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The NBA s new coach s challenge could be a timely tool for teams to wield

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Cleveland’s John Beilein, the only new-to-the-league coach this season, actually got a jump on his 29 rivals in one department. To better familiarize himself with the Cavaliers team he was taking over, Beilein broke from the tradition that has assistant coaches working the sideline at NBA Summer League. When the situation arose in a game in Las Vegas for Cleveland to invoke the experimental “coaches’ challenge” rule, Beilein was the one calling for it. And the one getting shot down. “It was an out-of-bounds play,” Beilein recalled during a break at the coaches’ meetings in Chicago last month. “My player came to the bench saying, ‘It’s definitely our ball.’ I thought, ‘Great, this is why we have it now.’ “We came back out. It was their ball.” There will be a lot of dashed hopes in 2019-20, as well as some pivotal reversals, with the NBA’s adoption of the latest replay wrinkle. As in MLB and the NFL, coaches will have the opportunity to appeal, in real time, certain referees’ decisions. All the “triggers” of the existing replay system remain, but now the teams will have a sense of control. One time each game. “I’ve been a proponent of it for many years, just as an additional layer of security,” said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, who also serves as president of the NBA Coaches Association. “If a call’s inaccurate for any reason, it’s just an extra chance -- particularly if the game’s on the line -- to get it right. “The question has always been, how to execute it. Where to start. Sounds like this is going to start with a high level of simplicity. Then we’ll see where it goes.” Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone thought back to 2017-18, when the Nuggets missed the postseason after a loss at Minnesota in the season’s final game. Like every game, there were a handful of what-if moments. “Think about it,” Malone said. “Two years ago, one play could have been the difference for us between the lottery and playoffs. That saves jobs, that gets home/road seeding, there are a lot of things that it can affect.” How the coach’s challenge works For this season, the challenge can be made in three situations: to question a foul called against that team’s player, to dispute an out-of-bounds decision or to question a goaltending/basket interference ruling against that team. The first type applies to the entire game; the others to the first 46 minutes (and first three minutes of overtime), after which the established triggers take over. Challenging a call requires the coach to first call a timeout and then inform the referees he wants a review. There are new court administrators at every game this season to help with the process. Also, fans will notice green “challenge lights” at the scorer’s table -- the one nearest the challenging bench will blink. Beilein said he sought redress a couple of times in Las Vegas, without satisfaction. “They never reversed their decisions,” he said, “but it’s really a good idea to do, to let us have this say in a game. You ask, they review it. If they don’t see it, you just move on with the game. It puts things away, so we’re not grinding away all night on that call. It’s over. It’s done.” If a call is reversed, the challenge is successful and the team’s timeout is restored. If the initial ruling stands, the challenge is deemed unsuccessful and that timeout is gone. Win or lose the appeal, the allotment stays the same: One challenge per team per game. The early chatter among coaches has been, when is the best time to use it? In Sunday’s Hornets-Celtics game, Brad Stevens and James Borrego waited until the final minute. Both challenges failed. “I’ll probably save it till the fourth quarter,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I’m going to be really excited about it when it helps wins me some games. And I’m going to really hate it when it costs me.” Said Malone: “The funny thing is, we always say, ‘The game never comes down to just the last play. Something that happened in the first quarter was just as important.’ But the reality it, when you get to the last two minutes, if you have the coaches challenge in your pocket, that could come up with a really big play or give you momentum.” The refs’ crew chief will have the final determination of fouls. He or she also will be able to “clean up” the play in question if, for instance, they notice the foul was assessed incorrectly or if a different foul by either side occurred before the one being reviewed. Note: infractions such as 3-second violations or traveling, if uncalled initially, can’t be assessed in a challenge review. The league’s Replay Center in Secaucus, N.J., will adjudicate out-of-bounds and goaltending challenges. Confidence key in using challenge At the NBCA September meetings in Chicago, the feature -- also given a trial run in the G League in recent seasons -- was discussed in a ballroom session with referees and supervisors of the officials. The next day, they all spent time on a basketball court, walking through the particulars. Borrego took advantage of his proximity in Charlotte to talk with Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera about his strategy in using the NFL’s version. Those coaches physically throw a red flag to signal their challenge and have time to hear from assistant coaches in a stadium booth upstairs who have seen video to determine their chances of reversal. The NBA won’t have either flags to throw or helpers checking. The coaches will have to alert the refs by twirling their fingers in the air, the current universal symbol for “replay.” They’ll need to act before an opposing player is handed the ball to shoot free throws or toss it inbounds, or before a jump ball. “We haven’t had this conversation with them yet, but players never think they fouled,” Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Monday. “It’s never out on them. We’re gonna have to say, ‘OK, did you really not foul?’ Somehow figure out, ‘OK, you have to tell the truth.’ “That kind of feedback from them is going to be important in a challenge situation.” The preseason was only a few days old but, in this era of analytics, Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen had his crew gather data on every early challenge. He’s working up a list of situations in which to use it. Late in games? Sure. But not so late that the existing triggers take over for a disputed out-of-bounds play. Then the coach might go home without using it. “You’re always concerned about [burning] the timeout,” Boylen said. “You’d better be sure. Your [viewing] angles better be good.” Not everyone is a fan of the experiment, which will be evaluated after the season by the NBA’s Competition Committee. Some skeptics fret that adding reviews will mean more delays in games that already have replay interruptions. Then there was Monty Williams, the Phoenix Suns’ new coach. Part of his dislike? Genuine empathy for the referees. “I’m not a fan of it at all,” Williams said. “Sometimes it’s to your detriment, but I think human error is part of our game. I know we’re trying to get it right, but sometimes [replay] causes referees to get second-guessed a lot. They already are. “And this is just one more thing for coaches to have to do. Now we’re all going to have to delegate a guy on our bench to monitor things.  “If we’re gonna challenge, I wish it was a segment -- say, the last three minutes of the game. I want to coach. I don’t want to be focused all night on, ‘Should I have challenged [a call made earlier]?’ ” Fans might notice other rules changes and priorities for officials this season: * Coaches will be required to submit their starting lineups earlier now, making them public at least 30 minutes before tipoff. This change is seen largely as a nod to the looming arrival of legal sports betting. Knowing the starters earlier -- and which regulars might be sitting out with injuries or for “load management” -- means more wagers can be made with the most updated information. (A change still can be made if a player gets hurt or aggravates an injury during warm-ups.) * The Replay Center will take over determinations of 2-pointers vs. 3-pointers, operating automatically. * There figures to be a spate of traveling calls early this season. The referees have made that infraction one of their “Points of Education” for 2019-20. That means a “more stringent enforcement” of the existing rule, according to Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s VP, head of referee development and training. The league has gone so far as to include the concept of “the gather” in its rule book now. That -- the moment when a player has full control of the ball and thus the point from which he can take two steps – has been used for years by game officials. But now it has been codified, which helps when discerning variations such as steps taken backward (rather than in forward progress) or in the “Euro-step.” McCutchen noted that, in years past, the NBA game was played through the post at a slower pace. Referees evaluated plays starting with the defenders. Now, with hand-checking long gone and 3-pointers pulling players farther out on the court, the refs’ sequence of viewing plays has shifted to feet, then release, then defender. Other Points of Education for the refs this year have focused on illegal contact initiated by offensive players, “freedom of movement” issues and “respect for the game” moments, which basically are emotional overreactions to calls that exceed allowable guidelines. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnOct 12th, 2019

PetroGazz seeks to surpass Creamline in an all-local battle

Creamline remains the standard when it comes to strength of its local lineup in the Premier Volleyball League. The Cool Smashers have the deepest bench as the two-time Open Conference champions parade a star-studded roster led by elite hitters Alyssa Valdez, Jema Galanza, Michele Gumabao, Risa Sato and top setter Jia Morado. That’s the reason why PetroGazz, which built an exciting rivalry against Creamline last year, is keen on shoring up its team composition for PVL Season 4. “’Yung level ng Creamline kapag all-Filipino mas mataas talaga sa amin,” admitted Angels coach Arnold Laniog in an interview with ABS-CBN Sports. PetroGazz pulled off an upset over Creamline in last year’s Reinforced Conference Finals with the help of prized imports Cuban Wilma Salas and American Janisa Johnson. The two teams met again in the Open Conference championship, but the firepower of the Cool Smashers’ local arsenal proved too much for the Angels, who were swept in the Finals series. Creamline completed a rare 20-game tournament sweep last year. “We need to work hard para maka-recruit ng players at possible talents na magpi-fit din mismo sa system namin,” Laniog said.   The Angels made their move early this year when they signed three-time NCAA Most Valuable Player Grethcel Soltones, Jerrili Malabanan and setter Ivy Perez. Their arrival proved to be timely after skipper Paneng Mercado-de Koenigswater took a leave of absence because of her pregnancy and starting setter Djanel Cheng departed. The trio according to Laniog fits perfectly with their system has shown good chemistry with holdovers Jeanette Panaga, Cherry Nunag, Jonah Sabete, Jovyu Prado, Cai Baloaloa, Jessey De Leon, Chie Saet and liberos Cienne Cruz and Rica Enclona. Unfortunately, their preparation was halted because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Still, Laniog is confident that once the government gives the green light for volleyball activities to resume PetroGazz will be ready to take on the powerhouse Cool Smashers in an all-Filipino setting.    “Sabi ko nga in the future di malayo na kaya naming malagpasan ang challenge ng locals ng Creamline,” he said.     --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 15th, 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

