of 47 attacks, six kill blocks and two aces. He scored 11 of Ateneo’s fifth set output. The Blue Eagles eventually clinched the last Finals spot but were dethroned by the Bulldogs.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2020

SEA GAMES: The silver that glittered like gold

When the editorial staff of ABS-CBN Sports was tasked to come up with our most memorable coverage, it didn’t take long for this writer to respond. The Philippine men’s volleyball team’s Southeast Asian Games semifinal match was the first thing that came to mind. Pesonally, that game against the highly-fancied Thailand squad topped all the countless volleyball matches that I’ve covered in my career. I’m at a loss for words on how to describe the emotions I felt that chilly night of December 8, 2019. Around 6,700 fans filled the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City not knowing that what they were about to witness was something historic. A magical night that would take away the frustrations they felt the day before when the more popular women’s team finished the preliminary round winless. For us sportswriters covering that assignment, we knew the Filipinos were up for a tough ride. Thailand ruled the last four editions of the event. On the other hand, the Philippines’ last significant outing in the biennial meet was a bronze medal finish back in 1991 – or when the current national team’s oldest member, setter Jessie Lopez was just five-years old.      Did we doubt our own team? Let’s just say we prayed to the high heavens to give us something positive to write about. But don’t get us wrong. Those who followed the formation and preparation of the squad knew it would yield results come the SEA Games. After all, in all three batches of the Nationals that participated in the regional sports meet since 2015, this particular team had the longest time to prepare – around eight months to be exact. The team’s composition itself looked really promising. For the first time, two of country’s best hitters in Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who both have experience playing in the Japan V. League,  donned the tricolors together. Espejo returned after skipping the 2017 edition so did his teammates in the 2015 squad Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa. Bagunas was on his second tour of duty along with team captain John Vic De Guzman, Mark Alfafara, RanRan Abdilla and libero Jack Kalingking. Head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who was appointed to handle the team after Oliver Almadro and Sammy Acaylar in 2015 and 2017, respectively, tapped an old hand in Lopez and injected young bloods in playmaker Owa Retamar, Jau Umandal, Kim Malabunga, Ricky Marcos and Francis Saura. As part of their buildup the Nationals joined the Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Championship July last year.          The Filipinos achieved a great feat when they won bronze. Fans were able to witness the Nationals’ campaign via YouTube streaming while we volleyball writers, got to file our full stories through the help of De Guzman and Bagunas (God bless their beautiful hearts) who supplied us with game stats and granted postgame interviews. It’s just a shame I never got to cover the team’s training in Japan when the Nationals’ preparation went on full throttle. (Note: A little confusion in the training camp coverage assignments had me flying to Japan with the women’s squad and Lance Agcaoili of Spin.ph joining the men’s team. But it was a great experience, nonetheless, and I’m grateful for Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. for the opportunity.)     I was as confused as the other sportswriters present during the draw for the group stage a couple of months before the SEA Games when Alinsunurin chose to join the four-team bracket with Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Those three teams are considered contenders every SEA Games edition. And earning a semifinal spot would be harder compared to the other group composed of Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore. Fortunately, the gamble was worth it. Espejo and Bagunas were superb offensively, Malabunga and Retamar made their presence felt and the Nationals’ blocking shocked Cambodia and Vietnam as the Filipinos swept them both to secure a semis seat.   Then came the steamrolling Indonesians. Honestly, I thought the Nationals would sweep their way to the group’s top seeding. That way the PHI’s would've avoided a semis clash with Thailand. Forced to take on the defending champions, the Filipinos found themselves down in the first set. They got back in the second frame before yielding the third. And when the Thais came to match point, 24-21, in the fourth we all thought it was over. Fans were slowly emptying the bleachers not wanting to see the impending defeat. I was already waiting for the final score. Ready break the result. Then a miracle happened. The Nationals nibbled on the Thais' lead to force a deuce. After another deadlock, the Filipinos stole the set. The fifth frame was classic story of ‘who wants it more will win.’ An extended set made it even more dramatic. I vividly remember that sequence when Bagunas hammered the game-clinching kill off a lob from Lopez. After that all that I can recall was me pumping my fist up in the air and slapping the hardest high-fives I ever did with those inside the press room while howling like a madman.    The national team assured itself of a silver after 42 years. A silver after four freaking decades. They did it. Of course, the Indonesians bullied their way to winning the gold medal in a sweep of the inexperienced Filipinos. But who cares, the host team exceeded its podium expectations. That silver that glittered like gold made that coverage truly memorable. But it never crossed my mind that it would be the last important volleyball event that I will get to report. (Note: It would’ve been the UAAP if not for the health crisis that put all sporting events to a halt. Sad.) And that’s why I ended up writing these last few paragraphs. A farewell from this section. From my first article for this website back on December 1, 2014 – a post-mortem of Petron’s breakthrough title in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix – to my last published story, these were all written with only one thing in mind: in the service of the Filipino sports fan worldwide. Our run may have not been perfect, of course, we had our flaws. We had our fair share of criticisms from fans, athletes, sports personalities and sometimes even from our partner leagues and properties. We accepted our shortcomings. We tried to be better. But we are proud of what we did. We take pride with how we delivered sports stories through various digital executions that showcased sports beyond the confines of competition. On midnight of September 1 while most of you lay sound asleep, deep in slumber, hopefully, having a good dream and hours away from waking up looking forward to a better day, this website will be snapped out of existence.  More than half a decade of sharing stories to the Filipino sports fan will be seeing its last presence online on Monday – a holiday to celebrate the nation’s heroes. This website will then hear its final buzzer, its final whistle. Thousands of articles – written with passion, dedication and love – will be taken down as this website goes offline together with majority of ABS-CBN Sports’ social media accounts. But soon, hopefully, it will once again see the light of day.    We do hope that you will remember us, for we will remember all of you who made us your Kapamilya.   -- 30 --   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles Mark Escarlote has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2014. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

SEA GAMES: The silver that glittered like gold

When the editorial staff of ABS-CBN Sports was tasked to come up with our most memorable coverage, it didn’t take long for this writer to respond. The Philippine men’s volleyball team’s Southeast Asian Games semifinal match was the first thing that came to mind. Pesonally, that game against the highly-fancied Thailand squad topped all the countless volleyball matches that I’ve covered in my career. I’m at a loss for words on how to describe the emotions I felt that chilly night of December 8, 2019. Around 6,700 fans filled the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City not knowing that what they were about to witness was something historic. A magical night that would take away the frustrations they felt the day before when the more popular women’s team finished the preliminary round winless. For us sportswriters covering that assignment, we knew the Filipinos were up for a tough ride. Thailand ruled the last four editions of the event. On the other hand, the Philippines’ last significant outing in the biennial meet was a bronze medal finish back in 1991 – or when the current national team’s oldest member, setter Jessie Lopez was just five-years old.      Did we doubt our own team? Let’s just say we prayed to the high heavens to give us something positive to write about. But don’t get us wrong. Those who followed the formation and preparation of the squad knew it would yield results come the SEA Games. After all, in all three batches of the Nationals that participated in the regional sports meet since 2015, this particular team had the longest time to prepare – around eight months to be exact. The team’s composition itself looked really promising. For the first time, two of country’s best hitters in Marck Espejo and Bryan Bagunas, who both have experience playing in the Japan V. League,  donned the tricolors together. Espejo returned after skipping the 2017 edition so did his teammates in the 2015 squad Rex Intal and setter Ish Polvorosa. Bagunas was on his second tour of duty along with team captain John Vic De Guzman, Mark Alfafara, RanRan Abdilla and libero Jack Kalingking. Head coach Dante Alinsunurin, who was appointed to handle the team after Oliver Almadro and Sammy Acaylar in 2015 and 2017, respectively, tapped an old hand in Lopez and injected young bloods in playmaker Owa Retamar, Jau Umandal, Kim Malabunga, Ricky Marcos and Francis Saura. As part of their buildup the Nationals joined the Thailand Open Sealect Tuna Championship July last year.          The Filipinos achieved a great feat when they won bronze. Fans were able to witness the Nationals’ campaign via YouTube streaming while we volleyball writers, got to file our full stories through the help of De Guzman and Bagunas (God bless their beautiful hearts) who supplied us with game stats and granted postgame interviews. It’s just a shame I never got to cover the team’s training in Japan when the Nationals’ preparation went on full throttle. (Note: A little confusion in the training camp coverage assignments had me flying to Japan with the women’s squad and Lance Agcaoili of Spin.ph joining the men’s team. But it was a great experience, nonetheless, and I’m grateful for Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. for the opportunity.)     I was as confused as the other sportswriters present during the draw for the group stage a couple of months before the SEA Games when Alinsunurin chose to join the four-team bracket with Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia. Those three teams are considered contenders every SEA Games edition. And earning a semifinal spot would be harder compared to the other group composed of Thailand, Myanmar and Singapore. Fortunately, the gamble was worth it. Espejo and Bagunas were superb offensively, Malabunga and Retamar made their presence felt and the Nationals’ blocking shocked Cambodia and Vietnam as the Filipinos swept them both to secure a semis seat.   Then came the steamrolling Indonesians. Honestly, I thought the Nationals would sweep their way to the group’s top seeding. That way the PHI’s would've avoided a semis clash with Thailand. Forced to take on the defending champions, the Filipinos found themselves down in the first set. They got back in the second frame before yielding the third. And when the Thais came to match point, 24-21, in the fourth we all thought it was over. Fans were slowly emptying the bleachers not wanting to see the impending defeat. I was already waiting for the final score. Ready break the result. Then a miracle happened. The Nationals nibbled on the Thais' lead to force a deuce. After another deadlock, the Filipinos stole the set. The fifth frame was classic story of ‘who wants it more will win.’ An extended set made it even more dramatic. I vividly remember that sequence when Bagunas hammered the game-clinching kill off a lob from Lopez. After that all that I can recall was me pumping my fist up in the air and slapping the hardest high-fives I ever did with those inside the press room while howling like a madman.    The national team assured itself of a silver after 42 years. A silver after four freaking decades. They did it. Of course, the Indonesians bullied their way to winning the gold medal in a sweep of the inexperienced Filipinos. But who cares, the host team exceeded its podium expectations. That silver that glittered like gold made that coverage truly memorable. But it never crossed my mind that it would be the last important volleyball event that I will get to report. (Note: It would’ve been the UAAP if not for the health crisis that put all sporting events to a halt. Sad.) And that’s why I ended up writing these last few paragraphs. A farewell from this section. From my first article for this website back on December 1, 2014 – a post-mortem of Petron’s breakthrough title in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix – to my last published story, these were all written with only one thing in mind: in the service of the Filipino sports fan worldwide. Our run may have not been perfect, of course, we had our flaws. We had our fair share of criticisms from fans, athletes, sports personalities and sometimes even from our partner leagues and properties. We accepted our shortcomings. We tried to be better. But we are proud of what we did. We take pride with how we delivered sports stories through various digital executions that showcased sports beyond the confines of competition. On midnight of September 1 while most of you lay sound asleep, deep in slumber, hopefully, having a good dream and hours away from waking up looking forward to a better day, this website will be snapped out of existence.  More than half a decade of sharing stories to the Filipino sports fan will be seeing its last presence online on Monday – a holiday to celebrate the nation’s heroes. This website will then hear its final buzzer, its final whistle. Thousands of articles – written with passion, dedication and love – will be taken down as this website goes offline together with majority of ABS-CBN Sports’ social media accounts. But soon, hopefully, it will once again see the light of day.    We do hope that you will remember us, for we will remember all of you who made us your Kapamilya.   -- 30 --   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles Mark Escarlote has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2014. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020.   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 28th, 2020

