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WHAT IF... Perez wasn t suspended for NCAA 94 Finals Game 1

History lesson: After missing out on the Final Four for its first six seasons in the NCAA, Lyceum of the Philippines University made back-to-back trips to the Finals in Seasons 93 and 94. The Season 93 Finals, the school's first-ever, wound up as a heartbreaking loss to eventual champion San Beda University. Memorably, the Pirates won each and every one of their 18 games in the elimination round - the first-ever team to do so in the Grand Old League - before going winless in their last two games. Of course, playoff experience and championship heart proved to be the difference for the Red Lions. In that light, Season 94 should have been a different story for LPU. Only, it wasn't. San Beda yet again swept the upstarts via convincing victories. And from Game 1, the Red Lions already knew it was all over. "Oo naman. Siyempre, mag-iiba laban kung nandun siya," then-King Lion Robert Bolick in last week's The Prospects Pod. "Sa part din namin, wala siya so tapos na. Tapos na yung laban." The "siya" he was referring to? CJ Perez, Season 93 MVP and Season 94 Mythical selection, who was not in action and not even at the venue for the series-opener. Apparently, Perez failed to notify the NCAA about his application for the 2018 PBA Draft and was therefore sanctioned with a suspension for Game 1 of the Finals. But what if he were there - there, ready and raring to play in the opener of the series where he and all of LPU were seeking redemption? The now-26-year-old had no doubt that if that were the case, the Pirates would have put up a much fiercer fight. As he put it, "Siguro, mas ginanahan pa yung mga kasama ko. Nung natambakan na kasi nung Game 1, parang nanginig na yung mga tuhod ng Game 2 eh." Sans Perez, the maroon and grey fell victim to a 19-9 start by their opponents and never recovered. Final score read 73-60 in favor of San Beda. If the 6-foot-2 playmaker were there, Cameroonian powerhouse Mike Nzeusseu would not be their top-scorer as the former had averaged 18.7 points in the prior 18 games. Of course, defensive-minded coach Boyet Fernandez would have also adjusted accordingly and the Red Lions, just like they did in last year's championship round, would have put their full focus on Perez. Still, a full-force LPU side would, for sure, have posed more problems for San Beda. In the end, Mendiola's dynasty would have still have all the answers - what with Bolick and Javee Mocon just playing their best basketball that season. That momentum would then carry over to Game 2 where the Red Lions still sweep the Pirates for their fourth championship in a row. In terms of result, Perez's presence would not have changed a thing. Nonetheless, his being there would have made for much more must-see TV. Also, his being there would not have forced him to just drown his sorrows all by his lonesome. "Ang mindset ko pa rin bago nun, tulog pa rin nang maaga para handa, pero nung sinabi na ngang 'di ako pwede maglaro, sabi ko na lang, 'Hala, ready na ako eh,'" he recalled. He then continued, through chuckles, "Nung araw na yun, nasa dorm ako, nakaupo sa couch, nanood ng laro. Nakailang beer nga ako nun." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 17th, 2020