K-Racs the glue that will hold together Coach Aldin s NCAA First 5

Aldin Ayo has been calling the shots for University of Sto. Tomas from 2018 to present. Before this, the always amiable mentor was at the helm of De La Salle University from 2016 to 2017. And before this, Coach Aldin was the head coach for alma mater Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 2015. Through all of that, he has had a hand in the discovery and the development of young talent for his teams as well as the game planning for the opposing rising stars. Among all of those, who are the best of the best for him? Here is Aldin Ayo's NCAA First 5, as he told ABS-CBN Sports: JIOVANI JALALON The Jalalon of 2015 was not yet the Jalalon of 2016 - you know, the one who drove Arellano University all the way to the Finals. Still, that younger Jalalon posed problems even for Coach Aldin and his "mayhem" in Letran. "A two-way player. He knows his role as a point guard," the latter said of the former. Jalalon's shine as a full-fledged superstar came in the season after Ayo left Intramuros, but the latter has always been a good judge of potential and saw just that in the former. SCOTTIE THOMPSON Unlike Jalalon, Thompson was already at the peak of his powers in Coach Aldin's one and only season in Letran. And so, the fiery tactician had a frontrow seat to the type of all-around impact University of Perpetual Help's proud product can have. "Very, versatile player plus good character," he said. Thompson fell short of winning a game against Coach Aldin's Knights, but without a doubt, the former won the admiration of the latter. KEVIN RACAL Racal does not necessarily get the shine that Mark Cruz - or Rey Nambatac, for that matter - does. However, it cannot be denied that the 6-foot-4 forward is the perfect personification of the versatility Coach Aldin seeks from his players. Whether it be defending Ola Adeogun, dogging Baser Amer, delivering an assist, or drilling a timely three, Racal can do it all - and he did it all to help Letran in its Cinderella run to the title. "He is a winner in all aspects," Ayo said. ART DELA CRUZ Adeogun was far from full strength, Amer got injured in the elimination round, and so, San Beda University's one and only constant was Art Dela Cruz. The do-it-all forward made his presence felt all over for the Red Lions and was the first and foremost reason why they stayed afloat despite the health of their other two big guns. In Dela Cruz, the red and white had, pretty much, what Coach Aldin had in Racal. "One of the most versatile players in college basketball. His basketball IQ is off the charts. He can be a point forward," the former Letran coach said. ALLWELL ORAEME Like all of the above, Oraeme can do damage both on offense and defense. "Rim protector on defense then on offense, he will be the recipient of the playmaking of Jalalon, Thompson, Racal, and Dela Cruz," Coach Aldin said, talking about the back-to-back MVP from Mapua University. Indeed, the Nigerian tower will not be forced to do much too much on offense with his four teammates all capable and confident of making plays - and will just expend his energy standing as a nightmare for opponents at the defensive end. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 31st, 2020

Matty Ice sets up MVP Chabi in Aldin Ayo s UAAP First 5

Aldin Ayo has been calling the shots for University of Sto. Tomas from 2018 to present. Before this, the always amiable mentor was at the helm of De La Salle University from 2016 to 2017. Through all of that, he has had a hand in the discovery and the development of young talent for his teams as well as the game planning for the opposing rising stars. Among all of those, who are the best of the best for him? Here is Aldin Ayo's UAAP First 5, as he told ABS-CBN Sports: SOULEMANE CHABI YO Of course, coach Aldin will have the UAAP 82 MVP as one of his main men. Chabi Yo is far from the traditional foreign student-athlete in that he could wield weapons from the outside just as well as he could will his way inside. The Beninese ball of energy could be slotted anywhere from the 3 to 5 positions - and sometimes, at the 2 in jumbo lineups - and is the perfect do-it-all player for Ayo's do-it-all philosophy. DAVE ANDO Asked to expound on his selection of Chabi Yo, coach Aldin bundled him together with Ando as players of interest. "I will tell you the reasons why I chose them after Season 83 - regardless of the result of our campaign," he said. Looks like UST has high hopes for its starting center as he enters his second season in black and gold. Already a solid contributor with an uncanny ability for knocking down one-handed shots from inside the arc, Ando may very well take the leap before our very eyes next year. MATT NIETO Remember Mcjour Luib's iconic free throw lane violation that sealed the deal in Colegio de San Juan de Letran's NCAA 91 championship? That is the sort of smart play that could also be expected from Nieto. "If you have a point guard like him, as a coach, you can really do your job well," coach Aldin said of the lead guard of the Ateneo de Manila University side that had downed UST for the UAAP 82 title. "One of the best point guards (in college) in terms of character and decision-making." Indeed, character and decision-making have long been the defining characteristics of "Matty Ice." JERRICK AHANMISI What coach Aldin knows, everybody else does too. "One of the best shooters in college," he said of Adamson University's top gun. What escapes the notice of many, however, is that Ahanmisi is much more than a shooter. "He reads the defense really well and he has improved his defense a lot," the UST tactician said. That two-way impact is, no doubt, a must in any Aldin Ayo team. ZACH HUANG In the renaissance of UST, names such as Chabi Yo, Rhenz Abando, CJ Cansino, and Mark Nonoy have made noise - but not without all-important contributions from their workhorse in Huang. A no-nonsense player, the 6-foot-3 forward just does whatever is asked of him - whether it be getting points, getting rebounds, or getting defensive stops. "The guy can play the 2, 3, and 4 spots. Aside from his versatility, he has improved his skills a lot," coach Aldin said. And Huang would only be better now he would be moving forward from the Growling Tigers. "I wish he had one more playing year so he can blossom to the player we want him to be, but I believe he can achieve that as he plays in the commercial leagues," his mentor said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 12th, 2020