Intal considers semis win over Thais in SEA Games better than UAAP titles

Winning three titles in the UAAP is already an incredible feat. But for Ateneo de Manila University product Rex Intal, those college championships pale in comparison with the ecstasy he felt when the Philippine national men’s volleyball team toppled powerhouse Thailand in the semifinals of the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year. [Related story: SEA GAMES: PHI men's volleyball team advances to the gold medal round] A member of the Nationals who captured a historic silver medal in the biennial meet, Intal considers their thrilling come-from-behind win that dethroned Thailand in the knockout semis as the most memorable game he has ever played in.    “For me it was one of the best games talaga na nalaruan ko. Not the best performance pero best games na most unforgettable,” said Intal in his appearance on Volleyball DNA hosted by Anton Roxas and Denden Lazaro. “Actually most unforgettable game na talaga.” The former Blue Eagle middle went as far as saying that the victory over the Thais, which was watched by an electric crowd inside the PhilSports Arena last December, even topped the three titles he had while playing for Ateneo.   “Naramdaman ko talaga na may tumalo na sa first, second and third UAAP championships. Sorry UAAP pero iba ‘yung SEA Games na naramdaman ko. Iba ang naramdaman ko nu’ng umabot kami ng Finals,” said Intal, who with PHI squad teammates Marck Espejo and Ish Polvorosa led the Blue Eagles to a UAAP grand slam from Season 77 to 79.   “Individually ah, hindi 'yung combined na three UAAP championships,” cleared Intal. “Siguro kapag combined medyo same.” The Nationals faced top seed Thailand, which ruled the previous four editions, on December 8 in the crossover semis attended by a 6,700-strong crowd.   The experience of playing in front of the home crowd in an all-important game that time was a surreal feeling according to Intal. “Grabe ang experience na ‘yun. Ang saya maglaro nu’ng time na ‘yun kasi first time ‘yung buong crowd hindi hiwalay,” said Intal of the atmosphere inside the venue compared to what he’s used while playing in the UAAP. “Lahat nagtsi-cheer talaga. In front of the home crowd ang sarap maglaro sa crowd na ‘yun,” he added. “Isa ‘yun sa di ko makakalimutan na experience sa buong buhay ko.” It was a dramatic win for the Nationals as they came back from a 1-2 deficit and a scary 21-24 hole in the fourth set to upset Thailand in five sets.   “Nu’ng nanalo kami nung napalo na ni Bryan ang bola sigawan na kami nun,” recalled Intal, who scored six points in the match playing in four sets. “’Di kami makapaniwala. As in lahat ng boses na mayroon kami kailangan naming ilabas.” “Totoo pala na kailangan mong kurutin yung sarili mo, ‘Totoo ba ‘to? Totoo ba ‘to?’” he added. “’Yung inisip ko nun ay ‘di ‘yung natalo namin ang Thailand. Ang naisip ko was may medal na kami.” That win assured the Philippines of a silver medal for the first time since its runner-up finish in the 1977 SEA Games in Malaysia and a rematch against group stage tormentors Indonesia. The Indonesians were too much for the inexperienced Filipinos as the host team yielded in straight sets. But still, although the Nationals fell short in the gold medal round for Intal the whole SEA Games experience especially their conquest of Thailand will always be on the top of his list.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 21st, 2020

GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Joel Cagulangan s NCAA 93 playoff run

Joel Cagulangan was, hands-down, the best player in all of the NCAA Jrs. in the Season 93 playoffs. And he had to be because College of St. Benilde-La Salle Green Hills lost five of its last six games in the elimination round and had to win a knockout bout against San Sebastian College-Recoletos just to get into the Final Four. There, they had to down powerhouse San Beda High School not once, but twice before moving on to a date with defending champion Mapua High School. Safe to say, the odds were all against the Jr. Blazers in that playoff run - but one player, one player who only stood at 5-feet, 8-inches willed them to do the impossible. That was no more evident than in the winner-take-all Finals Game 3 where LSGH was trailing by one with less than a minute remaining. After getting a defensive rebound, Cagulangan got a foul for his troubles and was sent to the line where he coolly converted both free throws. Not long after, two defensive stops by partner-in-crime Joshua David finished off an improbable championship. In the end, the Butuan native had 19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and four steals to his name - unquestionably recognized as the Finals MVP. Inand Fornilos, the green and white's tireless forward then, perhaps put it perfectly when he said, “Pag wala siya, parang magiging imposible. Pag nandun siya, kayang-kaya.” And yet, that wasn't even Cagulangan's most impressive game. In another do-or-die game, this one, Game 2 against the top-seeded and twice-to-beat Red Cubs, the Jr. Blazers found themselves all even with their opponents at 103-all with less than a minute remaining in the third overtime. It was at that point, that the pint-sized playmaker sliced and diced his way to a left-handed layup. That proved to be the go-ahead basket en route to a 110-108 decision in the classic contest. There wasn't even supposed to be a third extra period as LSGH was down by three with 11 ticks to go in the clock in the second overtime before Cagulagan buried a booming triple to emphatically exclaim that the game was far from over. In the end, he had 29 points to go along with nine assists, nine rebounds, and two steals and played all but three of the possible 55 minutes in a matchup that had 22 lead changes and seven deadlocks. That performance will always be known as the first and foremost show of just how great his will to win is. Fortunately for the University of the Philippines, it will be getting to know just that as Joel Cagulangan is now its point guard of the future. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2020

