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Harden after loss to LA: Situation can& rsquo;t be fixed

Los Angeles---Houston star James Harden’s frustration with the Rockets boiled over Tuesday after the team’s second blowout loss to the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in three days......»»

Category: sportsSource: thestandard thestandardJan 13th, 2021

Turner helps Indiana hold off Harden rally to beat Rockets

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Myles Turner had 18 points, reserve Edmond Sumner added a season-high 17 and Indiana held off a late rally by Houston and James Harden to break a five-game losing streak to the Rockets, 108-104 on Wednesday (Thursday in the Philippines). It looked as if the Pacers had locked up the win when they went up 104-90 with 5:05 remaining. That’s when Harden got Houston going, cutting it to 106-104 on with a driving basket with 27 seconds to go. Harden had 11 of Houston’s 14 points during the surge. But after Victor Olidipo missed a 3-pointer, Turner tipped out the rebound to Justin Holliday with six seconds left. Holiday hit two foul shots to finish off Indiana’s first victory over Houston since February 2017. Harden could not get off a final 3-pointer before the buzzer sounded. The Rockets have lost two straight for the first time since the NBA restarted the season. Harden had 45 points and tied his career high with 17 rebounds. He came an assist shy of his fifth triple-double this season. It was Harden’s 21st game this season with 40 points or more. Holiday also has 18 points for the Pacers. Olidipo and Doug McDermont had 16 points apiece. Turner led the Pacers with 12 rebounds. Jeff Green had 14 points for Houston. The Rockets struggled from the outside, going just 16 of 57 on 3-pointers. Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) and Anthony Davis (3) celebrate after defeating the Denver Nuggets 124-121 during an NBA basketball game Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool) TIP-INS Pacers: Coach Nate McMillan was rewarded with a one-year extension to his contract that was set to expire after next season. ... Malcolm Brogdon, who had 12 points in Monday’s loss to Miami, sat out against Houston with a sore neck. Rockets: Russell Westbrook was diagnosed with a strained quadriceps muscle in his right leg and will miss Friday’s regular-season finale. He did not play against Indiana. Westbrook will be reevaluated before the playoffs. ... Houston had not lost consecutive games since dropping four straight in March before the pandemic shut down the NBA. UP NEXT Pacers: Play Miami on Friday (Saturday in the Philippines). Rockets: Play Philadelphia on Friday (Saturday in the Philippines)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 13th, 2020

FIBA: Mighty Jimmy and the shot that introduced Gilas to the World

This story was originally published on Feb. 24, 2019 It’s Saturday night at Mall of Asia and the arena is absolutely rocking. Eternal basketball rivals in the Philippines and South Korea are delivering another classic. Gilas Pilipinas is down to the final minute of regulation against its longtime tormentor in the second of two semifinal games. The national team is up by two, 81-79. The Philippines is hosting the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships where three tickets to the 2014 World Cup are at stake and the winner of this particular game gets one of those tickets. Given the rich history of both teams and what it would mean to the winner, this pivotal game has gone down the wire as everyone pretty much expected. Also knowing the history of both teams in international play, Gilas’ precarious two-point lead was not safe at all. A ghost was lurking in the background and a dreaded curse felt almost inevitable. Down to the final minute of the crucial grudge match between the Philippines and South Korea, guard Jimmy Alapag has the ball and a two-point lead. What he will do will help define not only his career but the legacy of the Gilas name as a national team.   WAKE-UP CALL Even before the Philippines-Korea game, Gilas Pilipinas already had to go through one emotional game early in its homestand for the Asian Championships. In a preliminary round showdown against Chinese Taipei, the Filipinos collapsed in the fourth quarter, allowing the Taiwanese to steal a morale-boosting 84-79 win. In 2013, the relationship between the two countries hit a rough patch over the death of one Taiwanese fisherman. In an updated May 17 report by CNN’s Jethro Mullen, “Taiwan has reacted angrily after one of its fishermen was killed by a Philippine coast guard vessel.” Taiwan had frozen applications from OFWs seeking jobs in its territory and the government of then President Ma Ying-jeou demanded an apology, among other things, from the Philippines. While the national basketball teams of both countries never really had any prior animosity with each other, tension was naturally present as both teams squared off in Group A action. Gilas Pilipinas and Chinese-Taipei both entered the showdown with identical 2-0 records and the winner would take control of solo Group A lead heading into round 2. Taking a good lead into the fourth quarter, the Philippines was outscored by 18 in the last 10 minutes and the national team took its worst home loss in quite some time. “At the time, it was a huge game for us. We understood what was happening in Taipei during that particular time. We really wanted to win for what our kababayans were going through at that time,” guard Jimmy Alapag said on that first home loss in the 2013 Asian Championships. “We didn’t get the job done, and it was tough especially to lose a game like that, it was a very emotional and it was a game that we knew we needed,” he added. The crushing loss meant that the Philippines had little room for error in round 2. While Gilas didn’t have any world beaters lined up in the second round, anything less than a perfect run would have meant an early clash with Asia’s established powerhouse teams in the knockout stages. On the other side of the bracket, defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea were battling for position and were expected to finish in the top-3. That means if Gilas Pilipinas failed to finish no. 1 in its group, the national team would have faced one of those teams in the quarterfinals. Gilas picked up a crucial win over Qatar in the 6th of August and the day after, the Philippines got some help from those same Qataris as they beat Taipei in a close decision. At the end of round 2, all teams finished with identical win-loss records but Gilas Pilipinas would take over first place after all tiebreaks were considered, barely edging out Taipei. The Philippines ended up avoiding defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea and instead got Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Taipei drew China and the third-running Qataris were matched up with the South Koreans. “I think that was the moment we grew up and grew closer. I think that was the lowest of the lows, just because of the atmosphere and what was going on between both countries. It kind of felt that we let our end of the bargain down, you know what I mean? We’re on our home soil and we didn’t take care of business. I think that was one of those moments where we had to really check ourselves and find a way to make it right,” forward Gabe Norwood said of the Taipei loss. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In tournaments like FIBA-Asia it’s important that you have short-term memory whether it was a win or a loss. We needed to let go of that game and continue to stay the course, keep our focus in the tournament,” Alapag added. On August 7, four days after Gilas lost to Taipei, the rift between the Philippines and Taiwan would reach a resolution and the latter country lifted its freeze hiring and other sanctions on the former. The Philippines also did issue on official apology over the death of the Taiwanese fisherman a couple of months prior and the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila recommended the pressing of homicide charges to erring members of the Philippine Coast Guard.   DARK HISTORY If the word “rival” is to be defined as a, “person or group that tries to defeat or be more successful than another person or group” then sure, the Philippines and South Korea are rivals. Both countries are rivals in the Asian basketball scene and they have been going at it for a very long time. But if the word rival can also mean “equal” or “peer,” is the Philippines really a worthy basketball rival to South Korea? The Philippines’ history with South Korea in terms of basketball is dark. Very dark. Consider the most high-profile matches between the two countries and you’ll see that the Philippine national team is just not at the level of South Korea. Or at the very least, Koreans always seem to reach 120 percent of their potential when they play Filipinos and we barely bring out 80 percent of our abilities when matched up against our East Asian neighbors. The 1998 PBA Centennial team, arguably the greatest Philippine team ever assembled, was demolished by South Korea in the Asian Games. A national team set up for gold only settled for bronze. Speaking of a bronze medal game, the original Gilas Pilipinas team lost a podium finish to South Korea in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championships. That team squandered a double-digit lead and collapsed late. Of course, who can forget the semifinals of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan when Olsen Racela had the chance to put the Philippines up four but missed two free throws. South Korea would win with a booming triple at the buzzer off a broken play and would later take down China to capture the gold medal. South Korea is the Philippines’ basketball nemesis for all intents and purposes. A worthy adversary that always seem to emerge victorious at our expense. Still, all that previous disappointment didn’t seem to bother Gilas Pilipinas six years ago. The team was not scared and instead, they were excited even. One factor to greatly consider was that fact that the game was in Manila. It makes all the difference to play at home. “We understood the bad history that we had with Korea. We haven’t been very successful with them in quite some time but we knew from Day 1 that if ever we got an opportunity to play them at home, then we have a great chance,” Alapag said. “Man, pre-game, it was just the focus. Everybody was up for the challenge, I don’t think anybody was really nervous, I think it was just the anxiety... we wanted to get out there and do it already,” Norwood added. Playing at home had its perks for sure, but it also had its drawbacks. For all the painful losses the Philippines suffered at the hands of South Korea, it would have been devastating if Gilas actually took a beating in Manila. Stakes were extra high in this particular chapter of this long, ongoing saga. “There was always pressure, it was something that we acknowledged early. Playing at home, it’s great having that support but at the same time, there is some added pressure because you wanna make sure that you make our home crowd proud of the team that they watch and ultimately, win games,” Alapag said, making sure to note that the national team knew of the disadvantages of playing at home even before the Korea game. “It was there but it was something that we acknowledged and we wanted to make sure that we took advantage of the opportunity playing at home,” he added.   ALL FILIPINO, ALL HEART Once it was go time, the Philippines-South Korea game went about pretty normal, as you would expect any game from these two national teams. But even before halftime, an injury to Gilas center Marcus Douthit changed the complexion of the semifinals showdown. All of a sudden, the Philippines was without its anchor, without its best player. Sure, there were players on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace Douthit’s size but there was simply no one on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace his talent, production, and just overall presence. June Mar Fajardo was in that Gilas bench but it 2013, the would-be five-time PBA Most Valuable Player was just not at that level yet. It would have been easy for Gilas Pilipinas to fold like cheap furniture and succumb to the overwhelming pressure of trying to overcome South Korea to reach a stage very few Filipinos have reached before. Gilas didn’t fold and instead, the Douthit injury rallied the team even further. “Alam mo sa totoo lang, puso na lang yun eh. Nung nawala si Marcus talaga, sabi ni coach kailangan doble kayod tayo. Dahil sobrang dehado tayo kumbaga, wala na tayong import, wala tayong malaki,” forward Marc Pingris said. With Douthit gone, Ping ate up all of his minutes and worked by committee with guys like Ranidel De Ocampo and Japeth Aguilar to fill in the gaps. “As a player naman, kami nagusap-usap kami na kahit anong mangyari, lalaban kami. Yung time na yun, talagang patay kung patay,” Ping added. Despite losing its best player to an untimely injury, Gilas Pilipinas’ confidence in winning never wavered. With their collective backs against the wall, the Philippine national team played even better. Unlike the later iterations of Gilas Pilipinas, the 2013 team, aptly called Gilas 2.0, had the luxury of having actual preparation before the FIBA-Asia Championships. The amount of work that came before the tournament and the Korea game, the bond built over countless hours of training, all of that helped the national team avoid a monumental meltdown in front of a rabid Manila crowd. “We were such a close-knit team in terms of our chemistry, in terms of the talent that we had, so we felt confident even when Marcus went down early in the game. If you looked at our huddle, you had 11 more very confident guys, not just in themselves but more importantly, in each other,” Alapag said. “That just boiled down to the chemistry that we had. I don’t think any of us panicked, we were all confident in each other. We’ve all been into that situation with our PBA teams, having the ball in our hands and making a play. Knowing that we had five weapons on the floor that could make the winning play, I think it made us very confident and we were able to sustain our composure,” the former Gilas captain added.   THE GHOST AND ITS CURSE Shin Dong Pa, Hur Jae, Lee Sang-min, Oh Se-Keun, TJ Moon, and Cho Sung-min are just some players from the South Korean national team that inflicted incredible damage to the Philippines over the course of decades. The dreaded Ghost of South Korea takes form in these players and its curse is to give Filipinos the most heart-crushing loss possible. In 2013, the Ghost was Kim Min-goo and his curse was to beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Despite losing Marcus Douthit and trailing by three points at the break, the Philippines started to turn the tables in the second half. Gilas Pilipinas unleashed Jayson Castro and the Blur led a blazing offense in the third quarter, finding a way to take a 10-point lead over South Korea, the Philippines’ largest of the night. But as the dust settled and Gilas holding a 65-56 lead entering the final period, an ominous figure would make his presence felt. The Korean Ghost has arrived and his name was Kim Min-goo. His curse? Beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Kim was 22 and a senior in college when he made the South Korean national basketball team as a backup shooter in 2013. In nine games in Manila, Kim would play well enough to make the tournament’s All-Star team, averaging 12.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He led Asian Championships with 25 three-point field goals, 10 came in the last two games and five came against Gilas Pilipinas. Kim drilled back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter against the Philippines. Later, his fifth triple — a four-point play at that — pushed the Koreans to within a point, 72-73. South Korea would take over soon after as Lee Seung-jun dunked the basketball on a fastbreak. The Ghost has arrived and his curse is in effect. “Ako pumasok sa isip ko yun nung lumamang Korea, na putek ito na naman,” Pingris said. “Pero ang sabi ko, sayang yung opportunity, kaya naman eh. So sabi ni Jimmy samin, no matter what happens wag kami gi-give up. Pinaghirapan natin to at may goal tayo, this year aalis tayo,” he added, noting the team’s goal to get into Spain and compete with the world’s best national teams. Faced with the possibility of dealing with a devastating defeat, Gilas had enough mental fortitude to keep things going. Trust your system, trust your preparation, trust your crowd, trust your teammates, and more importantly, trust yourselves. “You’re never out of the game if you’re playing at home,” Norwood said as they stared a deficit late against their destined rivals. “I think that was our mindset, keep it close and just find a way,” he added. Jimmy Alapag found a way.   BORN READY Down 73-75, Jimmy Alapag was under heavy duress when he let go of a three-pointer from the left wing just in front of his bench. It was good to go. The Philippines was back on top by one as Alapag somehow managed to get his team to snap out of an initial shock following Korea’s strong fourth-quarter rally. The stage is now set for a wild finish and Jimmy will star in the final act of what has been an incredible show by Gilas and South Korea. “In situations like that, as an athlete and as a pro, that’s the situations that you dream about,” Alapag said.  “Those are shots that you practice when you were a kid. When the shot clock is winding down, to have an opportunity to knock down a shot. It’s a shot that I practiced thousands of times,” he added. After the Philippines and South Korea traded baskets for the lead, Alapag made perhaps the most underrated play in this crazy and emotional encounter between two basketball rivals. Tasked with inbounding the ball just near underneath his own basket, Alapag found his Talk ‘N Text teammate Ranidel De Ocampo for an open look at three. Swish. Gilas leads, 81-77, with 91 seconds to go. “Ranidel was my favorite target for a very, very long time in my career,” Alapag said on the play that most people probably don’t even remember. “Once I saw that he got open, I wanted to make sure that I gave him as great a pass as possible and Ranidel has been known for a long time to take care of the rest,” he added.   THE EXORCIST “Yeah, I was right under the basket,” Gabe Norwood says with a laugh when asked if he remembers the shot that changed the course of Gilas Pilipinas as a national team. Late in the fourth quarter of what was essentially a heavyweight bout, the Philippines just landed two strong haymakers but South Korea would refuse to go down without a fight, beating the count of 10 each time. Down to the final minute of a crucial grudge match with a World Cup berth on the line, Jimmy Alapag had his hands on the basketball as Gilas would go to its halfcourt set. Jimmy will never let go of said basketball. Up two, Jimmy did what Olsen wished he could 11 years prior. Up two against South Korea in a pivotal semifinal game, Alapag received a screen from Marc Pingris, which was enough to momentarily shake off Kim Tae-sul. With some room, Alapag drifted to his left and let a three-point shot fly. Boom. Gilas leads, 84-79, with 54 seconds to go. The shot would later be remembered as the one that ended the Korean Curse, the one that finally exorcised the Ghost. “The first thought that came to my mind was don’t miss,” Jimmy said of the clutch jumper. “That last one, Ping sets a good screen and I got a clean look. It’s a shot that myself, and Jayson [Castro], and Larry [Fonacier], and Gary [David], and Jeff [Chan], all of us, we practice that shot time and time again after practice. So you know, it was a shot that I was confident in but in that moment, all you’re thinking about was don’t miss,” he added. It’s one thing to be confident in yourself and to be confidednt in your preparation. It’s a different thing to actually perform under such pressure. As soon as Alapag managed to shoot his shot, Gabe Norwood did what any other good teammate would do and got in position to get the offensive rebound. You know, just in case. Gabe got the ball alright, but he got it after it swished through the rim. “When he put the shot up, I tried to crash for the rebound but I basically knew that it was going in,” he said. “I had probably the best view, I was right under the basket. I think caught it after it went through too,” Norwood added. Alapag checked out moments later as the Philippines went to its defensive lineup in order to stop another Korean comeback. South Korea turned to its most effective shooter in Kim and as he rose up to try and answer Alapag’s triple, Norwood met him at the apex for the game’s most dramatic stop. Gabe blocked Kim and Gilas would finish things off with a final Marc Pingris basket on the other end. A historic 86-79 win was complete. “I still get chills thinking about it, to look up and see grown men just breaking down. My wife was trying to hold my kids and she was holding back tears. It was just an awesome moment, the bond that we had on that team, the stuff that we did to get prepare, I think we poured it all out in that game,” Norwood said on the monumental victory. “I think it probably didn’t hit me until the final buzzer sounded. Not just for me but for the entire team, when that final buzzer sounded, it was such a special group of guys and the fact that we could share that moment with not just with each other but the entire country, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Alapag added, savoring the moment of a Philippine win over Korea 28 years in the making.   THE INTRODUCTION Gilas Pilipinas would lose to Iran the next day in the Finals of the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships. The Philippines put up a fight but Hamed Haddadi would prove to be too powerful to stop. It would take another two years for Gilas to beat Iran but that didn’t really matter in the moment. The Philippines is headed to the World Championships for the first time in three decades. The Philippines has beaten South Korea and one singular shot has allowed the Gilas name to be known around the world. Jimmy wouldn’t say that though. At least not directly in that way. “For me, that shot was the biggest for my career. But really, it was our entire team. We’ve gone through so much and that was just one particular play that really culminated the entire game and all the contributions from other guys from Gabe’s defense, to Ping’s rebounding, to Japeth’s rim protecting, to Jayson and LA doing a lot of the legwork,” Alapag said. “Everybody had their part in contribution to the game. After the shot, after the buzzer sounded, it was just a very special moment for us as a team and for Philippine basketball to show that all of the sacrifices, all of the hard work, now it’s given an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the world,” he added. Jimmy wouldn’t say it, but his teammates would. That shot of his that beat South Korea in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships introduced the Gilas name to the world. It announced that the Philippines has finally arrived. Gilas’ breakthrough overtime win a year later in Spain against Senegal — a game Jimmy pretty much decided late as well — made it known that Filipinos are here to stay on the World stage. “I would say so, it got us to where we wanted to be in the World Cup. I think we shocked some people there as well. But just the work that went in, I think it showed the country that we can get back to where we want to be as long as you work together,” Norwood said. “Yung puso ni Jimmy, grabe naman. Makikita mo maliit pero gusto lang niya talaga manalo. Ang liit pero parang lion pag nagalit eh, nandoon yung tiwala namin sa kanya. Ano pa ba masasabi mo, Jimmy is Jimmy Alapag,” Pingris would add.   [NOTES: At the time of original publishing, Gilas Pilipinas was fighting to make a return trip to the FIBA World Cup, this time in China in 2019. To secure its slot, the the Philippine national team needed to beat Kazakhstan in Astana plus a loss from Japan, Jordan, and/or Lebanon. One of the teams that can help Gilas is South Korea... ironically. Jimmy Alapag retired from national team play in 2014 and retired playing for good in 2016. He has since made himself a champion basketball coach in the ABL. Marc Pingris suffered an ACL injury in 2018 and is in the process of returning for his PBA team in the current 2019 season. Gabe Norwood is still in Gilas. He’s still an effective two-way weapon. He can still dunk and will stop your best player too.]   [Updated Notes: The Philippines beat Kazakhstan to make the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Gilas got help from... South Korea. The Koreans beat Lebanon on the road, allowing Gilas to advance to the World Championships outright with a victory over Kazakhstan.]   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 10th, 2020