Ateneo s Fab 5: The Fearless Underdogs of UAAP Volleyball

(This story was originally published on April 20, 2018) Newly-appointed head coach Roger Gorayeb looked at his line-up heading into UAAP Season 71. A champion mentor of NCAA powerhouse San Sebastian College - Recoletos, Gorayeb had in his hands a gargantuan task of rebuilding the Ateneo de Manila University women’s volleyball program. Just a few months before, Ronald Dulay, the mentor before him, landed a trio of blue chip recruits who were fresh from a successful stint in the Palarong Pambansa. Angeline "Dzi" Gervacio, Fille Saint Cainglet and Jamenea "Jem" Ferrer just joined the Katipunan-based squad. Gervacio and Cainglet were products of St. Scholastica's College in Manila while Ferrer was a gem from Hope Christian School under girl’s volleyball guru Jerry Yee. Looking at his 15-woman line-up with the season just a few months ahead, Gorayeb knew he needed to do something drastic. The roster just won’t do. Talking to then athletic director Ricky Palou and team manager Tony Boy Liao, the mentor told the team officials that he intended to cut five players from the list. One could just imagine the shock in their faces. “Nakita ko may line-up pero player-playeran lang yung ganoon bang tipo, 15 ata yun. Sabi ko ‘Magtatanggal ako ng lima then magre-recruit ako,’” he said. The three rookies were in. Middle Bea Pascual, Kara Acevedo and libero Steph Gabriel retained their spots. He needed more. “Sa mga tinira kong players, si Kara Acevedo sabi niya, ‘Coach mayroong player ang ICA (Immaculate Conception Academy) na gumraduate naka-exam na rito pasado.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sige papuntahin mo,’” said Gorayeb. It was Gretchen Ho. “Sa akin kasi ang talagang nagyaya sa akin si Coach Ron Dulay. Si Kara Acevedo teammate ko and she’s been recruited by Ateneo. So one summer wala akong magawa naki-train lang ako noon tapos nagustuhan nila ang laro ko and then fourth year noong graduate na ako I passed the ACET then niyayaya na nila ako,” Ho said. “Then nagbago ng coach na si Coach Roger and dun niya ako nakita.”   “Pagdating ko ng March (sa Ateneo) wala na akong way para maka-recruit pa. Ang nangyari yung tatlo accepted na kaagad. Si Gretchen tinanong ko sabi ko, ‘ano ba ang laro mo?’ Sabi niya the usual panggitna, tres,” Gorayeb recalled. “So sinubukan ko pero ang laro niya tres hindi quick. Siya panggitna pero hindi quicker na gusto ko saka yung height niya (maliit). Kaya lang si Gretchen takbo ng takbo, mahilig magtatakbo so sabi ko sige pwede na yan. Wala namang player na during that time. So kinuha ko si Gretchen.” Gorayeb just needed just one more. “Ngayon nagkaroon ng STCAA (Southern Tagalog Calabarzon athletic association) eh kulang pa ako ng isa, wala akong panggitna. Ang gitna ko during that time si Bea lang tapos si Gretchen so wala akong pamalit. So naisipan ko may nakita ako sa STCAA,” he said. He spotted a lanky player from Canossa Academy-Lipa, Aillysse Nacachi. “Sabi ko kay Sir Tony pagtyagaan ko na lang ito kahit hindi naman kalakasan at wala naman na rin akong choice na makapili kasi rush ang pagdating ko dyan. Nakiusap lang sila sa akin na magbuo ako ng team kasi si Ronald nag-resign,” said Gorayeb. Another freshman could’ve had ended up with Ateneo, Hope’s libero Melissa Gohing. But a few obstacles prevented her from fulfilling her promise to join Ferrer in Ateneo. She instead chose to join the ladies in green and white in Taft.    SOMETHING PROMISING December 7, 2008. Far Eastern University Gym. Excitement filled the air. Fans, mostly volleyball purists and some who just came to support their classmates or were just curious to see a new spectacle after the basketball season ended, slowly settled in their seats for the women’s division’s second game. It was Adamson University, the previous year’s runner-up, which just visited the turf of their arch nemesis and defending champion FEU, which was led by that era’s finest and most popular volleybelle Rachel Anne Daquis. Fans wanted to see if the Lady Falcons still had the same firepower they had the previous season with the loss of top setter Janet Serafica and power hitter Sang Laguilles. A rookie-laden Ateneo squad should be easy pickings with Angela Benting, rookie Pau Soriano and libero Lizlee Anne Gata in the roster. Besides the Lady Falcons got the Lady Eagles’ number. Or so they thought. “Naalala ko nu’ng time namin sinasabi sa amin ng seniors namin na, ‘Hay naku ang lakas ng Adamson, never kami nanalo dyan,’” Cainglet, now happily married to Taguig mayor Lino Cayetano and with three beautiful children, recalled.  But the Lady Eagles stunned Adamson in the opening set. The Lady Falcons took the next two frames. Ateneo stole the fourth.  “Ako naalala ko ano eh, parang alam namin na lahat kasi kami palaban. Nasa amin yun. Tapos binigyan kaming lahat ng chance to be in the first six so parang dream come true,” said Ho, now an ABS-CBN host. “Naalala ko rin na palaban kaming lahat kumbaga nothing to lose eh so ang ano namin, sumasabay kami sa laro and nu’ng nakita na namin na ‘Ay kaya pala natin ‘to guys. Kaya pala naming lumaban.’” Still, Adamson had the upper hand in experience. The Lady Falcons, used to pressure and were steady at crunch time, outlasted Ateneo.           The young Katipunan-based squad fell short, 25-22, 22-25, 15-25, 25-15, 8-15. But for the Fab 5, it was a loss that felt like a resounding victory. “Parang sobrang natutuwa kami and everybody in the crowd, kaya siguro kami natawag na Fab 5 kasi rookies kami pero kahit ganoon palaban kami,” said Ho. “Saka close game. Five sets yun.” However, it was the first of five five-set matches that Ateneo will drop that season including one in the second round against the Manilla Santos-bannered De La Salle University. “Pero ang problema di kami nananalo ng five sets. Parang ilan lang ang naipanalo namin na ganoon. Feeling ko na-overwhelm kami na ‘Uy nananalo tayo.’ May ganoong disbelief ng konti pero alam namin na may ibubuga kami,” said Ho. “Definitely, our rookie season was full of five-set matches. It was tough, we felt like we were so close, but still so far away. At some point, it gave us frustration also. We just couldn't figure out that time what is it that's still lacking because we couldn't win the five-set matches,” according to Nacachi. “People said, it was because the team was still so inexperienced. We still didn't have the tenacity unlike of those more matured teams. But we didn't take it as bad, it was a learning experience for us all at the end. We had to learn how to develop that finishing will to be able to win games like that in the future.” The Fab 5 finished their rookie season with a 6-8 slate at fifth spot.   ‘MAY MEDAL NA TAYO’ Gorayeb remembered on their second year the look on Pascual’s face in their last elimination game match against Adamson. Already wrapping up their first win over the Lady Falcons, Pascual was giddy. “Natatawa nga ako dyan kay Bea kasi papanalo na kami nu’n tapos sumesenyas na siya ng tres. Sabi ko, ‘Hoy anong ginagawa mo?’ Yun pala sobrang saya na niya kasi for the first time in 30 years magkaka-medal na sila,” he said. It was the most important match of the season for the Lady Eagles. With the Fab 5 already in their sophomore year, Ateneo was already making great strides. The Lady Eagles closed that season’s elims with five straight wins capped off with a victory over Adamson. Ateneo posted a 10-4 win-loss mark to enter the Final Four legitimately. “Ang nangyari kasi nu’ng time nila Charo (Soriano) kaya sila nakapasok sa semis kasi may nag-squeal na si (Jacq) Alarca di pala naka-enroll nu’n kaya na-forfeit mga laro ng La Salle,” said Gorayeb. The Fab 5 proved that they were not just a bunch of much-hyped up pretty faces. They backed it up with their skills on court. It didn’t matter that Ateneo were swept by eventual champion University of Sto. Tomas in the Final Four.      But the podium finish of Season 72 was short-lived. Adamson got its revenge in the last game of Season 73 elims, bumping off the Lady Eagles for a podium finish. The loss put Ateneo in a collision course with the twice-to-beat DLSU, who could’ve completed an elims sweep if not only for a forfeited match against University of the East after UAAP found out that Carmela Garbin and Clarisse Yeung participated in a ‘ligang labas’ while the season was onoing, in the Final Four. Ateneo gave the Lady Spikers a scare before succumbing in another heartbreaking five-set match. The Lady Eagles finished fourth but that lone semis game gave Ateneo and its maturing Fab 5 enough experience to dream for something big – A ticket into the Finals.      ‘HINOG NA KAYO’ The first three years saw the gradual improvement for Ateneo. But Season 74 proved to be the turning point for the Fab 5. A fresh new recruit from University of Sto. Tomas high school, who just completed a year of residency, came into picture and with the Fab 5 armed with years of experience, the Lady Eagles’ fate will forever be changed. Alyssa Valdez, a highly recruited open spiker just like Gervacio, Cainglet-Cayetano and Ferrer years back, gave renewed excitement for the Ateneo faithful. “Alyssa's joining with Ateneo was a great turning point for us. We needed as much support we can get, and Alyssa's entrance to the team was a great boost to the team's morale,” said Nacachi. “The girl is a powerhouse and we felt like with her presence, the team finally became solid.” “We were able to play around with the positions and the rotations, since we had different versatile open players who can also greatly play other roles,” she added. “We were also able to formulate a lot of plays and attacks because Alyssa can generally do all kinds; open, running, quick, name it all. She gave the team the power and the versatility that we previously lacked from the past seasons.” Social media was just gaining traction then but the Lady Eagles were already on the radar of volleyball purists through online forums. For the first time, Ateneo was considered a legitimate contender.   The Fab 5 proved it by winning 11 games in the elimination round, losing only to UST once and dropping two against the Lady Spikers. Valdez’s arrival gave Ferrer an even broader option on offense. It eased the scoring load off the shoulders of Cainglet and Gervacio, who was then moved to an opposite position. “I guess sakto lang din yung dating niya because by that time Kara Acevedo graduated so someone had to fill in her spot so coach Roger decided for me to move to utility or opposite,” said Gervacio. “And then sakto Alyssa naman could fill in the spot na other open spiker.” “So timing din na we had all the pieces put together at the right time,” she added. With a good performance in the elims despite missing a legit middle in Bea Pascual and the entry of Aerieal Patnongon barred by academic problems, Ateneo finished second and for the first-time was armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semifinals. The Lady Eagles faced an experienced Tigresses side in the last stepladder semis stage. UST just came from a hard-fought four-set do-or-die match against FEU and were banking on their four-set win over Ateneo in the second round to force another sudden death. Ateneo’s date with destiny was sealed with a four-set win over the Tigresses, who then bid goodbye to Maika Ortiz and Judy Anne Caballejo. “Pinu-push na rin kami ni Coach Roger noon eh, ‘Hinog na kayo ngayon. Kasi dalawang taon na lang, kailangan makapasok na kayo sa Finals,’” said Ho. “Somehow senior na rin kami,” added Cainglet.  “Season 74 was really the target season for us to be in the finals and target even to win the championship,” according to Nacachi. “During this time, we were already thinking we could not afford to not go in the finals.” “So it was with our mindset and our level of commitment that we were able to finally reach our goal of reaching the finals,” she added. “We had enough experience that time already, and it was really time for us to show the level of game maturity the team had obtained from the past seasons.” But then they had to face an unbeaten team. Unscathed in 14 games, De La Salle University was poised to complete a perfect season. The Lady Eagles spoiled it. Ferrer outplayed DLSU setter Mika Esperanza, 57-42, in excellent sets as Ateneo handed the Lady Spikers its first loss after 25 straight victories in a come-from-behind 23-25, 28-26, 25-23, 25-17, Finals opener win. Witnessed by 3,002 spectators inside the then The Arena in San Juan, all of the Fab 5 produced points. Cainglet had 19 behind Valdez’s 24, Gervacio scored 12, Ho had 10, Nacachi finished with five while Ferrer had one. Gorayeb made a big gambit and it worked. “Dahil sa wala kong panggitna, yung laro namin ng La Salle, ginawa kong quicker si Alyssa. Kasi si Alyssa nakakapalo. Nagulat si Ramil (de Jesus) dun.” It was a big win. A huge upset. Unfortunately, Ateneo needed to win two more.  DLSU held a thrice-to-beat advantage.   THAT SWAG After Ateneo made a miracle in Game One, fans began to feel a new rivalry born. The attendance spiked. From just 3,000 spectators, the gate attendance more than doubled its size. The interest was there. Fans of traditional powers began to notice the Lady Eagles as a rising team. For the first time, a squad with no previous championship experience except for a title during the Marcos era in a different collegiate league, made a giant jolt. Everybody wanted to see what these girls would do next.    The Lady Eagles, still high on adrenaline after their Game 1 upset, took the opening set in Game 2. But just like in their opener, a well-experienced DLSU squad adjusted to take the next three frames to move a step closer to a repeat crown. With then Rookie of the Year Ara Galang, Season Most Valuable Player Aby Marano, an intimidating Michele Gumabao and a very efficient Finals MVP Cha Cruz teaming up for the kill, the Lady Spikers ripped Ateneo apart in Game 3 in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22, 25-13. “Sabi nga ni Dzi na nadyan na lahat eh. So I guess noong Season 74 nandoon na pero may kulang pa rin,” said Ho. “I guess we we’re able to make it to the Finals pero wala pa kaming championship experience.” Ferrer agreed. "Siguro ang kulang yung championship experience kasi nasa La Salle na ‘yun eh. Ilang years na silang nagpa-finals, nag-champion and for Ateneo doon pa lang namin sinimulan," said the three-time Best Setter. Lacking championship experience is one thing, but Ateneo during that time wasn’t ready for DLSU’s most feared weapon: the Lady Spikers’ swag.  “They have that swag,” said Gervacio. “Everyone knows about it naman. It’s really Coach Ramil’s style talaga kasi as I remember when we were first year, four out of six of the players inside the court were rookies and even if we go against the powerhouses UST, FEU, Adamson, hindi sila yung nakikita nyo na kapag championship na rivalry, na swag, angas, stare down. Pero La Salle talaga kahit sino ang kalaban nila they’ll bring that attitude inside the court.” That Finals series cemented a new rivalry that will become one of the most celebrated in the sport. “I think it also helped that Ateneo-La Salle basketball didn’t face also,” said Gervacio. “Siyempre nandoon ang hunger for the rivalry eh and timely din na its been Ateneo-La Salle na rin sa volleyball.”   CLOSING A CHAPTER The Fab 5 were now in their fifth and last year. They wanted to leave a winning legacy. The pieces were already there. Gorayeb had at his disposal five seniors, a rising star in Valdez, a sophomore middle in Amy Ahomiro, a versatile Ella De Jesus, a steady libero in Denden Lazaro and a new kind of weapon – a massive crowd that can turn any venue into a sea of blue.              As expected, the second installment of the Ateneo-DLSU rivalry was set into place. Both sweeping their semis opponents. The Lady Spikers crushed National University while the Lady Eagles shot down Adamson. Game One was a shocker. DLSU heading into the Finals are on a 14-game roll but were stunned in the first two sets with Ateneo stepping on the gas. But a string of miscues, mostly from the service line, did the Lady Eagles in as they allowed the Lady Spikers to force a decider. DLSU, smelling blood, punished Ateneo to eke out a 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6, victory inside the Big Dome witnesses by 17,342-strong gate attendance. Then the series transferred to a newly-built, state-of-the-art Mall of Asia Arena that drew a crowd of 18,799. The first two frames were frustrating for the Lady Eagles.   Ateneo came back to life in the third set to gain a 9-5 lead. But DLSU easily erased it with Ateneo crumbling under pressure. The Lady Spikers were on an onslaught. Sophomore Galang pushed DLSU at matchpoint with a cold-blooded ace that went in a few inches from the baseline. The score, 24-16. It was a tense moment for the Fab 5. A long rally ensued in the next play. Gervacio, with all her might pounded a kill. Her hand making a great contact on the ball off Ferrer’s backset.     Smack! The ball ricocheted off the hands of DLSU’s Wensh Tiu before falling on the same landing area of Gervacio, who tried to dive for a dig together with Lazaro. DLSU swept Ateneo, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Game over.          “Kahit hindi kami nanalo alam naming ibinigay namin ang lahat namin, all-out talaga kaya wala kaming pagsisisi,” said Ho. It was the end of the Fab 5 era, but they left more than what any of them could have imagined. "I remember so many people or fans telling me that they started really watching UAAP Volleyball because of our batch. And that is really touching and fulfilling to know. Knowing that you were able to leave an impact like that to people. We were not able to bring even a single championship to our school, Ateneo, but we were able to touch a lot of people's hearts despite that," Nacachi shared. The Fab 5 closed a colorful chapter of Ateneo volleyball in tears. They were there during the Lady Eagles’ birth pains. They labored. They shed tears, blood and sweat. They laid the foundation for something big. The Fab 5 planted the seeds that would eventually bear fruit and would change the course of Ateneo women’s volleyball program forever. Glory didn’t happen during their time. It started in theirs.    Amidst the roar of the crowd, the falling confetti, banging of drums and the echoing chant of ‘Animo La Salle’ from the sea of green, the Fab 5 hugged each other tight. They found comfort in each other. It was their time to say goodbye. For those who remained – Valdez, Lazaro, Ahomiro, De Jesus – the defeat added fuel to their already blazing desire to bring glory for the blue and white. They were the next in line, heirs to an unfinished business. WATCH: FAB 5 Reunion Part 1 and Part 2 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 24th, 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