AP Was There: Seles tops Graf in riveting French Open final

By The Associated Press EDITOR’S NOTE -- Every French Open features matches that are memorable for one reason or another. There are upsets. Comebacks. Dramatic moments. Historic accomplishments. The AP is republishing stories about a handful of such matches while the postponed Grand Slam tournament was supposed to be played. One match memorable for the drama and competition between two all-time greats was the 1992 final at Roland Garros between Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. Less than a year later, Seles was stabbed by a spectator at a match in Germany. The following story was sent June 6, 1992. ___ By STEPHEN WILSON AP Sports Writer PARIS (AP) — This was a match no one deserved to lose. Monica Seles and Steffi Graf dueled for two hours and 43 minutes Saturday, matching each other shot for shot, fighting for the lead game after game. Finally, after an epic third set lasting 18 games and 91 minutes, Seles emerged with a 6-2, 3-6, 10-8 victory for her third straight French Open title. “It’s the most emotional match I’ve ever played,” said Seles, who is now halfway to winning the Grand Slam. “This one’s always going to stay in my memory.” “It really couldn’t have been a better final,” she said. “It shows women’s tennis is getting more and more exciting. It’s just too bad for whoever lost. Both deserved to win.” Even in defeat, Graf agreed it was a memorable match. “If you play 10-8 in the final set, it definitely is special,” she said. “Those are very special matches, even if you lose.” Seles became the first woman to capture three consecutive French Opens since Germany’s Hilde Sterling accomplished the feat from 1935 to 1937. Seles, strengthening her hold on the No. 1 ranking, has now won six Grand Slams in her career, including the last five in which she has appeared. She missed Wimbledon last year, but will be competing there in two weeks to try to win the third leg of the Grand Slam. Saturday’s third set provided some of the greatest drama in tennis — men’s or women’s — in recent years. “I’ve never played a set like that in my life,” Seles said. There were furious rallies, fantastic gets, lunging winners, frequent shifts in momentum. Despite fatigue, both players were so pumped up they showed their emotions after nearly every point. Graf would yell “Yes!” clench her fist and slap her hip after a winner. When Seles lost a point, she would shriek “Noooo,” close her eyes and grimace in agony. The lead swung back and forth. Seles was up 5-3. Graf saved four match points in the next game and moved ahead 6-5 and 7-6. Seles broke and went up 8-7. Graf broke back for 8-8. Seles broke again and then finally held serve to close out the match. “I never thought it would last so long,” she said. “I was getting getting a little bit tired. But I could have stayed out there if I had to.” The 18 games in the final set was the most in a women’s final here since 1956, when Althea Gibson beat Angela Mortimer 6-0, 12-10. The 35 total games was one short of the record for a French final since the Open era began in 1968. The 36-game mark was set in 1973 when Margaret Court beat Chris Evert 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. Graf paid tribute to Seles’ refusal to give up. “You have seen it in other matches,” she said. “She is definitely a tough one. Even if it’s close, if she’s tired, she is always going for it. That is definitely a big, big quality.” Graf found no satisfaction in her own gutsy performance. “I mean it’s great the way I came back, the way I fought every time,” she said. “I think it was a very good effort, especially being down 5-3 in the third set. But I’m disappointed the way I played when I was leading.” “Every time I gave her those games,” she said. “I didn’t play those points good enough. I didn’t really try like the games before to run everything down and to go for every shot. But it’s difficult if you have to do that all the time.” The crowd was overwhelmingly in Graf’s favor, repeatedly breaking into rhythmic clapping and chants of “Steffi! Steffi!” “I really can’t say that I have had that support ever before,” Graf said. “It was just amazing.” Seles controlled the first set, winning 12 out the first 14 points. Graf started to raise the level of her play at the end of the first set, even breaking Seles at love in one game. The German seemed to get a psychological boost early in the second set when she saved a break point to prevent Seles from taking a 2-0 lead. Graf gained the edge when she broke for 4-3. She saved three break points to hold for 5-3, then broke Seles at love to win the set. Seles didn’t even bother to chase Graf’s forehand winner on set point. Seles was up a service break at 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 in the final set. Then came the four match points on Graf’s serve. She erased the first with a deep forehand, the second with a forehand putaway, the third with a forehand into the corner, and the fourth with a skidding slice backhand approach shot. “I said to myself, ‘Just go for it,’” Graf said. “On those points I really didn’t give her a lot of chances. I was trying to be the one who is aggressive.” “Steffi played some great shots under pressure and I played too safe,” Seles said. Seles served for the match in the next game, but Graf kept dictating the points with her big forehand and broke at 15 to even the set at 5-5. The two continued on serve until Seles broke for an 8-7 lead as Graf missed on a short forehand. But Graf broke right back, hitting a perfect backhand drop shot on one point. In the next game, Seles crushed a short crosscourt backhand after a long rally to break for a 9-8 lead. Serving for the match for the third time, Seles went up 40-15. On match point No. 5, Graf responded by ripping a clean forehand winner. But on the sixth, she pounded a forehand into the net. “It was totally up and down,” Seles said. “One or two points really decided it.” Seles won $372,896, putting her over the $5 million mark in career earnings. Graf won $186,457......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 7th, 2020

BATCH CLASH: Season 76 Bulldogs vs Season 81 Bulldogs

Seven years ago, National University made history by claiming its breakthrough UAAP men’s volleyball title. The following season, the Bulldogs blasted their way to back-to-back titles. It took NU four years to return on top after snapping Ateneo de Manila’s three-season reign before duplicating a repeat championship the following year. Two different breeds of Bulldogs will take center stage in this week’s edition of Batch Clash as we pit the back-to-back NU champion teams of Season 76 and Season 81. Just like in the past showdowns, we’ll see which team will shine brighter based on offense, net defense, floor defense, level of competition and playoff performances. Then, we'll let you decide which batch is better.   OFFENSE Height, speed and power. That’s the name of the game for the Bulldogs. Both teams took advantage of these strengths to extend their respective reigns. Batch 76 had Reuben Inaudito, Edwin Tolentino, Peter Torres and Berlin Paglinawan while Batch 81 featured the high-flying Bryan Bagunas, Nico Almendras and James Natividad. With the departure of Ateneo’s Marck Espejo, Bagunas dominated the scoring category in Season 81. The 6-foot-5 open spiker averaged 20.3 points per game in his swan song. Bagunas was also hitting with precision, nailing 53.49% success rate in attacks while landing an average of 0.47 ace per frame. Bagunas had a steady back-up with Almendras averaging 10.2 points per game while Natividad normed with nine markers per outing. Natividad had a 42.92% spike success rate and averaged 0.24 ace per set while Almendras had a 38.93% attacking rate.   Compared to Batch 81, the Bulldogs of Season 76 had more balanced scoring. Inaudito averaged 12.1 points per game with a 40.18% success rate in kills and an average of 0.23 ace per frame. Paglinawan averaged 11.5 points per game, Torres had 10.3 markers per outing while Tolentino normed 9.8 points. Tolentino was hitting 36.14% with a 0.31 average ace per set.   In the setters’ head-to-head match-up, Vince Mangulabnan was dishing out an average of 6.75 excellent sets per frame while Owa Retamar had 7.40 assists per set. Incidentally, both NU playmakers finished second in the category to Ateneo setters Ish Polvorosa and Lawrence Magadia, in their respective seasons. As a team, Batch 76 had a 41.96% success rate in spikes and landed an average of 1.17 aces per set. Batch 81 recorded a 45.82% success rate in attacks with 1.27 aces per frame. In setting, Batch 76 tallied 6.98 average excellent sets per frame compared to Batch 81’s 7.84.   NET DEFENSE      In the battle of defensive walls, Batch 76 had three players in the top 10. Torres averaged 0.69 kill blocks per set, Reyson Fuentes had 0.62 while Inaudito posted 0.54. Batch 76 normed 3.10 kills blocks per frame. Taking care of business at the net for Batch 81 were Francis Saura (0.62), Kim Malabunga (0.49) and Almendras (0.47). Batch 81 averaged 2.80 kill blocks per set.   FLOOR DEFENSE Floor defense wasn’t really the strong suit of NU ever since. Both batches did struggle when their net defense didn't work the way they wanted it to. Batch 76 was dead last in digs as a team with just 3.87 digs per set and its reception wasn’t impressive either with just a 21.29% efficiency. Libero Mark Dizon of Batch 76 averaged 1.27 digs per set and a 29.74% efficiency in reception. Batch 81 averaged 11.24 digs per set with a decent 55.61% efficiency rate in reception. However, unlike Batch 76, the Season 81 Bulldogs didn’t rely too much in their libero for digs. Ricky Marcos had 3.51 digs per set and was backed by Natividad’s 2.42. Marcos had a 62.20% reception efficiency.     LEVEL OF COMPETITION Batch 76 saw the rise of what would become one of the most explosive and well-rounded players in the UAAP in years. Ateneo’s then rookie Espejo made an immediate impact in his first year together with Blue Eagles Rex Intal and Ysay Marasigan. University of Sto. Tomas had that season’s top scorer Mark Alfafara, Romnick Rico and Anthony Arbast. Bannering Adamson University were Michael Sudaria and Bryan Saraza while Red Christensen and Raymark Woo led De La Salle University. Far Eastern University had Ian Dela Calzada, Greg Dolor and Alexis Faytaren. University of the Philippines was spearheaded by Evan Raymundo and Jeffrey Lansangan; while University of the East had Angelone Soria and Ace Mandani. Batch 81 also battled against a strong field with FEU’s Jude Garcia and JP Bugaoan; Ateneo’s Tony Koyfman and Ron Medalla; Paolo Pablico and George Labang of Adamson; Chris Dumago and Billie Anima of DLSU; UST’s Joshua Umandal and Wewe Mendina; Mark Millete and Jerry San Pedro of UP and the pair of Cliffor Inoferio and Lloyd Josafat of UE.      PLAYOFF PERFORMANCE Batch 76 finished the elimination round with a 12-2 win-loss record for the top seed. The Season 76 Bulldogs swept Adamson, which had to defeat DLSU in the playoff for no. 4, in the Final Four to face a young Ateneo side. In the Finals, the seasoned NU squad bullied its way to series sweep of the Blue Eagles as the Bulldogs won their second title. Batch 81 started off on the wrong foot, dropping their first game against the Tamaraws. The Bulldogs bounced back from a bad start to win their next 13 games to take the top seed in the Final Four. They ran over Adamson in straight sets in the semis before crushing the Tams in two games in the Finals rematch of the two proud teams six years the making.   VERDICT Who do you think is the better Bulldogs squad?   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 4th, 2020