Westbrook scores 31 as Rockets get 120-116 win over Bucks

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Russell Westbrook scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets used strong defense down the stretch for a 120-116 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night. It was the 36th straight game with at least 20 points for Westbrook, who led Houston’s offense on a night James Harden scored 24. Houston tied an NBA record for most 3-point attempts in a regulation game with 61, making 21 of them, and forced 22 turnovers. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 36 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists for Milwaukee. He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to have 15 games with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a season in the last 50 years. Khris Middleton scored 27 points and Brook Lopez added 23 as the Bucks missed a chance to clinch the best record in the Eastern Conference. SPURS 108, GRIZZLIES 106 DeMar DeRozan made two free throws with a second to play, giving San Antonio a victory over Memphis that moved the Spurs into ninth place in the Western Conference. The Spurs built an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter, then needed a bunch of big plays down the stretch from DeRozan after the Grizzlies rallied. The final one came when he brought the ball down court after Jaren Jackson Jr. tied it for Memphis with a corner 3-pointer with 10.6 seconds to play. DeRozan pump-faked Dillon Brooks into the air and drew the foul, then knocked down the foul shots. Jackson missed a long 3 on the final possession. The Spurs are trying to qualify for the postseason for what would be an NBA-record 23rd consecutive season. They arrived at Walt Disney World in 12th place in the West, but after victories over Sacramento and Memphis are just two games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies. Dejounte Murray had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs. Derrick White added 16 points and DeRozan had 14. Morant finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Jackson scored 21 points. CELTICS 128, TRAIL BLAZERS 124 Jayson Tatum scored 34 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and Bostons built a big early lead before holding off Portland. Tatum, who added a career-high eight assists, rebounded from a terrible performance in a loss to Milwaukee on Friday when he scored just five points on 2-of-18 shooting. Damian Lillard had 30 points and 16 assists for Portland. Jusuf Nurkic added 30 points in his second official game back after breaking his leg in March 2019. SUNS 117, MAVERICKS 115 Devin Booker scored 30 points and Phoenix erased a double-digit deficit while the All-Star guard was on the bench with foul trouble, rallying to beat Dallas. The Suns have won both games in the restart after coming in with the worst record in the Western Conference. They’re still long shots for the playoffs, while the Mavericks clinched their first postseason berth since 2016 by virtue of Memphis’ loss to San Antonio earlier in the day. Luka Doncic had 40 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the Mavericks. whose hopes of moving up from the seventh seed are fading with an 0-2 start in the eight-game seeding round. MAGIC 132, KINGS 116 Nikola Vucevic had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Aaron Gordon scored 19 of his 22 points in the first half and Orlando continued its strong restart with a victory over Sacramento. Terrence Ross added 25 points to help the Magic win a season-best fifth straight game going back to before the pandemic-forced shutdown in March.Orlando won the last three before the hiatus and beat Brooklyn, the team it is battling for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, to open the restart. De’Aaron Fox scored 13 points after a career-high 39 in the restart opener for the Kings, who have lost both games in the bubble as they try to get in position for a shot at the final playoff spot in the West. Harry Giles III led Sacramento with a career-high 23 points. NETS 118, WIZARDS 110 Caris LeVert scored 14 of his 34 points in the final seven minutes to help Brooklyn beat Washington. Joe Harris scored a season-high 27 points and Jarret Allen added 22 points and 15 rebounds for the Nets. They rebounded from a loss to Orlando in their first seeding game to move seven games ahead of ninth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference standings. Thomas Bryant had a career-high 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Troy Brown Jr. added 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Wizards......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 3rd, 2020

GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Blazers’ breakthrough NCAA title

John Vic De Guzman vowed to return for his fifth and last year in the NCAA after College of St. Benilde was shown the exit door following a stinging five-set defeat at the hands of University of Perpetual Help in the Final Four of Season 91. He promised glory. The Blazers were reduced to mere spectators that year as they watched their women’s team write history by claiming its first volleyball title in four games against a thrice-to-beat opponent. De Guzman and the rest of the Blazers promised that in Season 92, they will be the ones celebrating the championship on the court. However, the promise of a good season turned sour early when CSB opened the tournament with a bitter straight-sets defeat to the same squad that booted them out of the semis in 2016. But it didn’t dampen the Blazers' goal of bringing honor to the Taft-based squad. The squad used that defeat as fuel to their burning desire for glory. CSB banked on De Guzman, Isaah Arda, Ron Jordan and Francis Basilan with Mark Deximo orchestrated the flow of their offense as the Blazers crushed their next eight opponents in the elimination round. Closing the elims with an 8-1 win-loss record, CSB was on another collision course with the then defending champion Altas in a playoff for the Final Four top seed. The Blazers got their payback as they whipped Perpetual into submission in three sets. With momentum on its side, CSB sliced through Arellano University in straight sets to earn a seat into the best-of-three Finals and the right to challenge Perpetual for the throne. For the Blazers facing their semis tormentors the year before opened old wounds. Wounds that can only be healed by vengeance. Game 1 was all CSB. De Guzman had his way around the defense of the Altas, scoring 19 points including a 16-of-28 spiking clip, while Basilan took care of business at the net as he shut down Perpetual's spikers with four of CSB’s nine kill blocks. On that same day, the Blazers witnessed their women’s team lose its title in the stepladder semifinals. It only pushed CSB’s determination to capture the championship. In Game 2, the Blazers encountered a different Altas squad. With its back against the wall, Perpetual gave CSB a scare when it took the second and third sets after yielding the first frame. The Altas made the Blazers know that they’re not giving up their reign that easy. CSB recovered in the fourth frame and forged a deciding set. The Blazers saw themselves in a difficult situation when they trailed by five, 7-12. “Walang imposible sanay tayong pina-practice ‘to,” De Guzman reminded his team. “’Apply lang natin ‘yan. Magtiwala lang tayo sa isa’t isa. Sanay tayo sa ganito. Nagsakripisyo tayo sa ganito. Nagpakapagod tayo para rito. Kukunin natin ‘to.” The team captain’s words breathed new life to his team, which mounted a counter offensive to tie the frame at 13. De Guzman saved a match point as the two squads went neck-and-neck in the mad dash to the finish. CSB saved another match point for its final run and capped it off with Arda’s off the block hit as the Blazers finally ended their long wait to raise the championship trophy. “Talagang pinaghirapan namin ito. Personally, ito ang frustration ko simula nung college pa na di namin nakuha,” said CSB coach Arnold Laniog, whose squad finished runner-up to Emilio Aguinaldo College in Season 90.              De Guzman, in his last duty for the green and white, posted 28 points including 26 kills.       Looking back, their journey to the throne started that fateful day when they walked out of the arena with their heads bowed and hearts shattered the year before.     “Naging stepping stone namin ‘yun, nung natalo kami noon,” he shared. “Mas nag-prepare kami (after noon). Emotionally tinanggap namin siya. Ginawa namin siyang motivation.”     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2020