Letran Knights challenge all to be champions in COVID-19 crisis

Colegio de San Juan de Letran has done, and is still doing, its part in the continuing COVID-19 crisis. After reaching out to communities in need from Manila to Bulacan, the Intramuros-based school is hoping to make a difference online. Letting its men's basketball champion Knights speak, Letran had more than a few timely reminders for everybody in light of another extension to the community quarantine. "To be a real champion, you need to be good on and off the court," head coach Bonnie Tan began. Team captain, and now-Ginebra Gin King, Jerrick Balanza then chimed in, "Let us all become role models and upstanding citizens in our own communities." Chrisitian Balagasay and Larry Muyang then reiterated the essentials of social distancing, facemasks, and handwashing while Ato Ular repeated the importance of remaining at home. The champion Knights also touched on the perils of fake news with youngsters Pao Javillonar and Kurt Reyson urging all to get their information from government agencies and legitimate media. Letran then said we will triumph over COVID-19 crisis if and when we all do our part. "Real champions are not defined by their personal achievements, but their contributions to their communities and to the world." pic.twitter.com/aQe2nVA6kM — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) April 24, 2020 In the end, the Knights reminded everybody to stay safe by staying inside. That’s why #NCAASeason95 champion Letran - yes, including asst. coach LA Tenorio - reminds errbody to stay safe and stay inside. pic.twitter.com/zxsKROVmQl — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) April 24, 2020 You can watch the full video here: --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 24th, 2020

What if the Santiago sisters played in the 30th SEA Games?