How Hackett and Harris went beyond 100 points

(This story was originally published on June 30, 2016) One-hundred-point explosions are a rarity in professional basketball. Even in the NBA, no one has ever eclipsed Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in his game with the Philadelphia Warriors in trouncing the New York Knicks, 169-147, on March 2, 1962. So when you learn that two men, Americans playing as imports in the Philippine Basketball Association, had scored more than Wilt, you’d certainly be awed and astonished that such incredible feats in the history of the sport had actually occurred in our shores. Legends These legends, Michael Hackett, the man-mountain who leisurely takes care of business in the paint while reinforcing Ginebra San Miguel, and Tony Harris, the “Hurricane” who brings down opponents with his devastating scoring sprees through quick, shifty on court moves while playing for Swift Mighty Meaty Hotdogs, definitely left an indelible mark in PBA annals with those historic barrages that surely left everyone, foe or fan, stupefied and dazzled. Hackett, the hulking yet amiable giant, achieved the first-ever milestone on November 21, 1985 as Ginebra faced Great Taste in a battle for third place in the PBA Reinforced Conference.  His burly 6’5” frame would always have its way in the shaded lane, barreling his way through thick defensive walls and converting—all in bewildering succession. He pumped in 48 points at halftime, before scoring another 33 in the third quarter, and swishing 22 in the final period—for an eye-popping record-setting total of 103 points in one game. Breaching the Chamberlain record, Hackett had been praised as pro ball’s greatest scorer ever, even if he had not made the cut in the Los Angeles Lakers’ lineup during the Showtime era after being the 22nd pick in the 3rd round of the 1982 NBA Draft. During that conference, Hackett averaged 50 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists in 24 games that made him a hands-down choice for Best Import. With this lofty achievement, who would even think, much less imagine that this record would be broken seven years later. Best scorer Perhaps the all-time best performing scorer in the PBA’s history walked into a packed town gym in Iloilo City on October 10, 1992 in the elimination round of the PBA Third Conference to show Robert Jaworski and his Ginebra squad what he’s got. And, it was simply merciless. Scoring relentlessly from the field through lane incursions, midrange jumpers, slam dunks off the fastbreak and baskets from beyond the arc, the Hurricane already reached the highest score anyone could produce at halftime, 59 points. Harris continued his romp in the last two quarters, just leaving the never-say-die squad in the dust with another 46 points, leading Swift to a 151-147 victory and achieving a record-breaking single-game individual score of 105, surpassing Hackett’s record by two points. This scoring record remains to this day. Indeed, a double heartbreak for the country’s most popular team and a historic achievement by the flamboyant and perplexing import. Tough fouls But what was really exceptional was that he accomplished this feat despite Ginebra players fouling him a record 52 times, which he claimed in an NBA Philippines interview two years ago as “tough fouls” with “knees purposely extended to hit my groin, or the spitting on my face.” He was unfazed and this motivated the Monroe, Louisiana native even more by converting most of his points in his amazing 105-point game from the free throw area, where he made 45 out of 53 attempts. But what’s even more mind-blowing about Harris is that this was no single-game fluke or a stroke of luck. He scored 98 points only seven days after his 105-point game to lead Swift to a 157-147 victory over Presto Ice Cream.  Harris also scored 82 points in Swift’s conquest of Purefoods in Davao City a day before that record-breaking feat.  Before all of these scoring exploits, he actually “introduced” himself to the league with an 87-point performance in his debut in routing the San Miguel Beermen, 134-106. He also had 69, 57, and 54-point games throughout the season, ending up with a record 60.4 scoring average. Best achievement The best achievement of them all was that he steered the Mighty Meaties to the RFM franchise’s first-ever PBA championship by sweeping the 7-Up Uncolas in the Finals, 4-0. It was the current Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao’s first title. After his high-flying PBA stint, Harris tried his luck in the NBA via short 10-day deals with the Boston Celtics, but fell short with a mere 5-point clip in 14 games—a far cry from the fearsome offensive form he displayed in the PBA. He has since distanced himself from professional play, and now heads a sports apparel, supplies and equipment company in Los Angeles. Hackett, on the other hand, also did not engage in competitive basketball after his spectacular PBA run from 1985 to 1988, although he had once served as an assistant coach for a school in his native Jacksonville, Florida, and is now a sales consultant for a wine and beverage firm. But even if Harris or Hackett’s storied scoring feats and iconic stints did not replicate on their real home courts and since hung their jerseys for other careers, their astounding on-court achievements in the PBA remain an inspiration for greatness in this basketball-crazy nation......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 30th, 2020

WHAT IF… Back-to-back MVP Allwell Oraeme stayed in Mapua

History lesson: Mapua University was a legitimate championship contender for two years in NCAA Men's Basketball. In the time when the Grand Old League was as star-studded as it had been in recent history, there were the Cardinals who had one surefire superstar in Allwell Oraeme. Oraeme, a towering talent from Nigeria, then had several perfect pieces in his orbit as the likes of three-point threats Exi Biteng, CJ Isit, Darrell Menina, and JP Nieles spread out defenses for him to be able to make a living in the paint. Behind averages of 16.3 points, 20.3 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks, the then first-year player bested the likes of Art Dela Cruz of San Beda University, Bright Akhuetie and Scottie Thompson of University of Perpetual Help, and Jiovani Jalalon of Arellano University to convincingly claim the MVP award in Season 91.  Next year, he then normed 15.8 markers, 19.8 boards, and 2.3 rejections to get the better of big names such as Emilio Aguinaldo College's Hamadou Laminou and San Beda's Donald Tankoua as well as Akhuetie and Jalalon once more for another top individual player trophy. In those two seasons, Oraeme posted per game counts of 16.0 points, 20.5 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks - unfortunately, he could not push Mapua to the Finals as they fell to Season 91 champion Colegio de San Juan de Letran and then Season 92 runner-up Arellano in the Final Four. Still, with just two go-rounds under his belt, the then 20-year-old had three more seasons to play in red and gold. However, that wasn't meant to be. As ex-Cardinals head coach Atoy Co put it then, "Wala nang Oraeme. Nagpaalam siya at ang katwiran ay hindi na raw siya masaya sa Mapua kaya uuwi na lang daw siya sa Nigeria." Whispers were heard that some schools, including ones from the UAAP, were wooing him over to their side. Ultimately, though, the back-to-back MVP was never seen in action and never heard from again. In the years since, Coach Atoy could only lament what could have been for the Intramuros-based squad. Indeed, what could have been if, and only if, Oraeme decided to build on back-to-back MVP campaigns still in Mapua? If that would have been true, he would have seen action in a tournament that, pretty much, had a new look. Gone were Akhuetie, Dela Cruz, Jalalon, and Thompson and taking their places were Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon from San Beda, Prince Eze from Perpetual, and CJ Perez from Lyceum of the Philippines University. In NCAA 93, LPU memorably swept the elimination round to not only punch its first-ever playoff ticket, but its breakthrough Finals appearance as well. As the Pirates had all the answers for Perpetual's Eze, EAC's Laminou, and San Beda's Tankoua, it would not be farfetched that they also would have been able to take care of business against the Nigerian and his Cardinals. The other three playoff berths that year went to San Beda, Jose Rizal University, and San Sebastian College-Recoletos. Safe to say, only San Beda was the sure thing and Mapua, on the back of Oraeme, would have been able to replace the Golden Stags. Come the stepladder, Oraeme would turn in his best postseason performance yet and carry his team over the Heavy Bombers and to the next step in the ladder. Opposite the Red Lions, however, Bolick and Mocon would be much too much and stamp their class on the upstarts en route to upsetting LPU in the Finals. And so, Mapua falls short of the championship round anew. Still, finally having tasted a playoff win, Oraeme comes back for his fourth season, hungrier than ever and reclaims the MVP that Perez won the year before. NCAA 94 featured, more or less, the same cast of characters and so we fast forward to the Final Four where the Cardinals would be the fourth-seed behind top-seed San Beda, second-seed LPU, and three-seed Letran. Unfortunately, their Final Four opponent are the Red Lions, only this time, with Bolick and Mocon determined to close their collegiate careers with a big bang. Oraeme and his three-point threats would still be no match for that and they bow out yet again. The three-time MVP would then think hard about staying, but eventually ends up forgoing his fifth and final season to take his talents overseas. He wouldn't have known that NCAA 95 was actually his best shot, and the other's best shot, at a title as San Beda was to be a very, very young team led into battle by James Canlas, Evan Nelle, and Calvin Oftana. Still, Oraema would be showcasing his skills in Korea and in Europre, ala two-time UAAP MVP Ben Mbala. And as for Mapua, they still switch to Randy Alcantara for Season 95 who wastes no time enforcing a modern game plan that would lead to continued contention. In the end, the Cardinals would still be unable to hoist their first championship since 1992. However, they would still have a four-year run of legitimate title chances - led by a three-time MVP who may very well go down as the NCAA's greatest of all time. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2020

WHAT IF...Tony Koyfman played for the Blue Eagles in UAAP Season 80 Finals?