All that pressure turned CJ Perez, Robert Bolick into diamonds

CJ Perez and Robert Bolick are now the lead guards of upstart teams Terrafirma and NorthPort, respectively. Having wrapped up their first years in the PBA as members of the All-Rookie Team, the future surely shines bright for the former rivals. This, even though Perez continues to juggle five-on-five and 3x3 national teams and Bolick continues to recover from an ACL injury. After all, both of them know rocky roads all too well. Perez was already a shining star in San Sebastian College-Recoletos, but then took his talents to Ateneo de Manila University. However, he fell short of the academic requirements in Katipunan and did not play a single game as a Blue Eagle in the UAAP. Still, he is nothing but glad to share that he became a better player and a better person by the end of his time there. "Kahit sa Team B lang ako nakalaro, parang mas natuto pa nga ako doon kasi ang daming laro, ang daming liga. Feeling ko, mas nakundisyon pa ako," he shared in The Prospects Pod last Friday. He then continued, "Tapos sa aral naman, nung pinaghahabol ako dahil sa bagsak, doon ako natuto talagang mag-aral nang mabuti. Nabilib pa nga ako sa sarili ko kasi kaya ko palang mag-aral nang ganun." Fortunately, the 6-foot-2 guard landed on his feet in Lyceum of the Philippines University and proceeded to win MVP and make school history. He was well on his way to being the top overall pick by the Dyip in the 2019 PBA Draft, but even that didn't come easy as complications arose regarding his application. Apparently, Perez failed to notify the NCAA about his draft application and was suspended for Game 1 of the Season 94 Finals. In the end, he and the Pirates lost anew to San Beda University. Nonetheless, he chooses to see silver linings from that. "Yung mga ganung bagay is a lesson. Para sa akin, natuto ako kung paano yung mga moves bago magdesisyon, kung paano paghahandaan muna lahat para yung desisyon mo, mas mapaganda," he said. While he won three championships in a row as a Red Lion, it was not all roses as well for Bolick. A self-proclaimed "bench player" for two years in De La Salle University, he shared that he felt like he didn't belong in Manila. "Parang feeling ko nun, hindi ko pa kaya yung college kasi never pa ako nakapaglaro nang ganung karaming tao. Dati nga, naisip ko, pagpasok ko ng court, ang laki naman nito, ano ba naman 'to," he said. He then continued, "Dati, kaunting takbo lang, pero ngayon, parang ang tagal bago ka makarating sa kabila." Thankfully, teammate Oda Tampus was always there to lift up the spirits of the 6-foot-1 playmaker. As he put it, "Ang nagbukas talaga ng mata sa akin, si Oda, kaming dalawa lang yung Bisaya sa team ko siya yung kuya ko kumbaga. Siya yung nagturo sa akin ng ropes, ng diskarte sa college." Not long after, he only grabbed the golden opportunity over in Mendiola where he came to be known as "The Bus Stop" and then "Big Shot Bolick" and then "50-point man." And not long after, he was drafted third overall by the Batang Pier. Looking back, the Ormoc native has no doubt that he is where he is today all because of the rocky road he had taken. "Minsan, ngayon, kapag naiisip ko yun, grabe napagdaanan ko yun? Papasok, fa-foul tapos babalik sa bench," he said. He then continued, "Pero dahil dun, tumibay talaga ako." --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 14th, 2020