When the Philippines accepted the hosting rights for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, local volleyball fans had high hopes for the national women’s volleyball team. First, the squad had the experience of playing in the previous two editions of the biennial meet. Then Nationals played in the Asian Games the year before with at least a decent showing, finishing 8th out of 11 participants in their first stint in the continental sporting spectacle since 1982.    The towering sisters Jaja Santiago and Dindin Santiago-Manabat were also equipped with international experience having been recruited to play in the prestigious Japan V. Premier League for clubs Saitama Ageo Medics and Toray Arrows, respectively. The arrival of 6-foot-2 Fil-American Kalei Mau also added more ceiling and fire power to the Nationals.   But then came the shocker. With just a few months before the SEA Games, Jaja failed to get a clearance from her club to return to Manila to play for the Nationals while Dindin also had to withdraw from the pool. It didn’t help that issues with Mau’s residency also deprived the Nationals of another scorer. We all know what happened next. But what if the Santiago sisters suited up for another tour of duty? First, it would have given the Philippines the height advantage it needed, after all, Jaja stands 6-foot-5 and can play multiple positions while Dindin is 6-foot-2 and is an intimidating figure at the net. Of all the four participating teams in the SEA Games, the Philippines was the shortest with an average height of 5-foot-6 according to the official team rosters list. Bronze medal winner Indonesia’s lineup was a bit taller with an average height of 5-foot-7, silver medal winner Vietnam and champion Thailand both averaged around 5-foot-9. Jaja would have been a dangerous scoring option at the wing. Head coach Shaq delos Santos would’ve utilized Jaja’s versatility. Jaja last year averaged almost 12 points per game in the Japan V. League. Dindin would’ve been a big help at the middle together with Majoy Baron against the Indonesians, who played without volume hitter Aprilia Manganang, and the Vietnamese. If the Santiago sisters played, the Nationals might have duplicated their two wins over Vietnam in the ASEAN Grand Prix legs and not fall into a stinging five-set defeat in the preliminary round. The Vietnamese scored 15 kill blocks in the said match. A taller hitter would have given Vietnam quite a challenge and would ease the pressure off Alyssa Valdez. Obviously, winning a match against powerhouse Thailand is improbable but it would’ve been interesting to see how a complete Philippine team fare against the region’s dominating force. Then against the Indonesians, Jaja could’ve taken the main scoring role with Valdez struggling in form. Jaja's height advantage would have wreaked havoc on Indonesia’s net defense. The Santiago sisters would have also frustrated the Indonesian attackers or slowed down the offense of Indonesia. Two wins in the prelims would have propelled us to the Finals and assured the country of a podium finish for the first time since 2005. Of course, we can just assume that we’ll be successful with the Santiago sisters onboard. But then again, maybe, things would have been different if the Nationals had them. Let’s just hope the two will be available next year in the Vietnam edition.     .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 15th, 2020

BEST-OF-5 SERIES: The Pingoy Rules Part 1

Pingoy Rule: Never give up. --- Jerie Pingoy is not a disappointment. He is disappointed in himself, no doubt about that, but he is not a disappointment. Not just yet - so he says. "'Di ako susuko na makapag-PBA. I still want to prove to everyone na kaya ko pang makipagsabayan," he said, full of confidence, in a phone interview. "Kasi nakikita ko pa sa sarili kong kaya ko pa eh - as in, kaya ko pa. Sana, sana mabigyan ako ng chance to prove na I'm still worthy." Many dream of playing in the PBA, but only a few get to do so. Even fewer get to do so after going missing in action for more than a year. The last time we saw the 5-foot-9 point guard, he and Adamson University were at the wrong end of the University of the Philippines' breakthrough in 2018. No, that's not right. The last time we actually saw Pingoy was in the now-suspended 2020 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup where he played two games with Karate Kid-Centro Escolar University. "Sa ngayon, I'm trying to come back. Since bata ako, gusto ko mag-PBA, pero sa ngayon, sa nakikita ko sa sarili ko, kailangan ko magdoble-kayod para dun," he said. "Ang hirap pa ngayon, nawala ako ng (higit isang) taon kaya mas lalong dapat ipakita kong worthy akong mapunta dun." In between his last game as a Soaring Falcon and his first one with the Scorpions, indeed, it seemed as if the 25-year-old just went off the grid - something that would have been thought to be impossible years ago when he was still the toast of high school basketball and a hoped-for contributor in collegiate hoops. GOOD OLD DAYS "One of the best players I've ever seen. He was the complete package," Mike Oliver, Pingoy's head coach at Far Eastern University-Diliman, answered when asked to look back at his former ward. Oliver would be one of the few people who would have a good grasp of the top talents at the high school level as he was a champion coach there as well as mentor of Batang Gilas. "It was a transition from Coach Norman [Black] to Coach Bo [Perasol] and we were trying to rebuild the program. He was one of the first recruits talaga that Coach Bo wanted," Kiefer Ravena, Pingoy's teammate in Ateneo de Manila University, answered when asked to recall one of the prized prospects he helped recruit. Ravena would be one of the people who would know a thing or two about the Blue Eagles' recruitment plans in the early '10s as, of course, playing with him would have been one of the reasons why a player would want to wear blue and white. "We're just scratching the surface of what he can do right now. If he will just follow what we're trying to teach him, he will be a better all-around player," Franz Pumaren, shot-caller at Adamson University where Pingoy transferred to, said right after one of the better games he had in college. Pumaren would be one of the few people who would have the power to make somebody believe that his system leads to wins and championships - and the power to judge the potential of a player. NEW YEAR, NEW ME After two years in Adamson, though, Pingoy decided against playing his fifth and final playing year in the UAAP and decided to instead nurse his troublesome left foot back to full strength. Along with that, for the good of his mind, he decided to stay away from all the noise. And so, for more than a year, not much was heard from Pingoy nor did he hear anything from anyone. That was until Karate Kid-CEU came calling by getting him in the 2020 PBA D-League Draft. With his up-and-down collegiate career a thing of the past, Pingoy was nothing but grateful for yet another shot. "I'm so thakful sa CEU kasi sobrang inaalagaan nila ako. Sina Coach Jeff [Napa] pati mga boss dun, tinutulungan talaga nila akong mabalik yung career ko," he said. So much was he grateful that he wasted no time in returning their trust in him. In fact, in just a month, he was able to shed off excess fat - something he has been known to be unable to get away from in his last years in college - and shape up. "After practices, may workout pa ako and dahil dun, from 250 lbs., naging 211 lbs. na lang ako nung may D-League pa. Ngayon, tuloy-tuloy pa rin and 197 lbs. na lang ako," he was glad to report. He also added, "Kailangan nasa 170 lbs. Sana makuha." HERE WE GO AGAIN Just when it looked like all was finally coming together for Pingoy, however, COVID-19 turned into a pandemic and forced the D-League, as well as all other sporting events, to be postponed. And with the crisis continuing, it is yet to be determined when the developmental league would resume - or if it would even resume considering that all but one of its 11 participating teams are college-based. This is just the latest challenge in a young career that has already been through several starts and stops. Start with back-to-back UAAP Jrs. MVPs as well as a championship in FEU-Diliman. Stop with brand new residency rules from high school to college. Start with the starting point guard position in your first game in Ateneo. Stop with a logjam of point guards and then academic deficiencies. Start with a long-awaited breakout as a two-way player for Adamson. Stop with a foot injury that failed to fully heal. Start with Karate Kid-CEU taking a chance on you. Stop with COVID-19 shutting down anything and everything. Still, Pingoy chooses to see the silver linings. "I think it's God's plan. Hindi yung virus ha," he shared with a laugh. He then continued, "For me, sinasabing bago ka maglaro ulit, kailangang fit na fit ka. Dapat, 'di na ganun kataba. Dapat, ipakita sa CEU na kahit walang training, ready pa rin." For sure, his future is yet to be written - and only his hand is holding the pen. Still, it could not be argued that after all those starts and stops, the very first one remains to have left the biggest mark. NEXT ON BEST-OF-5 SERIES: THE PINGOY RULES: "Nasasayangan ako sa years na 'di ako nakapaglaro. Kung nakapaglaro ako nung mga yun, mag-iiba yung takbo ng panahon." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 8th, 2020