FIBA: Mighty Jimmy and the shot that introduced Gilas to the World

This story was originally published on Feb. 24, 2019 It’s Saturday night at Mall of Asia and the arena is absolutely rocking. Eternal basketball rivals in the Philippines and South Korea are delivering another classic. Gilas Pilipinas is down to the final minute of regulation against its longtime tormentor in the second of two semifinal games. The national team is up by two, 81-79. The Philippines is hosting the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships where three tickets to the 2014 World Cup are at stake and the winner of this particular game gets one of those tickets. Given the rich history of both teams and what it would mean to the winner, this pivotal game has gone down the wire as everyone pretty much expected. Also knowing the history of both teams in international play, Gilas’ precarious two-point lead was not safe at all. A ghost was lurking in the background and a dreaded curse felt almost inevitable. Down to the final minute of the crucial grudge match between the Philippines and South Korea, guard Jimmy Alapag has the ball and a two-point lead. What he will do will help define not only his career but the legacy of the Gilas name as a national team.   WAKE-UP CALL Even before the Philippines-Korea game, Gilas Pilipinas already had to go through one emotional game early in its homestand for the Asian Championships. In a preliminary round showdown against Chinese Taipei, the Filipinos collapsed in the fourth quarter, allowing the Taiwanese to steal a morale-boosting 84-79 win. In 2013, the relationship between the two countries hit a rough patch over the death of one Taiwanese fisherman. In an updated May 17 report by CNN’s Jethro Mullen, “Taiwan has reacted angrily after one of its fishermen was killed by a Philippine coast guard vessel.” Taiwan had frozen applications from OFWs seeking jobs in its territory and the government of then President Ma Ying-jeou demanded an apology, among other things, from the Philippines. While the national basketball teams of both countries never really had any prior animosity with each other, tension was naturally present as both teams squared off in Group A action. Gilas Pilipinas and Chinese-Taipei both entered the showdown with identical 2-0 records and the winner would take control of solo Group A lead heading into round 2. Taking a good lead into the fourth quarter, the Philippines was outscored by 18 in the last 10 minutes and the national team took its worst home loss in quite some time. “At the time, it was a huge game for us. We understood what was happening in Taipei during that particular time. We really wanted to win for what our kababayans were going through at that time,” guard Jimmy Alapag said on that first home loss in the 2013 Asian Championships. “We didn’t get the job done, and it was tough especially to lose a game like that, it was a very emotional and it was a game that we knew we needed,” he added. The crushing loss meant that the Philippines had little room for error in round 2. While Gilas didn’t have any world beaters lined up in the second round, anything less than a perfect run would have meant an early clash with Asia’s established powerhouse teams in the knockout stages. On the other side of the bracket, defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea were battling for position and were expected to finish in the top-3. That means if Gilas Pilipinas failed to finish no. 1 in its group, the national team would have faced one of those teams in the quarterfinals. Gilas picked up a crucial win over Qatar in the 6th of August and the day after, the Philippines got some help from those same Qataris as they beat Taipei in a close decision. At the end of round 2, all teams finished with identical win-loss records but Gilas Pilipinas would take over first place after all tiebreaks were considered, barely edging out Taipei. The Philippines ended up avoiding defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea and instead got Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Taipei drew China and the third-running Qataris were matched up with the South Koreans. “I think that was the moment we grew up and grew closer. I think that was the lowest of the lows, just because of the atmosphere and what was going on between both countries. It kind of felt that we let our end of the bargain down, you know what I mean? We’re on our home soil and we didn’t take care of business. I think that was one of those moments where we had to really check ourselves and find a way to make it right,” forward Gabe Norwood said of the Taipei loss. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In tournaments like FIBA-Asia it’s important that you have short-term memory whether it was a win or a loss. We needed to let go of that game and continue to stay the course, keep our focus in the tournament,” Alapag added. On August 7, four days after Gilas lost to Taipei, the rift between the Philippines and Taiwan would reach a resolution and the latter country lifted its freeze hiring and other sanctions on the former. The Philippines also did issue on official apology over the death of the Taiwanese fisherman a couple of months prior and the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila recommended the pressing of homicide charges to erring members of the Philippine Coast Guard.   DARK HISTORY If the word “rival” is to be defined as a, “person or group that tries to defeat or be more successful than another person or group” then sure, the Philippines and South Korea are rivals. Both countries are rivals in the Asian basketball scene and they have been going at it for a very long time. But if the word rival can also mean “equal” or “peer,” is the Philippines really a worthy basketball rival to South Korea? The Philippines’ history with South Korea in terms of basketball is dark. Very dark. Consider the most high-profile matches between the two countries and you’ll see that the Philippine national team is just not at the level of South Korea. Or at the very least, Koreans always seem to reach 120 percent when the play Filipinos and we barely bring out 80 percent of our abilities when matched up against our East Asian neighbors. The 1998 PBA Centennial team, arguably the greatest Philippine team ever assembled, was demolished by South Korea in the Asian Games. A national team set up for gold only settled for bronze. Speaking of a bronze medal game, the original Gilas Pilipinas team lost to South Korea in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championships. That team squandered a double-digit lead and collapsed late. Of course, who can forget the semifinals of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan when Olsen Racela had the chance to put the Philippines up four but missed two free throws. South Korea would win with a booming triple at the buzzer off a broken play and would later take down China to capture the gold medal. South Korea is the Philippines’ basketball nemesis for all intents and purposes. A worthy adversary that always seem to emerge victorious at our expense. Still, all that previous disappointment didn’t seem to bother Gilas Pilipinas six years ago. The team was not scared and instead, they were excited even. One factor to greatly consider was that fact that the game was in Manila. It makes all the difference to play at home. “We understood the bad history that we had with Korea. We haven’t been very successful with them in quite some time but we knew from Day 1 that if ever we got an opportunity to play them at home, then we have a great chance,” Alapag said. “Man, pre-game, it was just the focus. Everybody was up for the challenge, I don’t think anybody was really nervous, I think it was just the anxiety... we wanted to get out there and do it already,” Norwood added. Playing at home had its perks for sure but it also had its drawbacks. For all the painful losses the Philippines suffered at the hands of South Korea, it would have been devastating if Gilas actually took a beating in Manila. Stakes were extra high in this particular chapter of this long, ongoing saga. “There was always pressure, it was something that we acknowledged early. Playing at home, it’s great having that support but at the same time, there is some added pressure because you wanna make sure that you make our home crowd proud of the team that they watch and ultimately, win games,” Alapag said, making sure to note that the national team knew of the disadvantages of playing at home even before the Korea game. “It was there but it was something that we acknowledged and we wanted to make sure that we took advantage of the opportunity playing at home,” he added.   ALL FILIPINO, ALL HEART Once it was go time, the Philippines-South Korea game went about pretty normal, as you would expect any game from these two national teams. But even before halftime, an injury to Gilas center Marcus Douthit changed the complexion of the semifinals showdown. All of a sudden, the Philippines was without its anchor, without its best player. Sure, there were players on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace Douthit’s size but there was simply no one on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace his talent, production, and just overall presence. June Mar Fajardo was in that Gilas bench but it 2013, the would-be five-time PBA Most Valuable Player was just not at that level yet. It would have been easy for Gilas Pilipinas to fold like cheap furniture and succumb to the overwhelming pressure of trying to overcome South Korea to reach a stage very few Filipinos have reached before. Gilas didn’t fold and instead, the Douthit injury rallied the team even further. “Alam mo sa totoo lang, puso na lang yun eh. Nung nawala si Marcus talaga, sabi ni coach kailangan doble kayod tayo. Dahil sobrang dehado tayo kumbaga, wala na tayong import, wala tayong malaki,” forward Marc Pingris said. With Douthit gone, Ping ate up all of his minutes and worked by committee with guys like Ranidel De Ocampo and Japeth Aguilar to fill in the gaps. “As a player naman, kami nagusap-usap kami na kahit anong mangyari, lalaban kami. Yung time na yun, talagang patay kung patay,” Ping added. Despite losing its best player to an untimely injury, Gilas Pilipinas’ confidence in winning never wavered. With their collective backs against the wall, the Philippine national team played even better. Unlike the later iterations of Gilas Pilipinas, the 2013 team, aptly called Gilas 2.0, had the luxury of having actual preparation before the FIBA-Asia Championships. The amount of work that came before the tournament and the Korea game, the bond built over countless hours of training, all of that helped the national team avoid a monumental meltdown in front of a rabid Manila crowd. “We were such a close-knit team in terms of our chemistry, in terms of the talent that we had, so we felt confident even when Marcus went down early in the game. If you looked at our huddle, you had 11 more very confident guys, not just in themselves but more importantly, in each other,” Alapag said. “That just boiled down to the chemistry that we had. I don’t think any of us panicked, we were all confident in each other. We’ve all been into that situation with our PBA teams, having the ball in our hands and making a play. Knowing that we had five weapons on the floor that could make the winning play, I think it made us very confident and we were able to sustain our composure,” the former Gilas captain added.   THE GHOST AND ITS CURSE Shin Dong Pa, Hur Jae, Lee Sang-min, Oh Se-Keun, TJ Moon, and Cho Sung-min are just some players from the South Korean national team that inflicted incredible damage to the Philippines over the course of decades. The dreaded Ghost of South Korea takes form in these players and its curse is to give Filipinos the most heart-crushing loss possible. In 2013, the Ghost was Kim Min-goo and his curse was to beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Despite losing Marcus Douthit and trailing by three points at the break, the Philippines started to turn the tables in the second half. Gilas Pilipinas unleashed Jayson Castro and the Blur led a blazing offense in the third quarter, finding a way to take a 10-point lead over South Korea, the Philippines’ largest of the night. But as the dust settled and Gilas holding a 65-56 lead entering the final period, an ominous figure would make his presence felt. The Korean Ghost has arrived and his name was Kim Min-goo. His curse? Beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Kim was 22 and a senior in college when he made the South Korean national basketball team as a backup shooter in 2013. In nine games in Manila, Kim would play well enough to make the tournament’s All-Star team, averaging 12.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He led Asian Championships with 25 three-point field goals, 10 came in the last two games and five came against Gilas Pilipinas. Kim drilled back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter against the Philippines. Later, his fifth triple — a four-point play at that — pushed the Koreans to within a point, 72-73. South Korea would take over soon after as Lee Seung-jun dunked the basketball on a fastbreak. The Ghost has arrived and his curse is in effect. “Ako pumasok sa isip ko yun nung lumamang Korea, na putek ito na naman,” Pingris said. “Pero ang sabi ko, sayang yung opportunity, kaya naman eh. So sabi ni Jimmy samin, no matter what happens wag kami gi-give up. Pinaghirapan natin to at may goal tayo, this year aalis tayo,” he added, noting the team’s goal to get into Spain and compete with the world’s best national teams. Faced with the possibility of dealing with a devastating defeat, Gilas had enough mental fortitude to keep things going. Trust your system, trust your preparation, trust your crowd, trust your teammates, and more importantly, trust yourselves. “You’re never out of the game if you’re playing at home,” Norwood said as they stared a deficit late against their destined rivals. “I think that was our mindset, keep it close and just find a way,” he added. Jimmy Alapag found a way.   BORN READY Down 73-75, Jimmy Alapag was under heavy duress when he let go of a three-pointer from the left wing just in front of his bench. It was good to go. The Philippines was back on top by one as Alapag somehow managed to get his team to snap out of an initial shock following Korea’s strong fourth-quarter rally. The stage is now set for a wild finish and Jimmy will star in the final act of what has been an incredible show by Gilas and South Korea. “In situations like that, as an athlete and as a pro, that’s the situations that you dream about,” Alapag said.  “Those are shots that you practice when you were a kid. When the shot clock is winding down, to have an opportunity to knock down a shot. It’s a shot that I practiced thousands of times,” he added. After the Philippines and South Korea traded baskets for the lead, Alapag made perhaps the most underrated play in this crazy and emotional encounter between two basketball rivals. Tasked with inbounding the ball just near underneath his own basket, Alapag found his Talk ‘N Text teammate Ranidel De Ocampo for an open look at three. Swish. Gilas leads, 81-77, with 91 seconds to go. “Ranidel was my favorite target for a very, very long time in my career,” Alapag said on the play that most people probably don’t even remember. “Once I saw that he got open, I wanted to make sure that I gave him as great a pass as possible and Ranidel has been known for a long time to take care of the rest,” he added.   THE EXORCIST “Yeah, I was right under the basket,” Gabe Norwood says with a laugh when asked if he remembers the shot that changed the course of Gilas Pilipinas as a national team. Late in the fourth quarter of what was essentially a heavyweight bout, the Philippines just landed two strong haymakers but South Korea would refuse to go down without a fight, beating the count of 10 each time. Down to the final minute of a crucial grudge match with a World Cup berth on the line, Jimmy Alapag had his hands on the basketball as Gilas would go to its halfcourt set. Jimmy will never let go of said basketball. Up two, Jimmy did what Olsen wished he could 11 years prior. Up two against South Korea in a pivotal semifinal game, Alapag received a screen from Marc Pingris, which was enough to momentarily shake off Kim Tae-sul. With some room, Alapag drifted to his left and let a three-point shot fly. Boom. Gilas leads, 84-79, with 54 seconds to go. The shot would later be remembered as the one that ended the Korean Curse, the one that finally exorcised the Ghost. “The first thought that came to my mind was don’t miss,” Jimmy said of the clutch jumper. “That last one, Ping sets a good screen and I got a clean look. It’s a shot that myself, and Jayson [Castro], and Larry [Fonacier], and Gary [David], and Jeff [Chan], all of us, we practice that shot time and time again after practice. So you know, it was a shot that I was confident in but in that moment, all you’re thinking about was don’t miss,” he added. It’s one thing to be confident in yourself and to be confidednt in your preparation. It’s a different thing to actually perform under such pressure. As soon as Alapag managed to shoot his shot, Gabe Norwood did what any other good teammate would do and got in position to get the offensive rebound. You know, just in case. Gabe got the ball alright, but he got it after it swished through the rim. “When he put the shot up, I tried to crash for the rebound but I basically knew that it was going in,” he said. “I had probably the best view, I was right under the basket. I think caught it after it went through too,” Norwood added. Alapag checked out moments later as the Philippines went to its defensive lineup in order to stop another Korean comeback. South Korea turned to its most effective shooter in Kim and as he rose up to try and answer Alapag’s triple, Norwood met him at the apex for the game’s most dramatic stop. Gabe blocked Kim and Gilas would finish things off with a final Marc Pingris basket on the other end. A historic 86-79 win was complete. “I still get chills thinking about it, to look up and see grown men just breaking down. My wife was trying to hold my kids and she was holding back tears. It was just an awesome moment, the bond that we had on that team, the stuff that we did to get prepare, I think we poured it all out in that game,” Norwood said on the monumental victory. “I think it probably didn’t hit me until the final buzzer sounded. Not just for me but for the entire team, when that final buzzer sounded, it was such a special group of guys and the fact that we could share that moment with not just with each other but the entire country, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Alapag added, savoring the moment of a Philippine win over Korea 28 years in the making.   THE INTRODUCTION Gilas Pilipinas would lose to Iran the next day in the Finals of the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships. The Philippines put up a fight but Hamed Haddadi would prove to be too powerful to stop. It would take another two years for Gilas to beat Iran but that didn’t really matter in the moment. The Philippines is headed to the World Championships for the first time in three decades. The Philippines has beaten South Korea and one singular shot has allowed the Gilas name to be known around the world. Jimmy wouldn’t say that though. At least not directly in that way. “For me, that shot was the biggest for my career. But really, it was our entire team. We’ve gone through so much and that was just one particular play that really culminated the entire game and all the contributions from other guys from Gabe’s defense, to Ping’s rebounding, to Japeth’s rim protecting, to Jayson and LA doing a lot of the legwork,” Alapag said. “Everybody had their part in contribution to the game. After the shot, after the buzzer sounded, it was just a very special moment for us as a team and for Philippine basketball to show that all of the sacrifices, all of the hard work, now it’s given an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the world,” he added. Jimmy wouldn’t say it, but his teammates would. That shot of his that beat South Korea in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships introduced the Gilas name to the world. It announced that the Philippines has finally arrived. Gilas’ breakthrough overtime win a year later in Spain against Senegal — a game Jimmy pretty much decided late as well — made it known that Filipinos are here to stay on the World stage. “I would say so, it got us to where we wanted to be in the World Cup. I think we shocked some people there as well. But just the work that went in, I think it showed the country that we can get back to where we want to be as long as you work together,” Norwood said. “Yung puso ni Jimmy, grabe naman. Makikita mo maliit pero gusto lang niya talaga manalo. Ang liit pero parang lion pag nagalit eh, nandoon yung tiwala namin sa kanya. Ano pa ba masasabi mo, Jimmy is Jimmy Alapag,” Pingris would add.   [NOTES: At the time of original publishing, Gilas Pilipinas was fighting to make a return trip to the FIBA World Cup, this time in China in 2019. To secure its slot, the the Philippine national team needed to beat Kazakhstan in Astana plus a loss from Japan, Jordan, and/or Lebanon. One of the teams that can help Gilas is South Korea... ironically. Jimmy Alapag retired from national team play in 2014 and retired playing for good in 2016. He has since made himself a champion basketball coach in the ABL. Marc Pingris suffered an ACL injury in 2018 and is in the process of returning for his PBA team in the current 2019 season. Gabe Norwood is still in Gilas. He’s still an effective two-way weapon. He can still dunk and will stop your best player too.]   [Updated Notes: The Philippines beat Kazakhstan to make the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Gilas got help from... South Korea. The Koreans beat Lebanon on the road, allowing Gilas to advance to the World Championships outright with a victory over Kazakhstan.]   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 3rd, 2020