In UAAP Season 79, Ateneo de Manila University completed an amazing sweep of the men’s tournament. The Blue Eagles stamped their class on the competition thanks to the powerful tandem of Marck Espejo and Tony Koyfman and the then graduating pair of Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva as they went unbeaten in 16 games, including a pair of thrilling five-setters in the championship series against National University. However, the following season proved to be huge challenge for Ateneo not just because of the departure of Intal and Villanueva but also with the absence of Koyfman. The Russian-American skipped Season 80 because of health issues. With the 6-foot-8 opposite hitter out, Espejo had to shoulder most of the scoring load for the Blue Eagles in his swan song. Ateneo managed to advance to the Finals, but Espejo, who made history with his 55-point explosion in the semis against Far Eastern University, could only do so much against the onslaught of the Bulldogs as the Blue Eagles' three-year reign crumbled in two games.        Ateneo sorely missed the services of Koyfman in that series. But what if Koyfman suited up for the Blue Eagles in that championship showdown? Koyfman would have given Ateneo an added offensive threat, first of all. The Blue Eagles that season still had one the one of the league’s best playmakers in Ish Polvorosa and with him controlling the offense and with more options at hand, it would surely have caused problems for the Bulldogs’ net defense. Koyfman’s presence would have eased the scoring burden of Espejo, who was the obvious marked man in that series. In Season 79, Koyfman averaged 14.5 points per game in the Finals on his way to winning the Finals Most Valuable Player award. With the tandem of Koyfman and Espejo at the wings, it would also free up other scoring threats like Ron Medalla, John Rivera, Gian Glorioso and middle Chu Njigha. Koyfman would’ve also been an imposing defensive piece for Ateneo at the net. With him around to help Glorioso and Njigha, the Blue Eagles would’ve given NU’s top spikers Bryan Bagunas and James Natividad a hard time penetrating their attacks or pose a challenge for Kim Malabunga and Francis Saura at the middle.           Another key contribution that he could've given the Blue Eagles was his championship experience. The Bulldogs paraded an intact core. It would've had been a better matchup had the Katipunan-based squad had another veteran available.  Although, we cannot say if Ateneo can indeed complete the four-peat with Koyfman around against a very determined NU squad, we can agree that he was a missing piece to the Blue Eagles championship puzzle that season.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2020

Kai Sotto s greatest performances in the UAAP Jrs.

When he was just 15-years-old, Kai Sotto recorded the first triple-double in the high school ranks since 2003. Not only that, he did it on the biggest stage and under the brightest lights he had been on at that point. With 22 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 blocks, the 7-foot-2 tantalizing talent lifted Ateneo de Manila High School to an 86-70 Game 1 triumph over Nazareth School of National University in the UAAP 80 Juniors Basketball Finals. N????PE! WATCH! Every single block from Kai Sotto's triple-double performance vs NU! (22P 16R 11B) #UAAPSeason80Jrs pic.twitter.com/VZwusEMV42 — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) February 23, 2018 The Blue Eaglets needed each and every one of those as, early on, they found themselves down, 0-8, and then, 17-30. Come the third quarter, however, Sotto stood strong and got together with SJ Belangel, Jason Credo, and Dave Ildefonso for a white-hot 33-5 blast that erased the double-digit deficit and erected a 50-35 advantage for the blue and white. They wouldn't look back from there to move one win away from the championship. That power performance proved, once and for all, that the son of PBA veteran Ervin Sotto was the real deal. And look where he is now, about to see action in the G League and only one step away from the NBA. Right after that game, Ateneo was nothing but proud of its towering teen who answered the call of his head coach. "Actually, he (has been) playing subpar. Maybe, it's because he's not in shape, pero me and Kai, we have a personal relationship," then-mentor Joe Silva said. He then continued, “I text him, he texts me and he texted me, ‘Coach, abangan niyo. Eto na, makikita niyo yung totoong Kai Sotto.’ True enough, he proved to be a man of his word.” Apparently, in the eyes of the Blue Eaglets, Sotto's per game counts of 12.9 points in 57.4 percent shooting, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks before the Finals left much room for improvement. And in Game 1, he indeed answered the call en route to a championship and a Finals MVP. At 15-years-old, he had already been making history - so it's no surprise he's only continuing to do so now until the foreseeable future. Here are Kai Sotto's other power performances from his time as an Ateneo Blue Eaglet: Career-high 36 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 assists as Ateneo def. the University of the Philippines Integrated School, 77-60, in the UAAP 81 first round 27 points, 22 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks as Ateneo def. Far Eastern University-Diliman, 77-61, in the UAAP 81 second round 26 points, 20 rebounds, and 3 blocks as Ateneo def. De La Salle Zobel, 88-59, in the UAAP 81 second round 26 points, 25 rebounds, and 4 blocks as Ateneo bowed to National U, 53-64, in the UAAP 81 Finals Game 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 18th, 2020

Greatest Performances: Kia Bright drops PVL record 41 points

Foreign players in the Premier Volleyball League are expected to add firepower and muscle to their teams. Squads rely on them especially on offense. While most deliver the numbers expected of them, there are some who put up monster digits on the stats sheet. Two years ago, Kia Bright registered the PVL’s best scoring output in a single game, which still stands today. The American import was tapped by BanKo during the league’s second edition of the Reinforced Conference together with Thai Jutarat Montripila. Bright averaged 20.42 points per game in the elimination round where the Perlas Spikers struggled. BanKo’s fortune changed in the quarterfinals when it swept all of its five games to land a spot in the best-of-three semifinals against PayMaya. The Perlas Spikers and High Flyers split their first two semis meetings to set up a sudden death on July 6, 2018. Coming into the deciding Game 3, Bright averaged 29 points per outing in the first two matches. With the championship seat on the line, Bright came out with a performance to remember. Bright brought the hammer that day as she pounded a league-best 41 points highlighted by 40 kills off just 91 attempts and added 16 digs. Bright was already over 30 markers heading into the deciding frame.   But BanKo stumbled in the fifth set early and had to play catch up the whole frame. Bright tried to keep the Perlas Spikers alive in the closing stretch as she smashed her 41st point to save a match point for BanKo.              Unfortunately, all her efforts in this game went into naught as the Perlas Spikers were booted out of the Finals seat race in a stinging 25-22, 25-14, 14-25, 23-25, 12-15, defeat. BanKo, however, salvaged a podium finish when it bagged bronze. For her record feat, Bright received the Most Points Scored recognition during the awarding of individual awards. WATCH THE GAME HERE: Set 1 Set 2 Set 3 Set 4 Set 5    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 5th, 2020