MPBL: Muntinlupa taps JRU s Louie Gonzalez as new head coach

After a challenging season in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Cup, the Muntinlupa Cagers-Angelis Resort vowed to make some changes moving forward. This early, they found the perfect man for the job. The Cagers tapped current Jose Rizal University head coach Louie Gonzalez to man the sidelines for next season in the hopes of returning to their winning ways in the tournament. The signing was formalized last Tuesday, March 10 at the Romulo Cafe in Makati City. “As you all know, the past season wasn’t that good but with the new management and coaching staff, we will regain our glory in the MPBL,” team owner Atty. Jem Sy, as their team finished 13th in the North Division with a 7-23 record. “Mr. Louie Gonzalez is in charge now, he will recruit outstanding players that will contribute to the team and we will do our best to get the championship next season.” There really is no question about the experience that Gonzales brings to the table. The second-generation head coach knows all about winning as he was a part of the coaching staff of the miraculous Letran squad which won the NCAA in 2015, and the dominant La Salle squad which took home the 2016 UAAP title. He is joined by longtime partner Glenn Capacio as his active consultant while Eddie Laure, Eric Dela Cuesta, Mixson Ramos, Ethel Tacorda, Jeff Mendoza, and Oliver Bautista complete his coaching staff.   “Rest assured, myself and my team will do our best para ibalik yung glory ng Muntinlupa Cagers. I think MPBL owes a lot sa team na to, in the first season they really made an impact,” Gonzalez said. “One of the reasons kung bakit ganito kaganda ang MPBL because Muntinlupa started it well. It’s a challenge for us na maipabalik yun, yung suporta ng taga Muntinlupa sa team na to. That’s the reason for us para magtrabaho ng mabuti.” The team is planning to start from scratch, as they would open slots for everybody through tryouts including the leftovers from last season.   Asked about his vision for the team, Gonzalez targets versatility - a team that could pretty much compete with every style in the 31-team league. “Sa ngayon yung plano ko, we need to form a team that’s a little of everything. With MPBL, thirty teams ang nagco-compete diyan, iba iba talaga ang style. You play a different team day in and day out, kailangan handa kami sa lahat nun,” Gonzalez shared.   “Ang target namin is excellence. The opportunity now  that we have, nagpprepare na kami, nagkaron kami ng maagang opportunity, and we would use this to our advantage.”.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 11th, 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

LOOK: 2020 PBA D-League lineups

Eleven collegiate teams will challenge a longtime contender as the 2020 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup opens on Monday. In the first game of the developmental league, an age-old rivalry will be rekindled when Wangs-Letran duels EcoOil-La Salle in the middle of Filoil Flying V Centre. There, we will all get a glimpse of new head coach Derrick Pumaren's Green Archers: Manong will let Balti (@jbaltazar19) and The Mele-show (@AljunJayMelecio) do their thing as La Salle finally debuts in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/Q45UnFffIA — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 Here are the lineups for the other squads: Marinerong Pilipino Skippers Air Malonzo and GDL bros @javigdl22 and @juan_swish9 backstop veteran Marinerong Pilipino in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/rmbc57Ai4g — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 Wangs-Letran Muyang, @jeo_ambohot, @atoular, Fajarito, and Javillonar still stand strong for #NCAASeason95 champ Letran in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/HSOC3pDfx3 — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 Apex Fuel Mindanao-Baste The RK Ilagan (@Regillekent) Show is back on air for Baste in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/uW0eNAo5jL — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 ADG Dong-Mapua Victoria, Lugo, and Bonifacio are out to get more battle-ready for Mapua in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/OkMxt2wqFg — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 Builders Warehouse-UST UST will run and gun behind #UAAPSeason82 MVP Chabi Yo, Rookie of the Year @mark_nonoy , and 100 percent @cjcansino in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/FFiaC6FOMp — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 SeaOil-FEU L-Jay and RJ (@RjAbarrientos17) have finally reunited for FEU and it will feel so good for the Tams in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/UfPXoc1ay6 — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 Karate Kid-CEU The Jeff Napa era begins in CEU and he will have @justinarana16, Murrell, and @Jeriepingoy helping out in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/4QSIlZwpft — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 AMA Surprise top pick Reed Baclig shows us what he’s got as Andre Paras is back in the lineup for AMA in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/TO2oxHkewA — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 FamilyMart-Enderun Jayvee Marcelino (@jvcm19) and Tosi Tansingco reinforce Enderun in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/iteHS36tS5 — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 Diliman College Never ever count out UCBL king Diliman College in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/nMbGmJr2TF — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 TIP TIP is here to engineer quite the surprise in #PBADLeague. pic.twitter.com/G5l2nL0KfK — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) February 29, 2020 --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 29th, 2020

UAAP 82: Estacio propels Baby Tamaraws to first Finals in three years

The top two teams for all of the UAAP 82 Boys Basketball Tournament will go at it for all the glory. Far Eastern University-Diliman made it so after dispatching Adamson High School, 78-65, in the resumption of action, Friday at Filoil Flying V Centre. Penny Estacio was in the driver's seat all game long to total 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists to drive the Baby Tamaraws back into the Finals for the first time since their championship season in 2017. "Siyempre, masaya kaming nakabalik kami sa Finals despite 11 players ang nag-graduate sa amin last year," a beaming head coach Allan Albano said. Mark Padrones provided a big boost off the bench with 14 points and four rebounds while Cholo Anonuevo was all over the place as always for nine markers and 14 boards. Jorick Bautista scored 11 points of his own, but they key to the win was a defense that suffocated the Baby Falcons' 1-2 punch of Jake Figueroa and John Erolon as the former finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and four turnovers and the latter ended with seven markers and three errors. Those two only had one field goal apiece which, in turn, led to all of Adamson only shooting 30 percent. "Nagawa namin yung game plan naming i-stop si Figueroa at Erolon. Masaya akong ginawa ng mga bata yung homework nila," coach Allan said. FEU-Diliman will challenge undefeated defending champion Nazareth School of National University in the best-of-three Finals tipping off on March 6. The Bullpups got the better of the Baby Tamaraws both times in the elimination round. Even the playoff exit, the third-place finish is still Adamson's best showing in the Mike Fermin era. Joshua Barcelona paced them in this one with a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double. BOX SCORES FEU-DILIMAN 78 - Estacio 18, Padrones 14, Bautista 11, Anonuevo 9, Pasaol 8, Bagunu 6, Sleat 6, Saldua 5, Libago 1, Remogat 0. ADAMSON 65 - Barcelona 12, Figueroa 11, Quinal 10, Abdulla 8, Erolon 7, Guarino 5, Cosal 4, Dominguez 4, Hanapi 4. QUARTER SCORES: 24-17, 43-31, 62-51, 78-65. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 28th, 2020

UAAP Season 82: No time to relax for repeat-seeking Ateneo Lady Eagles

All teams will be after Ateneo de Manila University as the Lady Eagles march into UAAP Season 82 with a huge target mark on their chests. But instead of taking it as pressure in its attempt to keep the title perched in Katipunan, Ateneo embraces it. A constant reminder for the Lady Eagles to be on their toes at all times and always keep their guards up. “Since defending champs kami, everyone wants to beat us,” said incoming third year libero Dani Ravena. “Added pressure ‘yun, but at the same time, it's motivation for us not to be satisfied with one game,” added Ravena. “Everyone wants to beat us so the next game will be tougher than the last one.” Ateneo lost three vital cogs in Maddie Madayag, Bea De Leon and Kim Gequillana after its title conquest last year in a dramatic come-from-behind Finals series win over University of Sto. Tomas, but still remains a powerhouse squad with key returnees and the addition of blue chip recruits. The biggest boost in the Lady Eagles’ title-retention bid is the presence of prolific scorer and court leader Kat Tolentino, who decided to make one final tour of duty. Joining Tolentino are seasoned players Jho Maraguinot and setter Jamie Lavitoria, who are making their return after skipping a year to pursue careers in the commercial league.   Ateneo will miss the services of heady playmaker Deanna Wong, who is still recovering from a shin injury, but will still have most of their championship core in Ravena, Ponggay Gaston, Jules Samonte, Vanessa Gandler, Erika Raagas and setter Jaja Maraguinot.   “Malaking factor ang pagbalik ng mga seniors sa amin and ‘yung improvement ng mga rookies and sophomores isang malaking bagay para sa amin,” said Ateneo head coach Oliver Almadro. Giving the Lady Eagles an even deeper arsenal this season is the integration of promising rookies led by scorer Faith Nisperos and middle Joan Narit. While the good mix of veterans and rookies combined with championship experience and support of legions of fans make the Lady Eagles a serious title contender, Almadro constantly reminds his team that a repeat won’t be given to them for free.     “Mahirap maging complacent,” he said. “Mahirap mag-settle down na nakabalik na si ganito, nakabalik na si ganyan. I’m always telling my players, it’s not about how strong you are, it’s not about being strong lang eh.” “’Di sapat sa akin yung magaling lang eh. Kailanngan talaga nandoon ang teamwork, nandoon ang effort, nandoon ang sacrifices for the team and the school,” Almadro stressed.   EYES ON YOU: Ateneo will see this season the final flight of Kat Tolentino for the blue and white as well as the debut of its prized recruit Faith Nisperos. All eyes will be on the duo as they try to bring the Lady Eagles their second straight title and fourth overall.       Nisperos showed a glimpse of what to expect from her during the pre-season as she led Ateneo to a third place finish in the PVL Collegiate Conference. The National University-Nazareth School product, who averaged 12.4 points per game with 41.46% success rate in attacks in the PVL, embraces the challenge of playing for one of the best teams in the league in the past decade.    “I just wanna do my best,” she said. “I won't pressure myself in trying to push myself too hard. Ang goal ko lang naman is gampanan ‘yung role ko sa team.” For Tolentino, who during the pre-season played for ChocoMucho in the PVL Open Conference, she will be playing a bigger role as the leader of the Lady Eagles. “My main goal for this year is to find that leadership role and show my character,” said Tolentino. “I wanna help the team using my experience the last four years. I wanna encourage my teammates to push for that same goal.”   --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 14th, 2020