FIBA: Mighty Jimmy and the shot that introduced Gilas to the World

This story was originally published on Feb. 24, 2019 It’s Saturday night at Mall of Asia and the arena is absolutely rocking. Eternal basketball rivals in the Philippines and South Korea are delivering another classic. Gilas Pilipinas is down to the final minute of regulation against its longtime tormentor in the second of two semifinal games. The national team is up by two, 81-79. The Philippines is hosting the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships where three tickets to the 2014 World Cup are at stake and the winner of this particular game gets one of those tickets. Given the rich history of both teams and what it would mean to the winner, this pivotal game has gone down the wire as everyone pretty much expected. Also knowing the history of both teams in international play, Gilas’ precarious two-point lead was not safe at all. A ghost was lurking in the background and a dreaded curse felt almost inevitable. Down to the final minute of the crucial grudge match between the Philippines and South Korea, guard Jimmy Alapag has the ball and a two-point lead. What he will do will help define not only his career but the legacy of the Gilas name as a national team.   WAKE-UP CALL Even before the Philippines-Korea game, Gilas Pilipinas already had to go through one emotional game early in its homestand for the Asian Championships. In a preliminary round showdown against Chinese Taipei, the Filipinos collapsed in the fourth quarter, allowing the Taiwanese to steal a morale-boosting 84-79 win. In 2013, the relationship between the two countries hit a rough patch over the death of one Taiwanese fisherman. In an updated May 17 report by CNN’s Jethro Mullen, “Taiwan has reacted angrily after one of its fishermen was killed by a Philippine coast guard vessel.” Taiwan had frozen applications from OFWs seeking jobs in its territory and the government of then President Ma Ying-jeou demanded an apology, among other things, from the Philippines. While the national basketball teams of both countries never really had any prior animosity with each other, tension was naturally present as both teams squared off in Group A action. Gilas Pilipinas and Chinese-Taipei both entered the showdown with identical 2-0 records and the winner would take control of solo Group A lead heading into round 2. Taking a good lead into the fourth quarter, the Philippines was outscored by 18 in the last 10 minutes and the national team took its worst home loss in quite some time. “At the time, it was a huge game for us. We understood what was happening in Taipei during that particular time. We really wanted to win for what our kababayans were going through at that time,” guard Jimmy Alapag said on that first home loss in the 2013 Asian Championships. “We didn’t get the job done, and it was tough especially to lose a game like that, it was a very emotional and it was a game that we knew we needed,” he added. The crushing loss meant that the Philippines had little room for error in round 2. While Gilas didn’t have any world beaters lined up in the second round, anything less than a perfect run would have meant an early clash with Asia’s established powerhouse teams in the knockout stages. On the other side of the bracket, defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea were battling for position and were expected to finish in the top-3. That means if Gilas Pilipinas failed to finish no. 1 in its group, the national team would have faced one of those teams in the quarterfinals. Gilas picked up a crucial win over Qatar in the 6th of August and the day after, the Philippines got some help from those same Qataris as they beat Taipei in a close decision. At the end of round 2, all teams finished with identical win-loss records but Gilas Pilipinas would take over first place after all tiebreaks were considered, barely edging out Taipei. The Philippines ended up avoiding defending champion China, Iran, and South Korea and instead got Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Taipei drew China and the third-running Qataris were matched up with the South Koreans. “I think that was the moment we grew up and grew closer. I think that was the lowest of the lows, just because of the atmosphere and what was going on between both countries. It kind of felt that we let our end of the bargain down, you know what I mean? We’re on our home soil and we didn’t take care of business. I think that was one of those moments where we had to really check ourselves and find a way to make it right,” forward Gabe Norwood said of the Taipei loss. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. In tournaments like FIBA-Asia it’s important that you have short-term memory whether it was a win or a loss. We needed to let go of that game and continue to stay the course, keep our focus in the tournament,” Alapag added. On August 7, four days after Gilas lost to Taipei, the rift between the Philippines and Taiwan would reach a resolution and the latter country lifted its freeze hiring and other sanctions on the former. The Philippines also did issue on official apology over the death of the Taiwanese fisherman a couple of months prior and the National Bureau of Investigation in Manila recommended the pressing of homicide charges to erring members of the Philippine Coast Guard.   DARK HISTORY If the word “rival” is to be defined as a, “person or group that tries to defeat or be more successful than another person or group” then sure, the Philippines and South Korea are rivals. Both countries are rivals in the Asian basketball scene and they have been going at it for a very long time. But if the word rival can also mean “equal” or “peer,” is the Philippines really a worthy basketball rival to South Korea? The Philippines’ history with South Korea in terms of basketball is dark. Very dark. Consider the most high-profile matches between the two countries and you’ll see that the Philippine national team is just not at the level of South Korea. Or at the very least, Koreans always seem to reach 120 percent when the play Filipinos and we barely bring out 80 percent of our abilities when matched up against our East Asian neighbors. The 1998 PBA Centennial team, arguably the greatest Philippine team ever assembled, was demolished by South Korea in the Asian Games. A national team set up for gold only settled for bronze. Speaking of a bronze medal game, the original Gilas Pilipinas team lost to South Korea in the 2011 FIBA-Asia Championships. That team squandered a double-digit lead and collapsed late. Of course, who can forget the semifinals of the 2002 Asian Games in Busan when Olsen Racela had the chance to put the Philippines up four but missed two free throws. South Korea would win with a booming triple at the buzzer off a broken play and would later take down China to capture the gold medal. South Korea is the Philippines’ basketball nemesis for all intents and purposes. A worthy adversary that always seem to emerge victorious at our expense. Still, all that previous disappointment didn’t seem to bother Gilas Pilipinas six years ago. The team was not scared and instead, they were excited even. One factor to greatly consider was that fact that the game was in Manila. It makes all the difference to play at home. “We understood the bad history that we had with Korea. We haven’t been very successful with them in quite some time but we knew from Day 1 that if ever we got an opportunity to play them at home, then we have a great chance,” Alapag said. “Man, pre-game, it was just the focus. Everybody was up for the challenge, I don’t think anybody was really nervous, I think it was just the anxiety... we wanted to get out there and do it already,” Norwood added. Playing at home had its perks for sure but it also had its drawbacks. For all the painful losses the Philippines suffered at the hands of South Korea, it would have been devastating if Gilas actually took a beating in Manila. Stakes were extra high in this particular chapter of this long, ongoing saga. “There was always pressure, it was something that we acknowledged early. Playing at home, it’s great having that support but at the same time, there is some added pressure because you wanna make sure that you make our home crowd proud of the team that they watch and ultimately, win games,” Alapag said, making sure to note that the national team knew of the disadvantages of playing at home even before the Korea game. “It was there but it was something that we acknowledged and we wanted to make sure that we took advantage of the opportunity playing at home,” he added.   ALL FILIPINO, ALL HEART Once it was go time, the Philippines-South Korea game went about pretty normal, as you would expect any game from these two national teams. But even before halftime, an injury to Gilas center Marcus Douthit changed the complexion of the semifinals showdown. All of a sudden, the Philippines was without its anchor, without its best player. Sure, there were players on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace Douthit’s size but there was simply no one on the Gilas bench that can come in and replace his talent, production, and just overall presence. June Mar Fajardo was in that Gilas bench but it 2013, the would-be five-time PBA Most Valuable Player was just not at that level yet. It would have been easy for Gilas Pilipinas to fold like cheap furniture and succumb to the overwhelming pressure of trying to overcome South Korea to reach a stage very few Filipinos have reached before. Gilas didn’t fold and instead, the Douthit injury rallied the team even further. “Alam mo sa totoo lang, puso na lang yun eh. Nung nawala si Marcus talaga, sabi ni coach kailangan doble kayod tayo. Dahil sobrang dehado tayo kumbaga, wala na tayong import, wala tayong malaki,” forward Marc Pingris said. With Douthit gone, Ping ate up all of his minutes and worked by committee with guys like Ranidel De Ocampo and Japeth Aguilar to fill in the gaps. “As a player naman, kami nagusap-usap kami na kahit anong mangyari, lalaban kami. Yung time na yun, talagang patay kung patay,” Ping added. Despite losing its best player to an untimely injury, Gilas Pilipinas’ confidence in winning never wavered. With their collective backs against the wall, the Philippine national team played even better. Unlike the later iterations of Gilas Pilipinas, the 2013 team, aptly called Gilas 2.0, had the luxury of having actual preparation before the FIBA-Asia Championships. The amount of work that came before the tournament and the Korea game, the bond built over countless hours of training, all of that helped the national team avoid a monumental meltdown in front of a rabid Manila crowd. “We were such a close-knit team in terms of our chemistry, in terms of the talent that we had, so we felt confident even when Marcus went down early in the game. If you looked at our huddle, you had 11 more very confident guys, not just in themselves but more importantly, in each other,” Alapag said. “That just boiled down to the chemistry that we had. I don’t think any of us panicked, we were all confident in each other. We’ve all been into that situation with our PBA teams, having the ball in our hands and making a play. Knowing that we had five weapons on the floor that could make the winning play, I think it made us very confident and we were able to sustain our composure,” the former Gilas captain added.   THE GHOST AND ITS CURSE Shin Dong Pa, Hur Jae, Lee Sang-min, Oh Se-Keun, TJ Moon, and Cho Sung-min are just some players from the South Korean national team that inflicted incredible damage to the Philippines over the course of decades. The dreaded Ghost of South Korea takes form in these players and its curse is to give Filipinos the most heart-crushing loss possible. In 2013, the Ghost was Kim Min-goo and his curse was to beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Despite losing Marcus Douthit and trailing by three points at the break, the Philippines started to turn the tables in the second half. Gilas Pilipinas unleashed Jayson Castro and the Blur led a blazing offense in the third quarter, finding a way to take a 10-point lead over South Korea, the Philippines’ largest of the night. But as the dust settled and Gilas holding a 65-56 lead entering the final period, an ominous figure would make his presence felt. The Korean Ghost has arrived and his name was Kim Min-goo. His curse? Beat Gilas Pilipinas in Manila. Kim was 22 and a senior in college when he made the South Korean national basketball team as a backup shooter in 2013. In nine games in Manila, Kim would play well enough to make the tournament’s All-Star team, averaging 12.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He led Asian Championships with 25 three-point field goals, 10 came in the last two games and five came against Gilas Pilipinas. Kim drilled back-to-back triples to open the fourth quarter against the Philippines. Later, his fifth triple — a four-point play at that — pushed the Koreans to within a point, 72-73. South Korea would take over soon after as Lee Seung-jun dunked the basketball on a fastbreak. The Ghost has arrived and his curse is in effect. “Ako pumasok sa isip ko yun nung lumamang Korea, na putek ito na naman,” Pingris said. “Pero ang sabi ko, sayang yung opportunity, kaya naman eh. So sabi ni Jimmy samin, no matter what happens wag kami gi-give up. Pinaghirapan natin to at may goal tayo, this year aalis tayo,” he added, noting the team’s goal to get into Spain and compete with the world’s best national teams. Faced with the possibility of dealing with a devastating defeat, Gilas had enough mental fortitude to keep things going. Trust your system, trust your preparation, trust your crowd, trust your teammates, and more importantly, trust yourselves. “You’re never out of the game if you’re playing at home,” Norwood said as they stared a deficit late against their destined rivals. “I think that was our mindset, keep it close and just find a way,” he added. Jimmy Alapag found a way.   BORN READY Down 73-75, Jimmy Alapag was under heavy duress when he let go of a three-pointer from the left wing just in front of his bench. It was good to go. The Philippines was back on top by one as Alapag somehow managed to get his team to snap out of an initial shock following Korea’s strong fourth-quarter rally. The stage is now set for a wild finish and Jimmy will star in the final act of what has been an incredible show by Gilas and South Korea. “In situations like that, as an athlete and as a pro, that’s the situations that you dream about,” Alapag said.  “Those are shots that you practice when you were a kid. When the shot clock is winding down, to have an opportunity to knock down a shot. It’s a shot that I practiced thousands of times,” he added. After the Philippines and South Korea traded baskets for the lead, Alapag made perhaps the most underrated play in this crazy and emotional encounter between two basketball rivals. Tasked with inbounding the ball just near underneath his own basket, Alapag found his Talk ‘N Text teammate Ranidel De Ocampo for an open look at three. Swish. Gilas leads, 81-77, with 91 seconds to go. “Ranidel was my favorite target for a very, very long time in my career,” Alapag said on the play that most people probably don’t even remember. “Once I saw that he got open, I wanted to make sure that I gave him as great a pass as possible and Ranidel has been known for a long time to take care of the rest,” he added.   THE EXORCIST “Yeah, I was right under the basket,” Gabe Norwood says with a laugh when asked if he remembers the shot that changed the course of Gilas Pilipinas as a national team. Late in the fourth quarter of what was essentially a heavyweight bout, the Philippines just landed two strong haymakers but South Korea would refuse to go down without a fight, beating the count of 10 each time. Down to the final minute of a crucial grudge match with a World Cup berth on the line, Jimmy Alapag had his hands on the basketball as Gilas would go to its halfcourt set. Jimmy will never let go of said basketball. Up two, Jimmy did what Olsen wished he could 11 years prior. Up two against South Korea in a pivotal semifinal game, Alapag received a screen from Marc Pingris, which was enough to momentarily shake off Kim Tae-sul. With some room, Alapag drifted to his left and let a three-point shot fly. Boom. Gilas leads, 84-79, with 54 seconds to go. The shot would later be remembered as the one that ended the Korean Curse, the one that finally exorcised the Ghost. “The first thought that came to my mind was don’t miss,” Jimmy said of the clutch jumper. “That last one, Ping sets a good screen and I got a clean look. It’s a shot that myself, and Jayson [Castro], and Larry [Fonacier], and Gary [David], and Jeff [Chan], all of us, we practice that shot time and time again after practice. So you know, it was a shot that I was confident in but in that moment, all you’re thinking about was don’t miss,” he added. It’s one thing to be confident in yourself and to be confidednt in your preparation. It’s a different thing to actually perform under such pressure. As soon as Alapag managed to shoot his shot, Gabe Norwood did what any other good teammate would do and got in position to get the offensive rebound. You know, just in case. Gabe got the ball alright, but he got it after it swished through the rim. “When he put the shot up, I tried to crash for the rebound but I basically knew that it was going in,” he said. “I had probably the best view, I was right under the basket. I think caught it after it went through too,” Norwood added. Alapag checked out moments later as the Philippines went to its defensive lineup in order to stop another Korean comeback. South Korea turned to its most effective shooter in Kim and as he rose up to try and answer Alapag’s triple, Norwood met him at the apex for the game’s most dramatic stop. Gabe blocked Kim and Gilas would finish things off with a final Marc Pingris basket on the other end. A historic 86-79 win was complete. “I still get chills thinking about it, to look up and see grown men just breaking down. My wife was trying to hold my kids and she was holding back tears. It was just an awesome moment, the bond that we had on that team, the stuff that we did to get prepare, I think we poured it all out in that game,” Norwood said on the monumental victory. “I think it probably didn’t hit me until the final buzzer sounded. Not just for me but for the entire team, when that final buzzer sounded, it was such a special group of guys and the fact that we could share that moment with not just with each other but the entire country, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” Alapag added, savoring the moment of a Philippine win over Korea 28 years in the making.   THE INTRODUCTION Gilas Pilipinas would lose to Iran the next day in the Finals of the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships. The Philippines put up a fight but Hamed Haddadi would prove to be too powerful to stop. It would take another two years for Gilas to beat Iran but that didn’t really matter in the moment. The Philippines is headed to the World Championships for the first time in three decades. The Philippines has beaten South Korea and one singular shot has allowed the Gilas name to be known around the world. Jimmy wouldn’t say that though. At least not directly in that way. “For me, that shot was the biggest for my career. But really, it was our entire team. We’ve gone through so much and that was just one particular play that really culminated the entire game and all the contributions from other guys from Gabe’s defense, to Ping’s rebounding, to Japeth’s rim protecting, to Jayson and LA doing a lot of the legwork,” Alapag said. “Everybody had their part in contribution to the game. After the shot, after the buzzer sounded, it was just a very special moment for us as a team and for Philippine basketball to show that all of the sacrifices, all of the hard work, now it’s given an opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the world,” he added. Jimmy wouldn’t say it, but his teammates would. That shot of his that beat South Korea in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships introduced the Gilas name to the world. It announced that the Philippines has finally arrived. Gilas’ breakthrough overtime win a year later in Spain against Senegal — a game Jimmy pretty much decided late as well — made it known that Filipinos are here to stay on the World stage. “I would say so, it got us to where we wanted to be in the World Cup. I think we shocked some people there as well. But just the work that went in, I think it showed the country that we can get back to where we want to be as long as you work together,” Norwood said. “Yung puso ni Jimmy, grabe naman. Makikita mo maliit pero gusto lang niya talaga manalo. Ang liit pero parang lion pag nagalit eh, nandoon yung tiwala namin sa kanya. Ano pa ba masasabi mo, Jimmy is Jimmy Alapag,” Pingris would add.   [NOTES: At the time of original publishing, Gilas Pilipinas was fighting to make a return trip to the FIBA World Cup, this time in China in 2019. To secure its slot, the the Philippine national team needed to beat Kazakhstan in Astana plus a loss from Japan, Jordan, and/or Lebanon. One of the teams that can help Gilas is South Korea... ironically. Jimmy Alapag retired from national team play in 2014 and retired playing for good in 2016. He has since made himself a champion basketball coach in the ABL. Marc Pingris suffered an ACL injury in 2018 and is in the process of returning for his PBA team in the current 2019 season. Gabe Norwood is still in Gilas. He’s still an effective two-way weapon. He can still dunk and will stop your best player too.] The Philippines beat Kazakhstan to make the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. Gilas got help from... South Korea. The Koreans beat Lebanon on the road, allowing Gilas to advance to the World Championships outright with a victory over Kazakhstan.]   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 2nd, 2020