Greatest Performance: SSC-R Lady Stags miracle comeback

San Sebastian College stared at a 13-point deficit in the third set against the Michelle Morente and Jia Morado-led Ateneo de Manila University. It was the two teams’ first meeting in the V-League Season 13 Collegiate Conference back in August 6, 2016. The Lady Stags led by skipper Grethcel Soltones surprised the Lady Eagles, who were then in their first competitive tournament in the post-Alyssa Valdez era, in the first two sets. But Ateneo took control of the third frame early as they built a 23-10 advantage and looked poised to turn the tables around. The Lady Eagles were determined to bounce back from an opening day five-set loss to the Mylene Paat-backed Technological Institute of the Philippines. But the two points Ateneo needed to take the set never came. SSC-R made one of the most amazing comebacks in the now defunct league, cranking a 15-0 scoring barrage, to complete a stunning come-from-behind 25-23, 25-22, 25-23 win. “Hindi [namin in-expect na mananalo ng ganun],” recalled Soltones, who is now a member of PetroGazz in the Premiere Volleyball League, the rebranded V-League. “Kasi looking at the name ATENEO hindi basta-basta ‘yan.” And Soltones wasn’t exaggerating. Ateneo fielded a formidable lineup that conference. Yes, the Lady Eagles missed the services of injured Jho Maraguinot and Maddie Madayag while Valdez, who was supposed to play as a guest player, was given an assistant coach position instead. But Ateneo was coming off a UAAP runner-up finish that year and were bannered by Morente, Morado, Bea De Leon, Ana Gopico and young guns Ponggay Gaston and Jules Samonte. The Lady Stags knew that Ateneo will not go down without a fight. As expected, the Lady Eagles regrouped in the third and were hammering down SSC-R. Throughout Ateneo’s assault, Soltones kept reminding her teammates not to lose heart. “May sinasabi ako sa kanila noon na ‘Nothing to lose tayo. Laro lang. Kasi nakita ko tambak na kami eh’” said Soltones. “Tapos si coach Clint [Malazo] may sinabi rin na kami lang nagbibigay ng pressure sa sarili namin kaya ganun ang nangyayari.’ Ateneo was already looking for the kill. The Lady Stags said no.   Joyce Sta. Rita stopped the bleeding with a quick attack and sent Soltones to the service line, where she would hold court until the end of the match. “Nasa isip ko lang naming nun na nasa likod, depensa lang kami ni [Alyssa] Eroa. Kahit anong bola kunin para gaganahan ang nasa harap,” said Soltones. Soltones landed consecutive aces during the run and even scored a couple of points from the back row while Sta. Rita and Denice Lim putting up numbers at the frontline. Ateneo during the Lady Stags’ rally was already in disarray and slowly crumbling under pressure. It didn’t help that the Lady Eagles were also struggling with their reception. “Sabi ko kakargahan ko ang serve ko at gamitin ko pinraktis namin sa serve kasi may target kami kung ano rotation ng Ateneo,” said Soltones, who also shared that she was getting instructions from head coach Roger Gorayeb, who was watching from sidelines as he gave the coaching chores to his assistant Malazo for the tournament. Lim tied the game at 23 off a down the line hit before Sta. Rita put SSC-R at match point after a denial on Morente. Soltones sealed the deal for the Lady Stags with an ace that landed in front of Morente and De Leon, giving the Lady Eagles another bitter pill to swallow.       Ateneo and SSC-R would eventually meet in a playoff for the last semifinals spot but this time the Lady Eagles exacted revenge as they sent the Lady Stags packing. Ateneo wound up as runner-up to the Jaja Santiago-led National University.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 20th, 2020

Greatest Performance: Alyssa Valdez’s career-high 39 points

To have a scorer in Alyssa Valdez is a luxury for any team. The Bureau of Customs was one of those lucky squads who had the rare chance of landing a great talent and a reliable leader. But what made the Transformers luckier was the fact that Valdez registered her career-best scoring performance wearing their colors. It was back on October 5, 2016 when Valdez carved out the most productive outing of a local in the defunct V-League. Valdez, who transferred to the newly-formed Transformers after one conference with BaliPure, dropped 39 points as she lifted BOC to a come-from-behind, 18-25, 27-25, 21-25, 25-21, 15-9 win over the Laoag Power Smashers in the Reinforced Conference at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City. Breaching the 30-point mark wasn’t new for the former Ateneo de Manila University star as she did it several times in the UAAP and in the previous editions of the V-League. But what made her feat even more impressive and memorable was the fact she did it on a match where BOC only had 10 available players and up against  a squad led by power-hitting stars Jorelle Singh and Grethcel Soltones.     The Transformers came into the match without Lilet Mabbayad and Pau Soriano because of technicalities with their former league while Thai imports Kanjana Kuthaisong and Nattanicha Jaisaen were on bench for the second straight game because of lack of international transfer certificates.  With four scoring options out because of technicalities, Valdez carried the heavy load to save BOC. The open spiker hammered 29 spikes with eight aces and a pair of kill blocks to go with 17 digs for an all-around performance.  Her point output eclipsed the 38 points registered by former Ateneo guest player Sontaya Keawbundit in the V-League Season 7 first conference while shattering the best scoring mark made by a local player of 37 points by former Adamson player Angela Benting back in the Season 6 second conference.       It also broke her previous best of 35 points while playing for Ateneo back in UAAP Season 75 in a five-set, 22-25, 21-25, 25-19, 25-16, 10-15, loss to Adamson on January 20, 2013. With Valdez firing on all cylinders, the Transformers came back from a 1-2 match deficit to force a deciding frame. Valdez continued to pound the defense of the Power Smashers when she anchored BOC’s five-point barrage to shatter a 6-6 deadlock before her teammates Andrea Marzan and Rosemarie Vargas finished off Laoag with their contributions. Even with her incredible performance, Valdez deflected the credit to her teamates.   “I’m really happy hindi lang sa panalo eh. Masaya kami buong team kasi naglaro talaga kami not only for ourselves but also for the imports and our teammates na hindi rin nakalaro,” she said. Less than a year after, Valdez put up 37 points including 34 attacks to lead Creamline past the gritty BaliPure Water Defenders, 25-20, 28-30, 25-19, 31-29, in the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference on July 5, 2017.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 13th, 2020

Whatever happened to Gilas Pilipinas 2.0?

Since program’s inception, Gilas Pilipinas has been the name associated with the Philippine men’s basketball team. It gave the national team the identity it has used for a decade already. Gilas has gone through many iterations, but the current lineup, regardless of who the players are, only go by the general “Gilas” term. But early in the program’s history, each team went by a specific number, unofficially used by pretty much everyone to distinguish the teams that competed in different tournaments. It made sense too, since each team had a completely different identity. In later years, Gilas has improved in using the program as a way to ensure national basketball continuity. Nevertheless, each of the earlier Gilas versions had their success and failures. Here’s what happened to each of them.   Whatever happened to Gilas 2.0? Main tournament: 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships @ Manila, Philippines Prize: 3 tickets to the 2014 FIBA World Cup Result: Silver medal + World Cup berth (beat South Korea in semis, lost to Iran in gold medal game) Head coach: Chot Reyes Gilas 2.0 was the second time Chot Reyes handled the Philippine national team. The first time he did it, Coach Chot’s squad only managed 9th in the 2007 FIBA-Asia Championships in Japan. Six years later in Manila, Reyes is back at it again, and with some players from his 2007 team joining him too. Gilas’ silver-medal finish in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships and ensuing FIBA World Cup appearance in 2014 is Coach Chot’s best run as national team coach. Reyes would return to coach the national team in late 2016 before resigning for good in 2018. The Players: #4 Jimmy Alapag Alapag is back for a second straight stint with Gilas Pilipinas and this is the team where Jimmy carves out his legacy as one of the best national team players ever. In the semifinals against long-time nemesis South Korea, Alapag would hit the biggest shot in program history, pushing the Philippines to its first World Cup appearance in years. [Related: FIBA: Mighty Jimmy and the shot that introduced Gilas to the World] Once in the World Cup, Jimmy would once again hit the big shot to give Gilas its first World Cup win in four decades with an overtime decision against Senegal. Jimmy has since retired twice from basketball. He won the ABL title as head coach for San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas in the 2018 season. #5 LA Tenorio Tenorio already gave a glimpse of what he can do in the national team one-year prior, leading Gilas Pilipinas to the Jones Cup championship while winning MVP honors. In his first Gilas experience, LA started most games at point guard and was the Philippines’ best two-way option at the position. Together with Alapag and Jayson Castro, Tenorio formed perhaps the best point guard rotation in program history. After Gilas 2.0, it would be years for LA to make it back to Gilas, but once he did, he got a 2019 SEA Games gold medal to show for it. Tenorio just won another title with Barangay Ginebra, their fourth since 2016. #6 Jeff Chan Gilas 2.0 was flanked by shooters all over and the best one in Manila was Jeff Chan without a doubt. It’s not like Chan was a complete unknown when he was selected to Gilas, he did win Finals MVP for Rain or Shine in 2012. However, Chan wasn’t exactly tested when it comes to national team play. He got tested, and he passed with flying colors. Chan was the best shooter for Gilas both in total 3-point field goals made and percentage, shooting an insane 47.6 percent from deep. Chan won another title with ROS in 2016, before he was moved to Phoenix and eventually, Ginebra.  #7 Jayson Castro Gilas 2.0 was Jayson Castro’s coming out party for the Philippine national team. Sharing minutes with Jimmy Alapag and LA Tenorio, Castro was the weapon unleashed by Gilas when the going got tough. And as the tournament got deeper, it got more and more evident that The Blur was the national team’s best local. After the tournament, Castro was named in the All-Star team, and his reign as the best point guard in Asia also started his journey as a Gilas legend. While he’s already retired twice from Gilas, we’ll believe Castro is done when he doesn’t actually play. #8 Gary David Even as the PBA’s best scorer at the time, Gary David readily accepted his diminished role with Gilas 2.0. Out of all players, David finished second to last in scoring, beating out only June Mar Fajardo, who played seven games and only saw 31 minutes of total court action. Nevertheless, David was a key piece that made the Gilas 2.0 machine work, his explosive performance in the quarterfinals against Kazakhstan set up the South Korea game quite nicely too. Post-PBA, Gary David is seeing action in the MPBL, even being crowned as the league’s 3-point king in 2019. #9 Ranidel De Ocampo RDO was even better in Gilas 2.0 than he was in the original Gilas. Much like Castro, De Ocampo was a reliable weapon for coach Chot’s national team, his outside shooting ultimately proving crucial for Gilas. Ranidel was behind only Chan in 3-point field goals made and percentage for Gilas, he also hit the forgotten triple that help bury South Korea in the semifinals. RDO is technically still not retired, but injuries have forced him to slow way down in his later years in the PBA as a Meralco Bolt. #10 Gabe Norwood Norwood was one of the players from Coach Chot’s 2007 Philippine team that was present for Gilas 2.0 in Manila. Gabe didn’t do much scoring, but he played the most minutes out of everyone and was easily Gilas Pilipinas’ best defender all tournament long. Norwood’s clutch block on Kim Min-goo helped secure Gilas’ win over South Korea in the semifinals. Gabe is one of the longest-tenured players not just in the Gilas program but in Philippine national team history. In 2019, he made the World Cup for the second straight time. #11 Marcus Douthit Douthit was back for Gilas 2.0 and while his production was lowered compared to the original Gilas, he was still the rock and foundation of the national team. [Related: Whatever happened to Gilas Pilipinas 1.0?] Kuya Marcus’ stint ended early, as his tournament essentially ended before halftime of the semifinals of the game against South Korea due to injury, forcing Gilas to go true All-Filipino the rest of the way. Much like in Gilas 1.0, Douthit led Gilas in scoring and rebounding with 11.9 points and 9.4 rebounds. #12 Larry Fonacier The second designated shooter for the national team in 2013, Larry Fonacier was the classic 3-and-D player for Gilas 2.0. Gilas 2.0 was Fonacier’s only Gilas stint, and winning a silver medal is not a bad result for being one-and-done.  After Gilas 2.0, Larry would continue to play for TNT for a couple more seasons, before moving on to join the NLEX Road Warriors as one of the team’s veterans. #13 June Mar Fajardo June Mar Fajardo was a very raw prospect when Gilas 2.0 won silver in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships. The future six-time PBA MVP only played in seven games and scored a grand total of three points. Nevertheless, Fajardo was a completely different player following his stint with Gilas 2.0. After he came out of his initial stint with the national team, Fajardo proceeded to dominate the PBA for half a decade and counting, and his consistent Gilas stints in the future also slowly helped him be a consistent contributor in international play. For all intents and purposes, Fajardo could still be a key piece with the country co-hosts the 2023 World Cup, 10 years after Gilas 2.0. #14 Japeth Aguilar While still limited, Japeth was an improved version of himself by the time he played for Gilas 2.0.  He was the explosive reliever for the frontline, and was a crucial part of the rotation when Douthit suffered an injury during the South Korea game. Just like Norwood, Japeth has reached the 10-year mark in service of Gilas Pilipinas program and the national team as a whole, and Gilas 2.0 was just one of his many stops. #15 Marc Pingris The heart and soul of Gilas 2.0, Marc Pingris personified the national team’s famous battle cry. Gilas 2.0’s emotional leader, Ping had his teammates dig deep when they faced the greatest adversity of their World Cup bid in the semifinals against South Korea that eventually led to an iconic breakthrough. While his numbers won’t wow anyone, Ping’s leadership and influence in the national team resonates to this day, and it all started in Gilas 2.0.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 9th, 2020