Ateneo takes fight out of UST to stay spotless in PCCL

SJ Belangel brought the big guns for the second straight game in the 2020 Philippine Collegiate Champions League NCAA-UAAP Challenge while Ange Kouame brought the finishing kick as Ateneo de Manila University triumphed over University of Sto. Tomas, 82-71, in a tight tiff in the middle of the Filoil Flying V Centre on Sunday. Belangel dropped 26 points built on six triples, all while showing the Blue Eagles the way to yet another convincing victory versus the Growling Tigers whom they downed int eh Finals of last year's UAAP Men's Basketball Tournament. The third-year guard was on-point from the get-go and already had seven points in their 12-3 start that eventually became a 27-10 edge. When UST threatened in the final frame, however, it was Kouame who imposed his will and had four points in Ateneo's 11-0 run that re-increased a three-point lead into an 82-68 advantage inside the last two minutes. "Tough game. Rough game. I think it's two pretty good teams out there who are not in midseason form," Coach Tab Baldwin said as the game became more intense as it went along and in the end, saw a total of 64 fouls called. In the end, the Ivorian tower tallied 15 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks to help lift his team to the first slot in the PCCL Final Four. The Blue Eagles also got much-welcome contributions from Troy Mallillin and Geo Chiu with the former finishing with seven points and six rebounds in just 14 minutes and the latter ending with five markers and seven boards in 11 minutes. On the other hand, the Growling Tigers were fronted by Deo Cuajao and Rhenz Abando who scored 14 points apiece. With UAAP MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo limited to only five points and six rebounds, however, they suffer their first setback in two tries. BOX SCORES ATENEO 82 - Belangel 26, Kouame 15, D. Ramos 8, Daves 7, Mallillin 6, Chiu 5, Tio 4, Navarro 4, E. Ramos 4, Mamuyac 1, P. Maagdenberg 1, E. Maagdenberg 1, Credo 0. UST 71 - Cuajao 14, Abando 14, Cansino 10, Nonoy 9, Concepcion 8, Chabi Yo 5, Manalang 3, Ando 2, Manaytay 2, Paraiso 2, Bataller 2, Garing 0. QUARTER SCORES: 29-15, 48-38, 66-65, 82-71. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsFeb 9th, 2020

NCAA Season 95: San Beda’s challenge fuels Arellano

Arellano University coach Obet Javier let his Lady Chiefs know during practice that San Beda University wanted to bring them down. The mentor lit a fire that served as three-time defending champion Arellano U’s motivation in the NCAA Season 95 women’s volleyball competition on Monday. The Lady Chiefs got word that the Lady Red Spikers’ court leader Cesca Racraquin, looking to fire up her team, and San Beda were all looking forward for the marquee duel – a rematch of last year’s Final Four - between two unbeaten teams. “’Yung sa sinabi sa amin ni Cesca po inaantay nya po kami na makalaban. Parang gustong-gusto nya po kaming talunin,” said reigning Most Valuable Player Necole Ebuen. Arellano U accepted San Beda’s challenge and responded with a dominating performance to preserve their perfect record for the solo lead.    Ebuen and Regine Arocha, who saw action despite feeling under the weather, came through with an inspired game to lead the Lady Chiefs to a 25-20, 25-21, 25-22 win over the same team that denied them a chance of an outright Finals berth last year. “Nung training po namin kahapon, siyempre po si Ate Regine, nawala sa training namin. Yun mga natira po nag-focus po talaga sa amin si Coach Obet na, ‘mag-focus kayo na kailangang talunin nyo yung gustong talunin kayo,’” said Ebuen. “Parang gigil na gigil po sa amin. Kumbaga kami po di naman kami nanggigil sa kanila, hinayaan lang po namin sila na manggigil sila sa amin.” The Lady Red Spikers gave a decent fight with Racraquin and Nieza Viray at the helm but their efforts weren’t enough to save San Beda from having its three-game winning snapped. Javier’s post-practice pep talk did wonders for the Lady Chiefs, who before taking on San Beda allowed winless San Sebastian College to steal a set from them last Saturday. “So maganda rin naman yun para malaman din ng team ko na, ‘Uy, tsina-challenge tayo ng opponent so i-grab natin. Bigyan natin ng magandang laban ang kalaban natin,’” Javier said. The Lady Chiefs will face streaking University of Perpetual Help on Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s championship series.     ---    Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 27th, 2020

MPBL: Makati demolishes Caloocan in 42-point rout; Davao bounces back

Makati-Super Crunch ended its two-game skid in emphatic fashion, romping Caloocan-Victory Liner by 42 points, 119-77, in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila, Wednesday. Joshua Torralba powered the romp with 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting including six treys, helping Makati to a 21-6 win-loss record, still at third spot in the Northern division. Josrph Sedurifa chipped in 16 points, six rebounds, and six assists while Cedric Ablaza added 15 markers and nine boards. John Rey Villanueva and Rudy Lingganay also finished in double figures in points with 13 and 11, respectively. "We are still in the adjustment phase pero sobrang happy ako kasi inaccept ng players yung challenge. The win should be really credited to the players because they played very well," said coach Beaujing Acot, who earned his first win as Makati's head tactician. The Super Crunch-backed squad opened the game scorching, zooming to a 14-2 advantage, punctuated by back-to-back triples by Torralba, and never looked back. Joseph Manlangit's rim-rattling jam in the waning seconds of the game gave Makati its biggest lead of the game at 42, 119-77. Makati's bench did the heavy lifting with 64 points against Caloocan's 34. Paul Sanga paced Caloocan with 17 points and six rebounds while Damian Lasco had 14 markers. The loss allowed the Supremos to drop their fourth-straight game and slip to the ninth spot in the North behind a 14-13 card, half-a-game behind Pasay at 14-12 in the same division. In the earlier game, Nueva Ecija broke away late, thwarting Bulacan, 85-78. Leading by just a point, 72-71, Jai Reyes took over for the Rice Vanguards. He scored the next 10 points for his team - a floater, an and-one, and five freebies - to restore order with 2:09 left, 82-73. However, the Kuyas wouldn't go without a fight as Dennis Santos and Jovit Dela Cruz cut Nueva Ecija's lead to five, 82-77 with 37.89 ticks left. But they could not buy a basket in the waning seconds to give their foes the victory. "Our pick and roll today was good, marami kaming nakuha out of that. We just slowly chipped away even though Bulacan was in control most of the game," said Rice Vanguards assistant coach Carlo Tan. Reyes registered 20 points and 15 assists as the also-ran Nueva Ecija improved to 9-18 in the Northern division. Tonino Gonzaga also delivered 20 markers of his own with seven rebounds while Justin Arana beasted in the paint, tallying 19 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocked shots. The Rice Vanguards flexed their muscles on the defensive end, limiting Bulacan to a measly 25-of-78 clip, good for just 32.1 percent, while they buried 43.5 percent of their attempts. Dela Cruz led the Kuyas with 14 points and six rebounds while JR Taganas contributed 13 markers, eight boards, and four dimes. With the loss, Bulacan halted its six-game winning streak and fell to 18-9, tied with 1Bataan-Camaya Coast for the fourth and fifth spots in the North. In the first contest, Davao Occidental-Cocolife got back on the winning track after topping Parañaque-Yabo Sports, 78-70. The Tigers raised their win-loss card to 22-4, three days after absorbing a humiliating 84-65 defeat at the hands of San Juan -- their Datu Cup finals tormentor. "Parañaque played tough. This is another learning experience for us. It is good playing against those hungry and young teams," said Davao coach Don Dulay. Trailing, 63-76 with 3:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, Parañaque made one last run, launching seven unanswered points, capped by Keith Pido's jumper, 70-76, with 45 ticks left. But it was too little, too late as Bogs Raymundo answered with a deuce on the other end before the Patriots missed their shots to end the match. With Parañaque ahead 27-21 in the second period, the Tigers unleashed a 16-1 surge, capped by Mark Yee's layup to gain control, 37-28, with 3:28 left. Yee came through with a big double-double of 17 points and 17 rebounds alongside six assists, Emman Calo had 13 markers built on three treys. Chester Saldua added 11 points, five steals, and four boards. James Abugan's 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block could not stop Parañaque from dropping its seventh-straight loss as they slipped to 8-20, 13th in the Northern division. The Scores: FIRST GAME Davao Occidental-Cocolife 78 - Yee 17, Calo 13, Balagtas 12, Saldua 11, Robles 10, Raymundo 10, Ludovice 3, Bonleon 2, Gaco 0, Mocon 0, Forrester 0, Adormeo 0. Paranaque-Yabo Sports 70 - Abugan 14, Pido 12, Sunga 11, Solis 10, Mangalino 10, Saguiguit 7, Banzali 4, Begaso 2, Larotin 0, Antonares 0, Lucente 0, Menguez 0. Quarterscores: 18-23, 43-34, 64-52, 78-70. SECOND GAME Nueva Ecija 85 - Reyes 20, Gonzaga 20, Arana 19, Sarao 7, Sabellina 6, Monte 6, Martinez 3, Garcia 2, Dela Cruz L. 2, Celada 0, De Leon 0. Bulacan 78 - Dela Cruz J. 14, Taganas 13, Escosio 11, Diputado 9, Alabanza 9, Nermal 8, Alvarez 5, Santos 5, Capacio 2, Arim 2, Siruma 0. Quarterscores: 11-21, 36-39, 56-61, 85-78. THIRD GAME Makati-Super Crunch 119 - Torralba 24, Sedurifa 16, Apinan 16, Ablaza 15, Villanueva 13, Lingganay 11, Baloria 8, Asoro 8, Cruz 2, Manlangit 2, Importante 2, Morales 2, Cayanan 0, Sta. Maria 0. Caloocan-Victory Liner 77 - Sanga 17, Lasco 14, Escalambre 11, Labing-isa 9, Tongco 7, Ambulodto 5, Cervantes 5, Marilao 4, Sarangay 2, Gonzales 2, Cayson 1, Garcia 0. Quarterscores: 29-16, 60-42, 89-59, 119-77......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 23rd, 2020