CAMPEONE: Year of the Tiger (2010)

(This story was originally published on May 09, 2019) University of Sto. Tomas head coach Shaq delos Santos looked at his squad inside the dugout of The Arena in San Juan one last time. It was a cool Saturday afternoon. He took a glimpse at his graduating hitter Angge Tabaquero, who was all pumped up, but was feeling under the weather and could barely speak because of a sore throat. Delos Santos then shifted his eyes towards fourth-year team captain Aiza Maizo, Maika Ortiz, libero Jessica Curato, then to his prized rookies Dindin Santiago and Maru Banaticla. From their closed locker room, the Tigresses could hear the drums outside and felt the vibration that followed. The weekend crowd packed the venue in a sea of yellow and green. Excitement filled the air. It was electric. Less than an hour before, coach Emil Lontoc celebrated the Tigers’ conquest of Far Eastern University to complete a three-peat in the men's division. With his eyes closed, Delos Santos murmured one last prayer. Then there was a soft tap on their dugout door. It was time to march to the court for the official warm-up for Game 2 of the UAAP Season 72 women’s volleyball tournament.   THE YOUNG AND THE BOLD Delos Santos knew that they’re in for ride in Season 72.   They prided themselves with three pre-season titles, but those conquests meant nothing when it comes to their mother league. “Before mag-start (ang season), for me, hindi ko napi-feel na magtsa-champion agad kami,” said Delos Santos. “Kasi ang adjustment kailangan makita mo muna ang lahat ng naglalaro. So depende pa rin sa nilalaro ng every team na makakalaban mo.” And besides, the mentor will be navigating with a young crew, mostly in their early collegiate careers save for Maizo and returning Tabaquero, two of the remaining heroes of UST’s Season 69 championship run. Maizo was named team captain while Tabaquero, who skipped Season 71 for personal reasons, brought in the needed veteran presence to guide the squad. “Ako personally ang mindset ko sobrang hungry lang rin ako personally and I think si Aiza rin kasi halos pa-exit na rin siya nun,” said Tabaquero. “Ako sobrang gusto ko lang for myself na maka-graduate sa UAAP on a high note.” “On a high lang ako nun kumbaga, ‘Last playing year ko na ‘to wala na akong balikan pa, ibubuhos ko na lahat,’ she added. “Plus the fact na hindi ako nakapaglaro noong Season 71 dagdag gutom sa akin ‘yun.” But then again, the Tigresses remained relatively young. Dimaculangan was just in her third year, her first two saw the bitter memory of losing the title in the semifinals at the hands of the Rachel Anne Daquis-led Far Eastern University and then another Final Four heartache against the same tormentors the following year. Ortiz, Hannah Mance and Curato barely had enough experience on them so did Judy Ann Caballejo.   Then there were the young bloods. UST got a pair of blue-chip recruits in a small but high-flying power-hitter in Banaticla and a lanky 6-footer Santiago.   The Tigresses were parading a decent squad, but not a super team that they had before with Mary Jean Balse and Venus Bernal.       “Nagkaroon kami ng mga rookies noon,” said Dimaculangan. “Nu’ng time na ‘yun kumpiyansa naman ako sa team kasi bakit ka pa maghahanap ng mga wala o bakit ka pa hahanap ng mga naka-graduate na? So kung ano na lang ang meron kami siguro doon na lang.” Delos Santos, himself, was just on his second year as head coach after taking the reins from legendary mentor August Sta. Maria, who suffered a stroke in 2008. Expectations were high from the UST faithful. For the Tigresses, they just have to deliver.   STRUGGLE WITHIN The Tigresses began the season with an early litmus test. Their first game: against the defending champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers. UST faced a squad assembled to build a dynasty. DLSU was denied of a four-peat three years ago when the league suspended the school in Season 69 because of an eligibility issue with its men’s basketball team. In Season 70, the Lady Spikers were forced to forfeit games because of another eligibility issue with Jacq Alarca. The following year, in Manilla Santos’ final year, DLSU reclaimed the throne. Now, looking to for a repeat, the Lady Spikers just need to break the will of one of their threats. DLSU paraded a formidable team centered on its ‘Big Three’ in Alarca, skipper Paneng Mercado, daughter of Asia’s Sprint Queen Lydia De Vega-Mercado, and versatile hitter Cha Cruz. Then there’s the great wall of Michele Gumabao and rookies Aby Marano and Joanne Siy, who would eventually win the Rookie of the Year and Best Blocker awards. UST was facing a nightmare. But the Tigresses were undaunted. They clung on the confidence of bringing down the same giant they slew in the UniGames championship before the start of the season. With guns blazing and adrenaline in their veins, the Tigresses were able to control the match as they led, 2-1. Then comes their Achilles’ heel. UST was a determined team, but the Lady Spikers had in them the championship experience, the veteran composure of a battle-tested squad. The Tigresses had no answer to that. DLSU walked away with a 20-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11, victory to start its amazing elimination round winning streak. UST recovered in the next three games, walking past University of the Philippines, a rebuilding FEU, and cellar-dwellers National University. Then came another big challenge. The Tigresses collided with a feisty young team in Ateneo de Manila University bannered by a hyped Fab Five of sophomores Gretchen Ho, Dzi Gervacio, Fille Cainglet, setter Jem Ferrer and A Nacachi. The result was a shocker: the Lady Eagles upset the Tigresses. It may not show inside the court, but the Tigresses were struggling from the inside.   Delos Santos admitted that being a Tigress under his watch was not for the faint of heart. His relationship with the players was not smooth. He was a blacksmith trying to sharpen a deadly weapon. He needed to put his players into the blazing fire of his Spartan-like training, hammer them into shape and sharpen them into a weapon ready for brutal war.       “Napaka-strict ko kaya medyo ano sila sa akin pero at the end of the day na-realize rin nila na ang lahat ng sinasalihan naming tournament, lahat ng paghihirap namin, kapag naglalaro kami talagang quality,” he said. “’Yung pinaghirapan namin talagang nilalabas namin sa game.” Dimaculangan recalled that that season was marred with conflicts within the team. “’Yung year na 'yun ang dami talagang pinagdaanan. Ang daming naging issues,” she said declining to divulge what the problems were. “Lahat kami takot sa kanya (Delos Santos). Tapos my time din na feeling namin nabe-burnout na kami.” “Baliktad nga eh kasi kung kailan ang dami naming issue doon pa namin nasabi na ‘Ay kailangan nating mag-champion.’ Ganoon ang feeling namin,” Dimaculangan added. Tabaquero would simply describe that Tigresses team as ‘shaky’. “On the rocks ang team and noon may internal issues din,” she revealed. “Medyo magulo siya pero as players, ‘Kung may mangyari man dyan, labas na sa volleyball ‘yan. Kung ano ang pini-perform natin maglaro tayo ng maayos.’ Siguro yun na lang ang tumatakbo sa isip namin.” Whatever the issues were inside their team, the Tigresses were able to put them aside as they made an amazing run to close the eliminations. “Nagulat kami kasi sobrang nakasabay ang mga bata,” said Tabaquero. “Kami ni Aiza halos ang nag-lead sa team na ‘yun pero kasi experienced na ang mga bata na ‘yun kasi coming from UST program sila eh.” “So medyo kumbaga ang pinanggalingan nilang team mataas din so I guess doon na lang din sila humugot from their experience sa high school. Nadala na lang din siguro pagdating nila,” she added.   ENTERING THE END GAME Valentine’s Day. With most of the country looking forward to celebrate that special Sunday, the Tigresses were preparing for something bigger. It was their most-awaited rematch with the Lady Spikers, who heading into that game were already ravaging the league with 13 straight victories. One win and DLSU will enter the Finals outright armed with a thrice-to-beat advantage.   The Tigresses didn’t allow that. UST prevented a Lady Spikers elims sweep by slipping past DLSU in a thrilling five-setter. The Tigresses avoided a stepladder semifinals. UST ended the elims with a nine-game winning streak and second-best 12-2 win-loss record. From there everything changed. “Kasi nakuha nila (ang panalo) sa first round then February 14 tinalo namin sila so dun tumaas ang kumpiyansa namin na ‘Ah kaya namin itong La Salle,’” said Tabaquero. The Tigresses came in the Final Four armed with a twice-to-beat advantage against Ateneo. They split their elims head-to-head but now UST wanted to settle an old score. It was Maizo and Tabaquero who did most of the damage in the Final Four as the Tigresses crushed the Lady Eagles, 25-12, 25-23, 25-20, all while playing without starting libero Curato, who was out because of typhoid fever. “I guess kung ikaw mayroon kang chance na makapasok sa championship siguro ibibigay mo ang lahat. Laban kung laban,” said Tabaquero. “’Yun talaga ang mentalidad namin nu’ng time na yun. ‘Yun ang nag-push sa amin na, ‘For championship ito, ibibigay namin ang lahat 110%.’” Earlier that playdate, the Lady Spikers took the other Finals berth after booting out Adamson University, 16-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-22.         "EH ANO NGAYON KUNG DEFENDING CHAMPION KAYO?" Maizo and Tabaquero were UST’s contrasting leaders. They're yin and yang. Maizo was a silent operator. She would rather let her work do the talking. Tabaquero was from a different world. She will get under your skin, play with your head and she was just plain nasty. “Season 69 pa lang salbahe na ako maglaro,” she admitted. “Dun lumabas ‘yung moniker ko na ‘Pamewang Queen’. Sobrang intense lang din ng game namin ng FEU nun. Parang sobrang thrashtalkan. Hindi mo man makita on-cam pero doon pa lang talagang may verbal.” She’s no different in Season 72. “Hindi naman sa mayabang ako pero nasa utak ko nu’ng time na yun, ‘Ay kaya namin kayo kasi tinalo namin kayo nu’ng eliminations,’” Tabaquero continued.  “Doon ako humugot ng lakas na, ‘hindi tayo papatalo rito.’ Sobrang inspired lang din siguro akong maglaro noon kasi ang daming tao nun. Grabe puno itong San Juan Arena,” she recalled.    Facing DLSU, Tabaquero knew they can rip the crown off the Lady Spikers’ heads. “Ako personally, ‘Eh ano ngayon kung defending champion kayo?” she said. It was 2010 and UST just needed to look at the Chinese calendar for an inspiration.    “Year of the Tiger yun, sumakto,” said Dimaculangan. “Iba ang kompiyansa namin na parang amin ‘to.” The Tigresses could see the stars aligning for them, the opportunity was there. Then came the best-of-three series opener. Delos Santos was not new to the Finals. He worked as Sta. Maria’s deputy before. But this was his biggest challenge. His shining moment. Looking back, he felt that Sta. Maria molded him for this situation. “Before nakakuha rin kami ng isa pang championship eh. Sina Bernal, Balse pero si Coach August ang head coach pa nun that time,” he said. “Ang ginawa niya that time sobrang gusto niyang mag-grow ako. Noong Finals namin against FEU, umalis siya. Hindi siya nagpunta ng game tapos nung mag-start na ang game hinahanap ko siya,” Delos Santos continued. “Tinawagan ko siya, sabi ko, ‘Boss nasaan ka?’ Nasa norte siya eh parteng norte." "Sabi ko, ‘boss nasaan ka?’ Sabi niya, ‘kayang-kaya mo na ‘yan. Ikaw ng bahala dyan,’” he said. “’Yung time na yun doon ko na-feel na grabe ang tiwala niya sa akin.” Against a taller Lady Spikers side, Delos Santos needed just one key to success: speed. “I think that time sobrang lucky ko rin kasi ang mga players ko. Yun nga sina Rhea na, sina Tabaquero, sina Aiza. So that time yung system na gusto naming mangyari, more on lalo na kailangang maging speedy kami. Mabilis kami, nakuha namin that time. Siguro yun ang naging key,” he said. “Kasi knowing La Salle ang no. 1 weapon nila is blocking eh. Bukod dun sa service nila na napakabigat, yung blocking. Mayroon silang malalaking players and ang ganda lagi ng line-up nila,” Delos Santos said. As the battle ensued, Delos Santos felt that they had the upper hand. “I think nu’ng time na ‘yun medyo na-feel ko na makukuha namin,” he said. “That time na naglaro na kami sabi ko, sa galawan na nangyayari nakuha namin yung magandang diskarte.” And that strategy was to exploit the height disadvantage of DLSU setter Kaye Martinez. For Delos Santos the best way to stop the Lady Spikers’ deadly arrows was to break their bow.  “That time malalaki sila pero meron silang maliit na setter. Maliit ang setter nila so more on dun kami nagsi-set play ng nagsi-set play,” he said. “Nagkaroon din kami ng magandang receive and then si Rhea nabibigay niya ng maayos sa mga spikers.”  It was shocker. UST recovered from a set down to beat DLSU, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 25-21.   For the first time in Season 72, the Taft-based squad got its back against the wall.   SHAQ THE WORLD The Tigresses were on a high as they arrived at the game venue in the last weekend of February just three days after shocking the Lady Spikers in the series opener.     Entering the venue, the Tigresses were greeted by a huge crowd of UST faithful, all hoping for the clincher.  Tabaquero was feeling ill that day. “Naalala ko may sakit ako nu’ng Game 2. Wala akong boses nun,” said the senior, who skipped Thursday’s practice to rest. But Tabaquero was determined to play one last time, give her team the firepower and angst it needed, to finish her collegiate career on top.   “Wala ng sakit-sakit, di pwedeng may sakit. Di ko na siya nararamdaman. Minsan napapagod pero wala kailangang magsakripisyo. Saka yung adrenaline ko sobrang taas nun,” said Tabaquero. As the Tigresses trooped to the court for the warm-up, they were showered by loud cheers from the UST fans. “Go USTe! Go USTe!” echoed inside the arena like a rolling thunder signaling the arrival of a storm. A serenade for conquering heroes. There was a huge banner that read: ‘Kami po ang University of Sto. Tomas.’ It added fuel to the Tigresses’ burning desire to reclaim the throne. The squad came into the venue brimming with confidence but with their supporters egging them on even before the opening serve, the Tigresses felt invincible. They were. UST dismantled the confused Lady Spikers in the first two sets, dominating DLSU with sharp angled attacks and frustrating its blockers. Defensively, the Tigresses were punishing DLSU’s attackers. “Dumipensa lang talaga kami noon saka nagkaroon kami ng first ball. ‘Yun talaga ang edge namin nun,” said Dimaculangan. “Kumbaga parang hindi ako masyadong nahirapang dumiskarte kasi alam kong darating sa akin ang bola.” The Lady Spikers’ defense was also in disarray. Even DLSU’s celebrated libero Mel Gohing, the rookie of the year the season before, was already struggling to keep up with the Lady Spikers’ net defense collapsing. “Yung mga spikers ko ang gagaling din dumiskarte and alam din nila kung ano ang gagawin nila sa bolang ibinibigay ko sa kanila,” added Dimaculangan. The Tigresses were already smelling blood.   But the Lady Spikers regrouped in the third as hitters Cruz and Mercado’s hits found their mark. Gumabao, Siy and Maarano were holding their own. DLSU took the third frame in dominating fashion. It may have turned the tides around for the Lady Spikers. It didn’t.      DLSU built an early five-point cushion in the fourth frame, but the Tigresses raced to a 16-11 lead before Gumabao stopped the bleeding with a crosscourt hit.  Maizo then landed an off speed hit over blockers Siy and Martinez, then the lefty again scored another heady off speed this time over Alarca for an 18-12 lead. Then came the deluge of errors by DLSU. The Lady Spikers crowd went quiet in the pivotal run of the Tigresses. A kill block by Ortiz put UST at championship point, 24-13, as the DLSU faithful froze, seemingly awaiting an inevitable defeat. “Parang pa-last point pa lang ata naiiyak na kaming lahat,” said Dimaculangan. An overexcited Tabaquero sent her serve long then Maizo’s attack was turned back. Two match points saved by DLSU. The Lady Spikers tried to hold on. But it was too late. Nerves got the best of Emeli Zuno as she made contact with the ball at the service line.       It sailed long. Pandemonium broke out. “Nagtatalon na kami nu’ng moment na yun, na ‘Heto na ang pinaghirapan natin.’ Ang sarap sa feeling na mag-champion ulit,” said Tabaquero after the final whistle of the season was called with UST completing the sweep with a 25-18, 25-14, 16-25, 25-15, victory.   For Delos Santos that championship was the fruit of their hard labor. “Sobrang happy kasi siyempre nagkaroon kami ng championship sa UST,” said Delos Santos of his only title for the Tigresses as head coach. “Sobrang memorable. Marami rin kaming pinagdaanan (bago makuha),” he added. UST accomplished a double-crown feat in volleyball that year, its fifth since the 1976-77, 1985-86 at 1987-88 and 1992-1993 seasons. As a reward the Tigresses earned a trip to Hong Kong. But even that trip had some good anecdotes for Delos Santos, Dimaculangan and Tabaquero. “Nag-trip to Hong Kong kami for two to three days sa Disneyland at Ocean Park,” said Delos Santos. “Sila lang mahilig mag-rides eh. Ako may phobia ako sa heights. Nung sumakay kami ng cable car para akong mahuhulog na ewan dun sa cable car.” Dimaculangan remembered vividly their flight. “Nag-Hong Kong kami noon tapos sakto pa na bumabagyo noong umalis kami noon. Buti nga natuloy kami noon eh,” she said. As for Tabaquero, unfortunately, she had to skip the trip. “Nagpunta sila ng Hong Kong pero ako di ako nakasama kasi late yung Hong Kong trip. Di ako nakasama kasi na-ACL (left injury) na ako nun sa Shakey’s V-League, yung sa championship ng San Sebastian,” she said. “Naka-schedule na ako ng surgery nun sa UST hospital kaya di ako nakasama.” “May incentive naman ako nun kahit di ako nakasama nun,” Tabaquero cleared. Ten years ago, UST ruled Season 72. It was the year of the Tiger. The year of the mighty, mighty Tigers.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 26th, 2020