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

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMay 20th, 2020

SUPER SHOWDOWN: CJ s 2017 LPU vs Calvin s 2019 San Beda

A perfect run in NCAA Men's Basketball, as it stands today, has not been done. Yes, San Beda University scored a season sweep in 2010, but that tournament totaled nine teams - meaning, the Red Lions won 16 elimination round games as well as two more in the best-of-three Finals for an overall record of 18-0. Even farther back, San Sebastian College-Recoletos didn't lose once in several seasons from the 1980s to the 1990s, but played, at maximum, 13 games. As it stands today, the Grand Old League has 10 squads - making for 18 elims matches and then a race-to-two championship round. As such, an eye-popping 20-0 perfect run has not been done. In the last three years, two teams have come close - CJ Perez's Lyceum of the Philippines University in 2017 and Calvin Oftana's San Beda in 2019. After winning each and every game in the elims, however, both squads went on to lose in the Finals - and so, not only did they miss out on a season sweep, but also got denied of a championship. Looking back, which almost-but-not-quite was more powerful - and therefore, more painful? That is what we hope to answer in this ABS-CBN Sports Super Showdown. In reviewing the elims masterpiece and Finals meltdown of the two teams, we will be judging them in five categories (elims dominance, expectations exceeded, inherent talent, competition, and Finals fight) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision. ELIMS DOMINANCE Simply put, San Beda just ran roughshod over the rest of the league in the NCAA 95 elims. Doubted after having lost Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon, the Red Lions sent a statement that the title still goes through them and beat up their opponents by an average of 18.9. In the end, their closest call was a four-point triumph over archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran and the number of their single-digit wins were a staggering, well, three out of 18. For comparison, LPU normed a winning margin of 12.8 in the Season 93 elims - with more than a few close calls against also-rans in Arellano University, Emilio Aguinaldo College, and Mapua University. After ambushing the rest of the league with their run-and-gun game, the Pirates had to fight tooth and nail in the stretch run of the elims. In fact, in the last game before the playoffs, LPU needed two extra periods to put away San Beda. Yes, a win is a win, but it's clear as day that between the wo teams, it was the 2019 Red Lions who dominated the elims. Advantage San Beda, 10-8 EXPECTATIONS EXCEEDED As aforementioned, San Beda was expected to go through growing pains in 2019 as they had lost Bolick and Mocon and would have to rely on a talented yet young core of James Canlas, Evan Nelle, and Calvin Oftana. Still, the Red Lions were the Red Lions - and in recent history, a playoff fixture in the Grand Old League. And so, expectations were quite a bit lower - for the dynasty in Mendiola, that is - and the red and white did nothing but far exceed them with an unbeaten run in the elims. Still, back in 2017, LPU literally came out of nowhere to go undefeated in the elims. On a sunken ship in their first years in the NCAA, the Pirates finally got winds in their sails in the form of Perez and Marcelino twins Jaycee and Jayvee. Those three, alongside captain MJ Ayaay and Cameroonian powerhouse Mike Nzeusseu, led them to their first-ever playoff berth which they got with their 13th win in as many games in the season. And with an 18th consecutive victory, LPU then booked for itself an automatic advance into its first-ever Finals. Expectations were highest in school history for the Pirates with Perez in tow, but nobody at all assumed they were sailing straight to the championship round. Advantage LPU, 10-9 INHERENT TALENT 2017 was the year that Perez became Perez. Putting up per game counts of 19.3 points in 45.1 percent shooting on top of 6.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 steals, the 6-foot-1 swingman was the undisputed MVP. At the same time, the Marcelino twins terrorized opposing backcourts by making an immediate impact as end-to-end menaces. Add to that Ayaay and Nzeusseu and LPU had a championship core - just about everybody else didn't know it just yet. On the other hand, 2019 was the first time that, arguably, San Beda wasn't the most talented team in the tournament. Make no mistake, the Red Lions remained loaded with the likes of "Bandana Bros." Canlas and Nelle, but it was actually former reserve forward Oftana who emerged as the league's top individual player with norms of 15.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.2 blocks. Still, in the end, San Beda went 18-0 in the elims by staying true to itself - utilizing an uncompromising total team effort. Advantage LPU, 10-9 COMPETITION LPU had to traverse rough seas in 2017 for its elims sweep. Back then, San Beda had Bolick and Mocon, Jose Rizal University had Teytey Teodoro and Jed Mendoza, San Sebastian had Michael Calisaan and Allyn Bulanadi, Letran had Rey Nambatac and Bong Quinto, and Arellano had Kent Salado and Lervin Flores. Even more, the Mythical Team had Perez, teammate Nzeusseu, Red Lion Mocon, Sidney Onwubere from non-Final Four team EAC, and University of Perpetual Help's Nigerian tower Prince Eze. Fast forward to 2019 and household names were hard to come by as the Mythical Team had San Beda's Oftana, a former reserve forward; Nelle, a former backup point guard; Canlas, a former secondary scorer; as well as San Sebastian late-bloomer Bulanadi and LPU playmaker Jaycee Marcelino. Of those five, Marcelino was the most recognizable name - and he was not necessarily known for putting a team on his back. Safe to say, Season 93 was much more competitive than Season 95. Even more, 2019 was the last year with foreign student-athletes and by then, only three remained. Tankoua is as solid as they come, Nzeusseu is spectacular at times, and College of St. Benilde's Clement Leutcheu is serviceable. The crop of reinforcements in 2017, though, had those three as well as MVP runner-up Eze of Perpetual, Hamadou Laminou of EAC, and JRU's Abdul Wahab Abdul Razak and Abdel Poutuouchi. Advantage LPU, 10-8 FINALS FIGHT Both LPU and San Beda woke up from dreaming of a perfect season in Game 1 of the Finals. The Pirates were sent crashing back to earth by the defending champion Red Lions and were ultimately swept in the championship round of Season 93. On the other hand, San Beda went the distance with archrival Letran in the Season 95 Finals, but was also at the losing end. Also, if not for Bonbon Batiller's botched reverse layup in the dying moments, Game 2 may have had a different ending, and the Red Lions may have been swept as well. Still, the fact that San Beda was able to take one from the eventual champions nudges it ahead of LPU which went winless in the championship round after a perfect elims. Advantage San Beda, 10-9 FINAL SCORE, 47-46, for LPU.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 7th, 2020