PBA Finals: “Stronger” Meralco ready to challenge Ginebra anew

With another Ginebra-Meralco Finals in the PBA Governors’ Cup set, everyone has pretty much reminded the Bolts that they already lost two titles to the Gin Kings. In the team’s first-ever Finals in 2016, the Bolts lost in six games after “The Shot” from Justin Brownlee. One year later, Meralco lost again but this time, in front of a record Game 7 crowd and the Philippine Arena. The Bolts are well aware of their history with the Gin Kings and they’ve had enough. Meralco wants a title bad as both teams engage in a Finals trilogy starting next week. “While we do recognize that we lost to Ginebra twice — and we've been reminded of that over and over again — we're hoping it would be a different result this time around,” head coach Norman Black said. “We have a different team,” he added. Meralco still has key pieces from the previous Finals like two-time Best Import Allen Durham, Chris Newsome, and Baser Amer. However, the Bolts have now also added players like Raymond Almazan, Allein Maliksi, and rookie Bong Quinto. Whether those additions lead to a title remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Meralco is a much better team now compared to 2016 and 2017. “We're probably more balanced this team, a little bit stronger,” Coach Norman said. “We know we're up against tough competition. The Ginebra team is not only talented, they're big and they're well-coached. But at the same time, I think we're up for the challenge and we'll be ready to go in the first game,” he added. Game 1 of the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals tips off Tuesday live from the Big Dome.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2020

Leipzig top in Germany at halfway stage, but Bayern revived

By James Ellingworth, Associated Press Is this the season when Bayern Munich's seven-year hold on the German title ends? A poor start and a humiliating 5-1 loss to Frankfurt cost Niko Kovac his job as Bayern coach and gave teams like Leipzig and surprise title contender Borussia Mönchengladbach hope of victory. Bayern has bounced back under interim coach Hansi Flick, though, and is third in the table, four points behind leader Leipzig. That's earned Flick an extension until at least the end of the season. It's been a tale of dueling goalscorers, with Robert Lewandowski having scored 19 goals in 17 games for Bayern, and Timo Werner one goal behind for Leipzig. For Gladbach, goalkeeper Yann Sommer has been crucial to their title challenge. Borussia Dortmund has been powerful on its day, but the team is also inconsistent and brittle. Losing to Bayern 4-0 last month was a big dent to Dortmund's title belief. Last Sunday's games were the last of 2019 and the Bundesliga returns from its winter break on Jan. 17. PLAYER OF THE SEASON SO FAR He turned 31 in August and Lewandowski shows no sign of slowing down. The Polish forward scored in Bayern's first 11 Bundesliga games and has racked up 30 goals across all competitions. He's taking time off during the winter break to have groin surgery. Werner has been almost as prolific, including a remarkable performance with three goals and three assists in an 8-0 thrashing of Mainz last month. For Dortmund, Jadon Sancho's in hot form with eight goals in his last six Bundesliga games. But perhaps no one's been as vital to their team as Rouwen Hennings. The 32-year-old Hennings doesn't have the star status of Lewandowski or Sancho but his 11 goals for struggling Fortuna are four more than the rest of the team put together. SURPRISE OF THE SEASON Gladbach's golden age was the 1970s, when it won five Bundesligas in eight years. With its run to second, Gladbach has been a feelgood story for German fans of other clubs who dislike Bayern's wealth and see Leipzig as less a soccer club than an advertising board for energy drinks giant Red Bull. Gladbach has nothing like the budget of Bayern or Leipzig, but has built a solid team with attacking firepower from Marcus Thuram, son of former French defender Lilian Thuram, and Swiss forward Breel Embolo. A comeback 2-1 win over Bayern this month showed its a serious contender. Kai Havertz experienced the season's most unwelcome surprise when fans of his own team, Bayer Leverkusen, booed him this month. The attacking midfielder started the season rated as one of Germany's most promising young players, but he's looked listless in recent games and last scored in September. GOAL OF THE SEASON Bayern's 46 goals in the Bundesliga have included some gems. Philippe Coutinho scored with an outrageous flick from the outside of his foot against Werder Bremen last week. Lewandowski's hit some long-range free kicks and shrugged off four defenders to score against Frankfurt, the only bright spot in a heavy loss for Bayern. The highlight of Leipzig's title charge might just be Christopher Nkunku juggling the ball through the Bayer Leverkusen defense and past the goalkeeper in October. For sheer fireworks, no one beats Hertha Berlin's Javairo Dilrosun. The Dutch winger picked up the ball on the left wing and cut inside past four defenders — beating one of them twice — before scoring against Paderborn. WHO'LL BE CHAMPION? If Bayern's recovery under Flick continues, an eighth straight title is definitely possible, if only because of the depth in its squad. The Munich team was packed with individual talent, even if Kovac was defeated by the puzzle of how to make them all play well together. There's also a bench filled with hungry young players such as New Zealand midfielder Sarpreet Singh and the Dutch forward Joshua Zirkzee, who's scored in each of his first two Bundesliga appearances. Leipzig takes a four-point lead into 2020, but depends heavily on core players such as Werner and the in-form Marcel Sabitzer and Patrik Schick. Losing any of them to injury could be a fatal blow. Gladbach has less depth than either of them, but unlike them, it won't be balancing the Bundesliga with any European competitions in the spring. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION The fight for the four Champions League spots is wide open, with at least eight teams making a strong claim. Behind the leading trio of Leipzig, Gladbach, and Bayern, there's a chasing pack of Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, and Freiburg. All have played Champions League football in recent years, with the exception of Freiburg, but they have all been inconsistent this season. WHO'S GOING DOWN? The relegation fight is just as close as the scrap for European places. Promoted Paderborn is last but showed it has claws by beating Frankfurt 2-1 last weekend. The other automatic relegation spot is occupied by Werder Bremen, which is in danger of its first relegation since 1981. Werder ended 2019 with four straight defeats, two of them by five-goal margins, and with club management embroiled in conflict with fans over the sale of their stadium's naming rights. If Werder can climb out of danger, it would likely be at the expense of one of two Rhineland rivals, Cologne or Fortuna Düsseldorf, or else Mainz......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 25th, 2019