Kawhi Leonard has 25 points, Clippers rout Rockets 120-105

By KRISTIE RIEKEN AP Sports Writer HOUSTON (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the Los Angeles Clippers rolled over the Houston Rockets 120-105 on Thursday night for their sixth straight victory. The Rockets were done in by their shooting woes in a game that was billed as a matchup of two of the top teams in the Western Conference, but was a rout almost from the start. Houston had a chance to take the season series and secure the tiebreaker over the Clippers, but the loss left the teams tied 2-2. Houston made just 7 of 42 3-pointers to drop its second straight game in embarrassing fashion after losing to the lowly New York Knicks on Monday night. The Rockets ended their streak of 18 straight games with 10 or more 3-pointers dating to Jan. 20. Russell Westbrook led the Rockets with 29 points and 15 rebounds. James Harden was 4 of 17 and missed all eight 3-pointers he attempted to finish with 16 points. The two stars and most of the other starters on both teams didn't play for much of the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. The Clippers built a 67-44 lead by halftime after a first half where the Rockets made just 2 of 22 3-point attempts. Ivica Zubac added 17 points and 12 assists for Los Angeles and Montrezl Harrell added 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Houston’s shooting woes didn’t end after the break and the Rockets missed 11 of 12 3-pointers in the third quarter, including a couple of air balls. But the Rockets didn’t just struggle from long-range as they also missed several layups in the quarter to leave Los Angeles up 90-65 entering the fourth. TIP-INS Clippers: Patrick Beverley received a flagrant 1 foul for grabbing Harden with both arms from behind on a fast break in the third quarter. ... Paul George had 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Rockets: Eric Gordon left the game in the fourth quarter with knee soreness and did not return. ... Westbrook extended his career-best streak of games with 20 points or more to 32. ... Danuel House Jr. had 14 points. FACE-OFF The Clippers were unhappy early in the fourth quarter when Harrell received a foul on a dunk attempt by Westbrook. Replays showed that Westbrook pressed his left hand into Harrell’s face as he elevated for the shot. But a challenge by Clippers coach Doc Rivers was unsuccessful and the foul call stood. Harrell made a dunk soon after that and patted his head with both hands as he ran back down the court. UP NEXT Clippers: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. Rockets: At Charlotte on Saturday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 6th, 2020

Harden, Westbrook help Rockets beat Celtics 116-105

  By KRISTIE RIEKEN AP Sports Writer HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden scored 42 points, Russell Westbrook had 36 and the Houston Rockets snapped Boston's seven-game win streak with a 116-105 victory over the Celtics on Tuesday night. Houston broke it open with a 15-2 run that made it 116-98 with about two minutes left. Harden scored six points during the decisive stretch, and Danuel House had five. Boston had two turnovers and missed numerous shots to allow the Rockets to turn the close game into a one where coach Mike D’Antoni cleared the bench for the last minute with the game well in hand. Harden had eight rebounds and seven assists and Westbrook finished with 10 rebounds and five assists as Houston continued to go with a small-ball lineup after trading Clint Capela last week. The Rockets enjoyed a big advantage at the line, going 37 for 42 compared to 20 for 25 for the Celtics. Harden made 17 of 18 foul shots. Gordon Hayward had 20 points in Boston's first loss since Jan. 26. Jaylen Brown scored 19, and Jayson Tatum had 15 on 5-for-15 shooting. Harden, who scored 19 points in the third quarter to help Houston take control, picked up his fifth foul with about eight minutes left. But he was able to stay in the game and avoid fouling out. Robert Covington had 12 points and seven rebounds in his fourth game since he was acquired as part of a four-team trade that sent Capela to the Hawks. The Rockets were up by seven with about eight minutes left when Harden picked up three fouls in about 30 seconds. The Celtics then closed to 96-94 on Brown's 3-pointer and a dunk by Tatum with 5:40 to go. But Houston made five straight free throws to push the lead to 101-94 before making the big run to put the game away. TIP-INS Celtics: Kemba Walker received a technical foul in the second quarter for arguing with the officials. ... The Celtics had 18 turnovers. Rockets: G Eric Gordon missed his second straight game with a bruised left leg. ... P.J. Tucker received a technical foul in the second quarter for arguing a foul call. ... House had 17 points and nine rebounds. UP NEXT Celtics: Host the Clippers on Thursday night. Rockets: Visit Golden State on Feb. 20......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 12th, 2020

Butler returns to lead Heat past Warriors, 113-101

MICHAEL WAGAMAN Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Jimmy Butler had 21 points and 10 rebounds in his return to Miami’s lineup, and the Heat won in Andre Iguodala’s first game back in the Bay Area, thumping the Golden State Warriors 113-101 on Monday night. Butler was crisp after sitting out the previous two games with a right shoulder strain. The All-Star forward scored 13 points in the first half, shot 9 of 15 overall and had five assists to help the Heat end a three-game skid. Jae Crowder added 21 points and eight rebounds. Bam Adebayo had 13 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Kelly Olynyk had 12 points and a career-high 11 assists. Iguodala, a key member of the Warriors' three championship teams from 2015-18, had two points and five rebounds in 17 minutes against his former team. Damion Lee scored 26 points with five 3-pointers for Golden State (12-42). The loss ends the Warriors' five-year streak of finishing .500 or better. The Heat led comfortably most of the game to win for the first time on their six-game road trip that stretches beyond the All-Star break. Crowder, who had 18 points in his Miami debut against Portland on Sunday, made a step-back 3-pointer that put the Heat up by 18 midway through the second quarter. Olynyk later added another 3-pointer that made it 52-31. Golden State trailed by 24 but got within 73-69 following three free throws by Lee. Miami pulled away early in the fourth quarter, getting a dunk from Iguodala and back-to-back 3s by Robinson and Crowder. TIP-INS Heat: Crowder scored 16 points in the first half. … Miami won in the Bay Area for the first time since Feb. 12, 2014. The Heat had lost five straight road games to Golden State. Warriors: Thompson and Draymond Green, along with injured teammate Stephen Curry, are among the finalists for the 2020 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team. FAMILIAR FACE, NOW FOE During a brief pregame ceremony, injured Golden State star Klay Thompson introduced Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP who was greeted by a standing ovation from the crowd. “I can’t wait to see your jersey in the rafters,” Thompson said. Iguodala, in his second game with the Heat, tried to keep his return to the Bay Area in perspective. “I haven’t had a chance to let it be something that is overwhelming,” Iguodala said. “I just see it as another game on the schedule. It’s more important for the team so it’s actually helping me, if not allowing me, to not let it seem like a different type of situation.” Iguodala was greeted with a rousing ovation from the crowd when he checked into the game in the first quarter. UP NEXT Heat: Face the Jazz in Utah on Wednesday in their final game before the All-Star break. Warriors: Play at Phoenix on Wednesday. The teams split a pair of games in San Francisco earlier this season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 11th, 2020