UAAP 82: Blue Eagles ready to prove they can win on their own

Last year, Ateneo was clearly in transition. Which was fair really, it was the first year the Blue Eagles were without Marck Espejo, the program's greatest player ever. This year, Ateneo is in transition no more as the Blue Eagles have moved on from their G.O.A.T. "I think we're just excited to show how much we've grown stronger as a team. Especially since last year, it wasn't as much of a rebuild, but 'yun 'yung year na umalis sila Marck, mga powerhouse players talaga namin," Chu Njigha told ABS-CBN Sports. "I think we moved on na. Kahit sinong team naman mawawalan ng player every year so it's a matter of focusing kung sino yung nandiyan," he added. Despite going through life without Espejo and even head coach Oliver Almadro, the Blue Eagles went to the Final Four last year as a no. 3 seed. Naturally, this current group is raring to prove that they can also win on their own. Making it back to the Finals is top priority for the Ateneo. "Ngayon yung cheer namin before games or during huddles is "for the Finals,'" Njigha said. "Yes, we're gonna be gunning for that championship. But of course,  we're gonna take each game as baby steps," he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 11th, 2020

Kobe Bryant left deep legacy in LA sports, basketball world

By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant inspired a generation of basketball players worldwide with both his sublime skills and his unquenchable competitive fire. He also earned Los Angeles’ eternal adoration during his two decades as the fierce soul of the city’s beloved Lakers. Less than four years into his retirement from the NBA, Bryant was seeking new challenges and working to inspire his daughters’ generation through sports and storytelling when his next act ended shockingly early. Bryant, the 18-time All-Star who won five championships and became one of the greatest basketball players of his generation during a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died in a helicopter crash Sunday. He was 41. The crash occurred in the foggy hills above Calabasas, California, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. A different person familiar with the case confirmed Bryant's 13-year-old daughter Gianna also was killed. Both of the AP's unnamed sources spoke on condition of anonymity because few details of the crash had been released publicly. Authorities said nine people were on the helicopter, and all were presumed dead. No names were released. Bryant lived south of Los Angeles in coastal Orange County for much of his adult life, and he often used helicopters to save time and avoid Southern California's notorious traffic. He often traveled to practices and games by helicopter before his playing career ended in 2016, and he kept up the practice after retirement as he attended to his many new ventures, which included a burgeoning entertainment company that recently produced an Academy Award-winning animated short film. The crash occurred about 20 miles from Mamba Sports Academy, Bryant’s basketball training complex in Thousand Oaks, California. A girls basketball tournament was scheduled for Sunday at the facility. Bryant, who had four daughters with his wife, Vanessa, dedicated himself to boosting women’s sports in recent years, coaching and mentoring basketball players around the world. Gianna, better known as Gigi, had a promising youth career. Bryant sat with her courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game late last year, clearly passing along his wisdom to his daughter. Bryant told Jimmy Kimmel in 2018 that Gianna wanted to play in the WNBA and recalled how fans would often approach him saying “you gotta have a boy, you gotta someone to carry on the tradition, the legacy.” Gianna took exception: “She’s like, 'Oy, I got this,’” Bryant recalled. Bryant retired nearly four years ago as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades in Lakers purple and gold as a prolific shooter with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic that inspired strong reactions from fans and opponents alike. He held that No. 3 spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown. “Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames,” Bryant wrote in his last tweet. “Much respect my brother.” On Saturday night, James said he was "happy just to be in any conversation with Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the all-time greatest basketball player to ever play. One of the all-time greatest Lakers.” News of Bryant’s death inspired an outpouring of grief around the sports world and beyond, but it was felt particularly painfully in Los Angeles, where Bryant was unquestionably the sprawling city's most popular athlete and one of its most beloved public figures. The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Tuesday night against the crosstown rival Clippers, but hundreds of fans — many in Bryant jerseys and Lakers gear — spontaneously gathered at Staples Center and in the surrounding LA Live entertainment complex on Sunday, weeping and staring at video boards with Bryant’s image before the Grammy awards ceremony. “I thought he was going to live forever,” Lakers great Magic Johnson told KCBS-TV. “I thought he was invincible. ... There was nobody who took more pride in putting on that Laker uniform than Kobe. Nobody. He was just special. We will miss him and we’ll remember him for his greatness, but let’s not forget how he impacted the world, too.” The NBA kept its games on as scheduled when the news broke, but the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors both took voluntary 24-second shot clock violations at the start of their game in honor of Bryant, who wore No. 24 for the second half of his career. Several other teams followed up by deliberately taking delays of 24 and 8 seconds, honoring both of his jersey numbers. Many players were seen crying before their games, and James looked emotional on the tarmac when he got off the Lakers’ team plane from Philadelphia. Bryant’s future appeared to be limitless in retirement, whether in sports or entertainment. He opened a production company shortly after leaving the Lakers, saying he was just as passionate about storytelling as he had been about his sport. He won an Oscar in 2018 for his contributions to “Dear Basketball,” an animated short about his relationship to the game. He also produced content for ESPN. In 2003, Bryant was charged with attacking a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He had said the two had consensual sex, and the charge was eventually dropped. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court. Bryant's adulation remained strong in Los Angeles even during the sexual assault allegations. Bryant became one of the game’s most popular players as the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers franchise. He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, but he also earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He later teamed with Pau Gasol to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010. A two-time Olympic gold medalist with the dominant U.S. team, Bryant retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final NBA game. In December 2017, the Lakers hung banners retiring his No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys in the Staples Center rafters in an unprecedented double honor. Bryant looms large over the current generation of NBA players, most of whom grew up either idolizing Bryant or absorbing his work ethic and competitive spirit in the same way Bryant's generation learned from Michael Jordan. After James passed Bryant on Saturday, he remembered listening in awe to Bryant when the superstar came to speak at a childhood basketball camp. “I remember one thing he said: If you want to be great at it, or want to be one of the greats, you’ve got to put the work in,” James said. James later teamed up with Bryant on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team in Beijing. “He had zero flaws offensively,” James said. “Zero. You backed off of him, he could shoot the 3. You body him up a little bit, he could go around you. He could shoot from mid-range. He could post. He could make free throws. ... He was just immortal offensively because of his skill set and his work ethic.” Bryant was a basketball superstar for his entire adult life, and he grew up from a teenager to a respected veteran in the unforgiving Hollywood spotlight. He entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996 after a childhood spent partly in Italy, where his father, former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played professionally. He spoke four languages and played a major role in the NBA's international growth over his two decades in the league, traveling the world and connecting with athletes in other sports and celebrities. The Lakers acquired the 17-year-old Bryant in a trade shortly after Charlotte drafted him, and he immediately became one of the most exciting and intriguing players in the sport alongside O’Neal, who had signed with the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant won the Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie, and the Lakers gradually grew into a team that won three consecutive championships. Bryant and Gasol, the Spanish star, formed the nucleus of another championship team in 2008, reaching three straight NBA Finals and winning two more titles. Between those title runs and before the quiet final years of his career, Bryant accomplished innumerable feats including an 81-point game against Toronto in January 2006. Bryant's final NBA seasons were dogged by injuries, but he still went into retirement with that jaw-dropping 60-point performance against Utah. ___ AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 27th, 2020

SEA Games: Tiwala lang sa isa t isa -- Espejo on miracle win

The Philippine men’s volleyball team stared at Thailand’s huge match point advantage in the fourth set. Thailand, a powerhouse team on a mission to win its fifth straight SEA Games title, needed just one point to finish off the Filipinos on Sunday in their 30th Southeast Asian Games men’s volleyball semifinals. The Thais held a 24-21 lead. Refusing to roll down and die, the Filipinos, 92 ranks lower than Thailand, came back to life to write a historic feat 42 years in the making. The Philippines booked a rare gold medal date with Indonesia in the country’s first men’s volleyball final since losing to Cambodia in the inaugural 1977 edition of the meet in Malaysia after ousting Thailand, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 27-25, 17-15, in front of 6,700 crowd at the rocking PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.  Their feat hinged on one simple word: trust. The host team saved three match points to knot the set before Bryan Bagunas scored to put the PHI up, 25-24.       Amorntep Konhan answered with a hit but Bagunas hammered another kill before the PHI completed the comeback after an attack error by Thailand to force a decider. Marck Espejo, a power server and top hitter, was on the service line during that pivotal stretch when the Nationals kept their necks above water. “Kahit nu’ng fourth set hindi ko alam kung idya-jump serve ko ba o ipo-float,” he recalled. He opted to just make sure his serve will go in. Never mind if Thailand will easily receive his serve, he knew his teammates will get the defensive stop.  “Sabi ko, ‘Hindi i-float ko na lang. Tiwala lang sa isa’t isa,’” said Espejo. “As in kinakabahan ako sa loob ng court nun. Di ko alam.” “Nu’ng natapos ang fourth set nagti-thank you kami kay Lord,” he added. “May breaks talaga siguro sa amin pumanig ang breaks talaga. Wala talagang imposible kung gusto mo lahat pwedeng mangyari.” The Nationals’ character was tested in the fourth set. The fifth turned out to be one for the ages. Kim Malabunga broke a 12-12 tie in the fifth frame with a huge kill block to put the Nationals up. Konhan tied it at 13 after Thailand called time. Kittinon Namkhunthod put Thailand at match point but Konhan sent his serve out. Konhan scored on an off the block hit but Malabunga tied it again at 15. Then the stars aligned in favor of the Filipinos. Bagunas got a kill block in after an unsuccessful challenge by Thailand before sealing the win with a thunderous hammer to an open spot at the back.    “Para sa akin naman kasama namin si Lord nu’ng naglalaro kasi umaga pa lang sumadya kami sa church para sa game na to kasi sobrang mahalaga tong game na to sa amin,” said Bagunas, who rained down 27 points to lead the Nationals. “Sobrang nakakaproud kasi ilang years na sila nagcha-champion tapos tinalo namin sila,” added Bagunas, who is in his second SEA Games stint. “Doon lumabas yung skills ng bawat isa. Talagang sobrang saya hindi namin ma-explain yung saya namin.” The mission is not yet over for the Filipinos as they are still facing the only team to hand them a loss in the competition. But they are undaunted. They know the battle will be a hard one but they have each other's back. Each trusting each other as brothers marching to the biggest fight of their lives.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 8th, 2019

Pinoy hitters score better result in second tune-up game

The Philippine national men’s volleyball team showed great stride overnight. Coming off a loss in their first tune-up game the night before, the Nationals put up a better performance Friday after drawing a 24-26, 25-21, 25-21, 17-25, result against Tsukuba United in Japan.     Head coach Dante Alinsunurin praised his wards for doing the necessary adjustments and addressing the problems they had in their straight sets loss to Saitama Azalea Thursday night. “’Yung sistema talaga kasi kanina bago kami maglaro nag-viewing kami, pinakita namin sa kanila kung ano yung ginalaw nila kahapon,” said Alinsunurin, whose squad is in Japan for a 16-day training camp for the 30th Southeast Asian Games next month made possible by the Larong Volleyball sa Pilipinas, Inc. and the Philippine Sports Commission.  “Pagdating ngayon na-address naman ‘yung gusto naming mangyari kasi kahit papaano naging maganda yung communication nila,” he added. The Filipinos were able regroup after yielding the extended first set with Marck Espejo, Ranran Abdilla, Francis Saura, Kim Malabunga and skipper John Vic De Guzman at the lead to take the next two frames. Alinsunurin fielded his second unit Joshua Umandal, Rex Intal, setter Joshua Retamar and Jack Kalingking in the fourth, which the Japanese Division 2 club took. “Sa fourth set kasi kailangan ko talaga makita yung players ko kung ano pa yung adjustment na pwede pa mangyari kasi kailangan ko rin itaya yung second six ko,” the mentor said. “Sana nag-fifth set para masubukan kaya lang nakataya na ko, nag-request sila na apat na set lang.” The Nationals are set to take on the Fujitsu Red Spirits on Saturday in the third of nine tune-up matches scheduled for the squad in its training camp.  .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 8th, 2019

Espejo shines as HD Spikers take championship series opener

Marck Espejo flaunted his all-around brilliance once more as Cignal outlasted defending champion Go forGold-Air Force, 25-18, 22-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-11, to take Game 1 of the Spikers’ Turf Reinforced Conference Finals on Sunday at the Paco Arena. The HD Spikers came back from a 1-2 match deficit and banked on Espejo to deliver the goods in the best-of-three series opener. Espejo unloaded 33 points scattered off 29 hits, three blocks, and an ace laced with 19 excellent receptions and 10 digs for a well-rounded game. “Sabi ko sa kanila, kung gusto nating manalo talagang mag all-out tayo ilabas talaga natin kung anong tayo,” said Cignal head coach Dexter Clamor, whose squad is looking to sweep the season after winning the Reinforced Conference crown a few months back. Cignal will look to close things out on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Sta. Elena-NU defeated University of Perpetual Help, 25-13, 22-25, 25-20, 25-22, in Game 1 of the best-of-three battle for bronze. Capitalizing on the Jet Spikers’ early attack errors, the HD Spikers zoomed in on a 4-1 advantage in the fifth set. Rex Intal and Edmar Bonono then stretched the lead to four points entering the first technical timeout, 8-4. Kim Malabunga fired one off the hands of Bonono which was then followed by an attack error from Espejo, trimming Cignal’s lead to just two. However, that’s the closest that the Jet Spikers could reach as Espejo spoiled every comeback attempt that they mounted. Alfred Valbuena put the HD Spikers at match-point while an attack error from Ran Abdilla spelled doom for the reigning champs. Cignal team captain Ysay Marasigan chimed in 18 points on 15 hits, two blocks, and an ace along with 13 excellent digs to help extend the HD Spikers’ unbeaten streak to nine games. Bonono and Intal had eight markers each while Anjo Pertierra had seven markers for Cignal, which got 33 excellent sets from Vince Mangulabnan. Abdilla finished with 18 points and 21 excellent receptions while Fauzi Ismail added 16 markers for the Jet Spikers. Jessie Lopez dished out 32 excellent sets along with 11 digs in a lost cause......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 20th, 2019