NCAA Season 95: Pirates try to stay afloat in semis race

Lyceum of the Philippines University tries to keep up with the furious race for a Final Four seat in an all-important battle with Mapua University on Thursday in the NCAA Season 95 women’s volleyball competition at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Sitting at sixth spot with a 2-4 win-loss record, the Lady Pirates are in a must-win situation in all of their remaining games for a chance to at least force a playoff for a semis seat. The 12:00 noon encounter will air via iWant. LPU needs to win all of its last three assignments convincingly and pray that University of Perpetual Help (5-1), San Beda University (4-2) and Letran (3-3) won’t reach six wins to force sa playoff for the no. 4 spot. The Lady Pirates are coming off a sorry five-set loss to Letran but are still tipped to top the Lady Cardinals, who are on a four-game losing skid. Mapua holds a 1-5 card tied with San Sebastian College. Meanwhile, the Lady Stags shoot for back-to-back wins in a showdown with lowly Emilio Aguinaldo College at 2:00 p.m. SSC-R snapped a five-game slump with quick work of Mapua last week. The Lady Generals are winless in six games and are on a 16-game win drought since Season 93. In men’s play, the Generals gun for the first Final Four seat at 3:30 p.m. against the Stags. EAC is unbeaten in six games and shares the top spot with grand slam-seeking Perpetual. SSC-R carries a 1-5 mark. Facing off at 10:00 a.m. are the Cardinals (3-3) and the Pirates (1-5). Mapua (1-5) and LPU (2-4) open the juniors’ playdate at 8:30 a.m. while EAC (5-1) and SSC-R (3-3) meet at 5:00 p.m.     ---     Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 6th, 2020

NCAA Season 95: Lady Red Spikers out to stop skid

San Beda University tries to get out of a two-game slump when it takes on winless Emilio Aguinaldo College on Monday in the NCAA Season 95 women’s volleyball competition at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. After a red-hot 3-0 start, the Lady Red Spikers went cold to slide down to fourth spot tied with Letran. Hoping to keep its Final Four hopes alive in a very tight race, San Beda is in a must-win situation in its encounter with the Lady Generals at 12:00 noon that will air via iWant. The Lady Red Spikers suffered losses at the hands of three-time defending champion Arellano University (5-1) and league-leading College of St. Benilde (6-0). EAC, on the other hand, has yet to win a game after dropping its first five matches and is on a 15-game losing skid since Season 93. Meanwhile, Jose Rizal University is also on a mission to stay alive in the semis race in its 2:00 p.m. battle with Mapua University. Carrying a 2-4 win-loss card tied with Lyceum of the Philippines, the Lady Bombers still have a shot at a spot in the Final Four but must sweep all of its remaining games to at least force a playoff for a semis seat. The Lady Cardinals hold a 1-4 mark. In men’s play, EAC (5-0) goes for a tie at the top with reigning two-time champion Perpetual in a showdown with San Beda (3-2) at 10:00 a.m. while battling at 3:30 p.m. are Mapua (2-3) and JRU (1-5). The juniors’ pairings will feature the Brigadiers (5-0) and Red Cubs (3-2) at 8:30 a.m. while marching on court at 5:00 p.m. are winless teams Red Robins (0-5) and Light Bombers (0-6).   ---       Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles    .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 2nd, 2020

UAAP Season 82: Tigresses dedicate season to injured Alessandrini

The University of Sto. Tomas Tigresses are using the absence of Fil-Italian Milena Alessandrini as fuel for their burning desire to finish the job of reclaiming the throne. Instead of treating the loss of a reliable scorer in 6-foot-2 Alessandrini as a setback, the Tigresses see it as a challenge for those who will see action in the UAAP Season 82 women’s volleyball tournament to step up.  The hitter is still recovering from a partial anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear and grade 3 sprain of the MCL (medial collateral ligament) and LCL (lateral collateral ligament) she sustained March last year. “Since nu’ng training camp pa lang nu’ng nalaman namin na di na makakalaro si Ate Amiga sobrang nagdo-double time lahat ng outside namin, kaming mga outside, para punan ang slot na naiwan ni Ate Amiga,” said incoming sophomore Eya Laure. Alessandrini, who averaged 15.6 points per game last year, remains very positive as she takes her time to fully recover and get back in tiptop shape according to Laure. “Si Ate Amiga naman nu’ng nakausap ko siya, positive naman siya na makakabalik siya,” she said. “Nandoon pa rin naman siya sa progress ng pag-recover niya and sabi ko naman sa kanya hihintayin ko siya, wag lang siya ma-frustrate or something na negative na ikahihila niya pababa.” “Nandito pa rin kaming team and UST to help her and support her na makabalik ulit siya sa playing form niya for next season,” added Laure. Laure, last season’s Rookie of the Year, compares this unexpected setback to UST’s situation last year when they lost middle Tin Francisco to a knee injury while building up for Season 81. “Actually parang similar lang last year. Si Ate Tin, nu’ng na-ACL [injury] din siya unexpected din yun,” she recalled. “Sobra kaming nalungkot pero more on mas na-motivate kami kung paano pupunan ang naiwan niyang slot dun.”  Aside from missing the services of Francisco, the Tigresses last year also suffered a huge setback with Alessandrini down with a knee injury but UST behind Laure and then senior Sisi Rondina rallied to a runner-up finish in the Espana-based squad's first Finals appearance after eight years.    “Kahit papaano naman nag-step up ang lahat. Gumawa ng paraan ang lahat kumbaga team effort kasi ‘yung nangyari last year din and hopefully ngayong year team effort pa rin,” said Laure. The Tigresses are confident that their holdovers from last year, key recruits and the much-awaited return of Season 77 Rookie of the Year EJ Laure will be enough to fill the void left by Alessandrini, now graduate Rondina and Dimdim Pacres, who decided to forego her last playing year.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 30th, 2020

Brady says I still have more to prove in Instagram post

By Kyle Hightower, Associated Press BOSTON (AP) — Whether Tom Brady will return as quarterback of the New England Patriots next season is still an open question. But the 42-year-old on Wednesday gave another indication that he isn't done playing football. In an Instagram post to fans, Brady said “I still have more to prove” following a season that ended with the Patriots failing to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 2015.         View this post on Instagram                   I just wanted to say to all of our fans, THANK YOU! After a few days of reflection, I am so grateful and humbled by the unconditional support you have shown me the past two decades. Running out of that tunnel every week is a feeling that is hard to explain. I wish every season ended in a win, but that’s not the nature of sports (or life). Nobody plays to lose. But the reward for working hard is just that, the work!! I have been blessed to find a career I love, teammates who go to battle with me, an organization that believes in me, and fans who have been behind us every step of the way. Every one of us that works at Gillette Stadium strived to do their best, spent themselves at a worthy cause, and prepared to fail while daring greatly (h/t Teddy Roosevelt). And for that, we’ve been rewarded with something that the scoreboard won’t show - the satisfaction of knowing we gave everything to each other in pursuit of a common goal. That is what TEAM is all about. In both life and football, failure is inevitable. You dont always win. You can, however, learn from that failure, pick yourself up with great enthusiasm, and place yourself in the arena again. And that’s right where you will find me. Because I know I still have more to prove. A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on Jan 8, 2020 at 5:50am PST “In both life and football, failure is inevitable," he wrote. “You dont always win. You can, however, learn from that failure, pick yourself up with great enthusiasm, and place yourself in the arena again.” New England's season ended with a 20-13 loss in the wild-card round to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night. A six-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Most Valuable Player of the NFL title game and three-time winner of the league MVP, Brady could become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career when his contract ends in March. That has placed team owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick on the clock to either bring back Brady for his 21st season or watch the franchise’s greatest player depart from the only team he's called home. Belichick said this week that there isn't an established timeline to resolve Brady's status, but he acknowledged that his case is unusual. “Everybody's situation is different," Belichick said. "Certainly, Tom is an iconic figure in this organization. And nobody respects Tom more than I do.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2020

PBA Finals: Elims beatdown motivates Gin Kings in rematch

Barangay Ginebra sees its elimination round beating at the hands of Meralco as added motivation when the two teams dispute the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup title starting Tuesday. “They beat us pretty bad. We didn’t play well but we’ve seen some stuff that we could be better at,” said Gin Kings import Justin Brownlee recalling their 77-101 blowout loss to the Bolts two months ago. Now facing Meralco again in the biggest stage of the season-ending conference, the Gin Kings are all fired up for payback – and for another possible championship run over the same club they beat in the 2016 and 2017 editions.       “We just hope to add some fuel from that game and just come out and play hard,” said Brownlee, who was held to just 18 points in that elims meeting against Meralco import Allen Durham’s 39 markers.  It was a dominating elims win for the Bolts but as far as Durham is concerned what they performed in that match won’t matter come the championship series. It’s back to a clean slate for both squads and what will count are the four wins that they need to claim in the best-of-seven series.   “It was nice to beat them but it’s a totally different situation now,” said Durham, who hopes to tow Meralco to its first title this time after coming up short twice. Fresh from a long break, Durham is just as stoked as Brownlee for another epic series.   “We both had time off. Both of the coaching staff had time to dissect each other. I think it’s really gonna be a competitive series, I’m excited,” he said.   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2020

Injuries pile up as EPL managers vent at festive workload

By Steve Douglas, Associated Press It's tough to know who had the bigger workload during a Premier League festive period perhaps like no other - the players or the clubs’ medical departments. Newcastle manager Steve Bruce lost four of his players to injury - and was forced to keep on the field a player, American DeAndre Yedlin, with a suspected broken hand - in a 20-minute spell around halftime during a game against Leicester on Wednesday. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe fielded already-injured players in his team’s loss at Brighton days earlier, while Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson acknowledged starting star player Wilfried Zaha against Norwich despite knowing he was carrying a problem. Across a period where some teams were forced to play four games in an 11-day span, a website that compiles injuries in English soccer’s top flight - Premier Injuries - has calculated that there were 53 reported injuries sustained by players. “Like all things in life, it’s about quality over quantity,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who has been one of the most vocal critics about the workload asked of a modern-day player. “If you have a good friend and you see him twice a year, it’s brilliant, the best time of your life. If you see him every day, you’ll think after five days, ‘What the heck?’” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, the owner of one of the best and deepest squads in world soccer, also spoke out Friday about the crammed nature of the festive period in England. “Like I’ve said before, nobody cares,” Guardiola said, referring to soccer’s authorities. “And next season there will be more than 50 injuries in this period again.” While most leagues in Europe take a break over Christmas and New Year, the Premier League plows on regardless, continuing a tradition in England that saw - at its most extreme - top-flight teams playing on both Christmas Day and Dec. 26 until the late 1950s. It’s a dream for soccer-mad TV viewers - in England and around the world - less so for Premier League managers who are left to pick up the pieces as their squads are left in tatters at the heavy workload that often impacts on the quality of the games. “The boys last night ran 13 kilometers (8 miles),” Klopp said, the day after his team beat Sheffield United 2-0 at Anfield on Thursday to restore its 13-point lead. “I can’t tell them, ‘Come on, try to run only 11 km so you’ll be ready for the next game.’ It doesn’t work like this. “It’s more, it’s quicker, it’s more physical, it’s more demanding in more departments. But the schedule is the schedule. That’s the truth.” Klopp called on all parties - football authorities, broadcasters, managers - to come together and discuss a solution, though he is not holding his breath. “Try to think at one time in all these negotiations about the players,” he said. “Without the money, it doesn’t work. But without the players, it doesn’t work, as well.” Wolverhampton and Manchester City played two games in less than a 48-hour period (on Dec. 27 and Dec. 29). City, especially, has the capacity to rotate its lineup to keep players slightly fresher but there was no such luxury for the likes of Palace, Newcastle and Bournemouth, who already had a long lost of injuries to players. “We have 10 out of 22 outfield players injured. It's horrendous,” said Bruce, who added that he had never seen such an extreme situation in 40 years in professional football. Hodgson said his players had done “extremely well during this period to actually get on the field and play.” “Do you say we need to play what we think is near to our best team, and we put players on the field and risk that they are going to pick up an injury, or do we say we can't afford to risk it with all the games we have coming up?” said the 72-year-old former England manager. "It is a dilemma and I am still waiting for some bolt from the blue which will tell me what I need to do to solve the dilemma - but it hasn't happened yet." FIFPro, an organization that represents more than 65,000 professional players, made a series of recommendations in a report - called “At The Limit” - it published last year. file:///C:/Users/sdouglas/Downloads/at-the-limit.pdf They include introducing mandatory periods of rest, of four weeks in the offseason and two weeks midseason, and limiting the amount of times per season when players have back-to-back competitive games with less than five days of recovery time in between. FIFPro also wants soccer authorities to consider imposing an annual cap on matches for each player “to protect his health and performance.” For the first time in English soccer, the top flight will have a midseason break this season. It will see one round of Premier League games played across two weekends - five games on one, five on the other - in February to give clubs a two-week break. The then-chief executive of the Football Association, Martin Glenn, said when the new schedule was announced last year that it would keep the “much-loved Christmas schedule in place” and prove to be a “valuable addition for our players” who will be going into end-of-season international tournaments. Try telling that to England captain Harry Kane, who came off after tearing his left hamstring muscle while playing for Tottenham against Southampton on Wednesday, or Tom Heaton, an England goalkeeper who is out for the rest of the season with knee-ligament damage sustained while playing for Aston Villa the same day. Expect managers to roll out largely reserve teams as the English soccer calendar continues this weekend with the third round of the FA Cup......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2020

Heat clamp down on defense, top Raptors 84-76

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press MIAMI (AP) — Bam Adebayo had 15 points and 14 rebounds, and the Miami Heat put together their best defensive performance of the season in an 84-76 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic each scored 13 points for Miami, which is now 2-0 against the Raptors this season and improved to 9-0 after a loss. The Heat and Milwaukee are the only teams to not lose consecutive games this season. Derrick Jones Jr. scored 10 points and Jimmy Butler finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Miami. Serge Ibaka had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto. Kyle Lowry scored 15 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 13 and OG Anunoby had 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Raptors shot only 31.5% and were 6 for 42 from 3-point range. That came after Miami had a long practice Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), upset with how its defense was awful the night before in a loss to Washington. There was a pregame tribute and moment of silence for former NBA Commissioner David Stern, who died Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) at the age of 77. Both the Raptors and the Heat were born under Stern’s leadership of the league. “There probably is some serendipity to this game, to have the expansion of the league ... it’s a byproduct of his leadership and vision,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Miami set a season-best for points allowed by a huge margin; the previous Heat low in that department this season was 94 against New Orleans on Nov. 16 (Nov. 17, PHL time). Toronto’s previous season low for points was 88, in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 11 (Nov. 12, PHL time). Anunoby was fouled on a 3-point try with 1:21 left in the third, making all three free throws to tie the game at 60. It was Toronto’s second time cashing in on such a foul in the game, after Lowry went 3 for 3 in that situation late in the first quarter. But the Heat went on a 17-5 run in the fourth and held Toronto to 16 points in the final 12 minutes. TIP-INS Raptors: Former Toronto and Miami All-Star Chris Bosh was seated near midcourt. ... Ibaka and Fred VanVleet combined to take 15 of Toronto’s first 18 shots. ... Toronto started 2 for 21 from 3-point range, before Anunoby connected on a corner 3 at the end of the first half. ... Injured Raptors Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam are on the trip, but remain sidelined. Heat: Justise Winslow (bone bruise in back) did some work a few hours before the game, but missed his 13th consecutive game. In his fifth season, Winslow has missed Miami’s first game of 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2020. ... DJ Khaled and Diddy were seated near the Heat bench, while Future and Meek Mill were also courtside. SLOW SCORING This was the 510th game of the NBA season, and only the fifth where neither team scored more than 20 points in the first quarter. And with Miami taking a 63-60 lead into the fourth, it became only the second game this season with teams at those totals -- the other was Charlotte leading Chicago 59-50 after 36 minutes on Dec. 13 (Dec. 14, PHL time). TECH CENTER There were four technical fouls in the game -- leading to zero points. Spoelstra and Raptors coach Nick Nurse both got hit with techs (both resulting free throws were missed), while Lowry and Kendrick Nunn were recipients of a double-technical late in the third. UP NEXT Raptors: Visit Brooklyn on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time), ending a quick two-game road trip. Heat: Visit Orlando on Friday (Saturday, PHL time), the first of four meetings between the in-state rivals this season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2020

Harden has 35 as Rockets down Nuggets 130-104

By Kristie Rieken, Associated Press HOUSTON (AP) — Now that the Houston Rockets are healthy, James Harden is excited for his team’s possibilities. But he knows there will be ups and downs as his teammates figure out how to play together. Harden scored 35 points after missing the last game with an injury to lead the Rockets to a 130-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night. The Rockets were back to full strength after Harden missed his first game of the season because of a sprained right toe in a loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Clint Capela (bruised heel) and Russell Westbrook (load management) also returned after sitting out on Sunday in the 127-112 defeat. They got Eric Gordon back on Sunday after the guard sat out for about six weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery. “We’ve just got to find a way,” Harden said. “It will get there. We’re not where we want to be obviously. It’s still early in the season. But we’ve got to find a way to sustain it for four quarters and once we get that it’s going to be pretty tough to beat us.” Houston pushed a small lead to a big advantage with a 19-3 run to start the fourth quarter. The Rockets were up by 17 when Harden scored five quick points, with a 3-pointer, to make it 118-96 with about 3 1/2 minutes left and end his night and that of most of Houston’s starters. Nikola Jokic scored 21 points for the Nuggets, who had a two-game winning streak snapped. “Our defense wasn’t there all night long,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “The turnovers were too much. Give them credit, they’re a good team, but a really disappointing fourth quarter.” Westbrook had 28 points for his 11th straight game with 20 or more, the longest streak by a Rockets player besides Harden since Yao Ming did it in 14 games in a row in 2006. The Nuggets used a 37-point third quarter to cut the lead to three, but the Rockets scored the first 12 points of the fourth to make it 104-89 with about 9 minutes left. Ben McLemore had two 3-pointers to power that spurt. Denver got its first points of the quarter on a 3 by Torrey Craig after that. Houston then scored the next seven points, capped by a 3 from Harden to stretch the lead to 111-92 midway through the period. Coach Mike D’Antoni was happy with the way the Rockets opened the fourth quarter, but was disappointed that they let up in the third to allow the Nuggets to cut the deficit. “If you stop them and it went the other way the game could have been over (earlier),” he said. “But we have that tendency of letting people back in and we’ve got to develop better habits. Because if you want to go deep in the playoffs you can’t just turn it on.” The Rockets were up by 12 after a 3-pointer by Harden with about 7 minutes left in the third quarter. Jokic then scored four quick points to cut the lead to 78-70 midway through the quarter. Houston remained up by eight later in the third when Harden, who had six 3-pointers, made three free throws to push it to 86-75. The Rockets had pushed the lead to 10 with about 3 minutes left in the third before the Nuggets used an 11-4 run to cut the lead to 92-89 entering the fourth. Malik Beasley led the Nuggets in that stretch, scoring five points capped by a 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left. TIP-INS Nuggets: Paul Millsap had 13 points and nine rebounds in his return after missing two games with a bruised left knee. ... Denver made 8 of 25 3-pointers. ... Monte Morris added 18 points off the bench. Rockets: Gordon scored 12 points. ... Capela had 16 points and 10 rebounds after missing the last two games with his injury. HARTENSTEIN HEATING UP Houston center Isaiah Hartenstein had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the first double-double of his career. The performance comes after he scored a career-high 19 points on Sunday filling in for Capela. Hartenstein is averaging 14.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in the last three games. UP NEXT Nuggets: Visit Indiana on Friday night in the second game of a five-game trip. Rockets: Host 76ers on Friday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 1st, 2020

Doncic has 9th triple-double of season, Mavs rout Warriors

By The Associated Press SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Luka Doncic had 31 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds in his ninth triple-double of the season and the Dallas Mavericks routed the Golden State Warriors 141-121 on Saturday night (Sunday, PHL time). Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 25 points, Kristaps Porzingis had 18 and Seth Curry added 17 off the bench for the Mavericks. They snapped the Warriors' four-game winning streak. D’Angelo Russell had 30 points and eight 3-pointers in the first half but injured his neck after falling and colliding with Dwight Powell during the third quarter. Russell returned for the start of the fourth, but the Warriors were down by 19 at that point. He finished with 35 points and six assists and shot 13 for 21. The Mavericks pulled away when Russell was out, outscoring the Warriors 45-24 in the third quarter. Hardaway made a deep 3 with 6:55 left in the third to give the Mavericks an eight-point lead that would only grow as the game went on. HEAT 117, 76ERS 116, OT MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler made the second of two free throws with 2.3 seconds left in overtime, giving Miami a wild victory over Philadelphia. Butler finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to help improved its NBA-best home record to 15-1 and move back into second place in the Eastern Conference. He was fouled by Al Horford as he tried a jumper for the lead, missed the first foul shot and then connected on the second. Tobias Harris had a good look at a 3-pointer as time expired, but his shot from the right corner hit the rim and bounced away. Miami got a one-point win for the second straight night, after topping Indiana at home Friday. Philadelphia lost by one for the second straight night, after falling at Orlando on Friday (Saturday, PHL time) — the first time the 76ers have lost consecutive games by a single point since Jan. 25 and 27, 1995. Joel Embiid had 35 points and 11 rebounds for Philadelphia. RAPTORS 113, CELTICS 97 BOSTON (AP) — Kyle Lowry scored 30 points, Serge Ibaka had 20 and Toronto snapped Boston’s five-game winning streak. Patrick McCaw and Fred VanVleet each added 18 points to help defending champion Toronto avenge a loss on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time) and send Boston to its second loss in 15 games at home this season. Kemba Walker led the Celtics with 30 points, and Jaylen Brown had 17. Playing their first game since losing by 16 to the Celtics on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) — the first NBA game in Canada on Christmas — the Raptors never trailed in breaking a two-game losing streak. Toronto was without two of its top four scorers due to injuries — Pascal Siakam (groin) and Norman Powell (left shoulder subluxation). The Raptors also were missing center Marc Gasol (left hamstring). All three were injured Dec. 18 (Dec. 19, PHL time) at Detroit. ROCKETS 108, NETS 98 HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden had 44 points and 10 rebounds and Houston built a big early lead and withstood a late rally from Brooklyn. Houston has won five of six games, with its only loss coming against Golden State on Christmas (Dec. 26, PHL time). Russell Westbrook and the Nets’Taurean Prince were both ejected with about 20 seconds to go when they started yelling at each other after Prince fouled Westbrook. Spencer Dinwiddie led the Nets with 17 points and 11 assists. BUCKS 111, MAGIC 110 MILWAUKEE (AP) — Khris Middleton scored 21 points and NBA-leading Milwaukee overcame Giannis Antetokounmpo's absence for the second straight night. Antetokounmpo, the NBA MVP last season, also missed the Bucks' victory Friday (Saturday, PHL time) in Atlanta because of back soreness. Middleton also had seven assists and five rebounds to help the Bucks improve to 29-5 overall and 16-2 at home. Ersan Ilyasova, starting in place of Antetokounmpo, had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Evan Fournier led Orlando with 23 points. NUGGETS 119, GRIZZLIES 110 DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored a season-high 31 points and had 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his seventh triple-double of the season and 35th overall, leading Denver past Memphis. Will Barton added 20 points and Jamal Murray and Mason Plumlee each had 15 to help the Nuggets win for the eighth time in nine games. Jaren Jackson Jr. led Memphis with 20 points. BULLS 116, HAWKS 81 CHICAGO (AP) — Lauri Markkanen had 25 points, Zach LaVine added 19 and Chicago nearly led wire-to-wire against short-handed Atlanta. Battling an illness and questionable until a few hours before the game, Markkanen was 8 for 14 from the field, making 4 of 9 3-pointers. The Bulls have has won three of four. John Collins had 34 points for the NBA-worst Hawks. They have dropped 10 straight for the second time this season. PELICANS 120, PACERS 98 NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 24 points, Jrue Holiday added 20 and New Orleans won its third straight. JJ Redick scored 15 points, and Lonzo Ball added 13 for New Orleans. Aaron Holiday scored 25 points for Indiana. KNICKS 107, WIZARDS 100 WASHINGTON (AP) — Julius Randle scored 30 points and equaled a season high with 16 rebounds, Bobby Portis added 17 points and New York. It was the Knicks' second straight victory, just the second time this season they've won two straight. Both wins have come on the road. Isaiah Thomas and Jordan McRae each scored 20 points for Washington. SPURS 136, PISTONS 109 SAN ANTONIO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan had 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge added 25 points and 12 rebounds and San Antonio hit a season-high 18 3-pointers. San Antonio was 18 for 35 from 3-point range, including a career-high five by Aldridge. San Antonio set a season-high with 42 points in the third quarter, fueled by a 25-9 run. Andre Drummond had 21 points and 18 rebounds for Detroit. SUNS 112, KINGS 110 SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Devin Booker had 32 points and 10 assists and Phoenix held off Sacramento to snap an eight-game losing streak. Kelly Oubre Jr. added 20 points and 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio had 21 points and eight assists. Buddy Hield scored 23 points for Sacramento. The Kings have lost six straight. CAVALIERS 94, TIMBERWOLVES 88 MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Darius Garland and Collin Sexton each scored 18 points and Cleveland overcame an NBA season high-tying 29 turnovers to hold off Minnesota. Tristan Thompson added 12 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. Jeff Teague scored 18 points for Minnesota. LAKERS 128, TRAIL BLAZERS 120 PORTLAND, Ore (AP) — Kyle Kuzma scored 24 points, LeBron James had 21 points and 16 assists, and Los Angeles Lakers snapped a season-long four-game losing streak. Kuzma highlighted a strong performance by the Lakers' reserves, who provided 72 bench points. Portland’s bench scored 36 points. Anthony Davis added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers. Damian Lillard had a game-high 31 points for Portland, which dropped its third straight. Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds. JAZZ 120, CLIPPERS 107 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points, Jordan Clarkson added 19 points in his second game with his new team, and Utah beat the Clippers. Clarkson, who was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time), came off the bench to shoot 7 of 13 from the field. The Jazz shot 48.6% from 3-point range to win for the seventh time in eight games. Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points and Paul George added 19 for the Clippers. The Jazz scored the last 11 points of the game to seal the victory, holding the Clippers scoreless over the final 3:35. The Clippers made just four field goals in the fourth quarter......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 29th, 2019

PBA: Ginebra made sure to avoid Game 5 vs. tough Northport

Barangay Ginebra is through to the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals after ending Northport’s magical conference run in Game 4 of the semis Friday. Following a 34-point loss in Game 1, the Gin Kings made sure in leaving no doubt about the winner of this series, winning the next three games by a combined 75 points. Matched up with a team that took down the conference’s no. 1 seed, Ginebra wanted to make sure they avoided Game 5 at all cost. “It's good that we didn't have to go to a fifth game. I'm just so happy that we didn't have to go to a fifth game. Because as we were talking about in the locker room, this team is in a twice-to-beat situation earlier and they showed great character in beating NLEX in the first game, dominating them, then coming back to win a triple overtime game,” head coach Tim Cone said, remembering Northport’s now-classic win over the Road Warriors in the quarterfinals. “That will go down as one of the great PBA games of all time. We knew they had the character in them to play us,” he added. Ginebra got a glimpse of how dangerous Northport can be with that Game 1 beatdown they received. But as the semis grind took its toll on the Batang Pier, the Gin Kings relied on their superior depth to pull through. “In a series like this, when you play every other game in a best-of-five, depth becomes very important. And we obviously had the depth that they didn't have. We were just able to wear them down with our depth through the series,” Cone said. “They came out and played a heck of a first game, and it was quite frightening to see how good they could be in that first game. And it shook us up a little bit. We regained our bearings and started the play we wanted to play,” he added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 20th, 2019