The Beast remains NCAA basketball s best moniker in 20 years

We have already gone through the most memorable monikers in the UAAP since 2000. Not to be outdone, of course, the NCAA has had its own nicknames to easily identify its shining stars. From Baser Amer to Rey Nambatac and from CJ Perez to Robert Bolick, the Grand Old League has been a grand old stage for tantalizing talents to make a name for themselves - and even more, make a nickname for themselves. Here, we have gathered the cream of the crop monikers for the NCAA in the last 20 years. First and foremost, there is not one nickname that had as much of an impact as this: THE ULTIMATE NCAA MONIKER Without a doubt, Calvin Abueva is a beast on the court. The now-Phoenix Fuel Master can make his presence felt anywhere and everywhere - and he has always done so even in his time in San Sebastian. Abueva was such a problem for defenses, even dynastic San Beda's, and that's exactly why it was just perfect to call him "The Beast." Also, did you know that "beast" is actually an anagram for Baste? How 'bout that, huh?! More than the perfect fit, though, Abueva's nickname has also had an impact quite like "Phenom" from the UAAP. After Abueva, San Sebastian just had to have more beasts in the form of "Baby Beast" CJ Perez and "Lady Beast" Grethcel Soltones. MONIKERS THAT FOLLOWED SUIT Perez's nickname isn't original - as already said, it came from Abueva's "The Beast." Still, "Baby Beast" is a perfect fit for the top overall pick in the 2018 PBA Draft - a player who can make his presence felt anywhere and everywhere. He just does it all while standing two inches shorter and packing 20 lbs. lighter than "The Beast." MONIKERS ABOUT DEFINING MOMENTS Once upon a time, Robert Bolick was a bench player in La Salle. Not getting his shot in his time as a Green Archer is his origin story - as he loves to tell. Fast forward to his donning the red and white for San Beda and Bolick got his shot. 2??3??PTS 0?? 6??ASTS 0??4??REBS Big Shot Bolick made sure San Beda punched a ticket to the #NCAASeason94 Finals! pic.twitter.com/8z5GYsNXRn — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) October 26, 2018 Once he did, not only did he deliver, he delivered big-time - hitting the biggest shots in the biggest moments in the biggest games. BIG. SHOT. BOLICK. #NCAASeason94 #GalingNCAA pic.twitter.com/votXDwW7xE — ABS-CBN Sports (@abscbnsports) August 10, 2018 That is why he was "Big Shot Bolick." MONIKERS THAT GO TOGETHER Abueva already has the ultimate NCAA moniker - and still, he also has the best name for a group. "Pinatubo Trio" was an ominous moniker that denoted doom and gloom for San Sebastian's opponents. And it wasn't just scare tactics either. Abueva, Ronald Pascual, and Ian Sangalang are all Kapampangan and therefore, hail from Mt. Pinatubo, indeed. It was always just a matter of time before any of them - or worse for the rest of the NCAA, all of them - erupted. A close second was San Beda's "Bandana Bros" in James Canlas and Evan Nelle. With Robert Bolick and Javee Mocon gone, the spotlight, all of a sudden, shone on two guards who were just entering the second seasons. Still, Canlas and Nelle did nothing but take the challenge head-on - and the black bandanas on their foreheads game in and game out symbolized that the Red Lions' future was now. Unfortunately, "Bandana Bros" is no more, but we will always have that "new drip." MONIKERS THAT PLAYED ON GIVEN NAMES When an opportunity presents itself, you just have to take it. That's what happened with the names of these guys: Bright Akhuetie became "Mr. Brightside" Baser Amer became "The Hammer" Sudan Daniel became "Superman" Sam Ekwe became "The Equalizer" Rey Nambatac became "Stingrey" And Scottie Thompson became "The Pearl" (his full name is Earl Scottie Thompson) MONIKERS THAT ARE JUST… COOL Nothing much to explain here other than the fact that RJ Jazul, now of Phoenix, had one of the most unique nicknames in all of sports. "So Cool" encapsulated what he was as a lead guard for Letran - and it just so happened that it rhymed so well with his last name. All in all, "So Cool" RJ Jazul is just, well, so cool. HONORABLE MENTIONS Of course, how could we forget how both Mark Cruz and Borgie Hermida played way bigger than their actual heights. "Ant-man" Cruz came through time and time again for Letran while Hermida transformed into "The Mighty Kid" to take charge for San Beda. There's also "Master Chief" for Kent Salado to definitely describe how he led Arellano into remaining a tough out even after the departure of Jiovani Jalalon - much like how Halo's supersoldier stood strong in the face of The Covenant. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 27th, 2020

Built by Bo, bonded for Bo, believe in Bo

This is not the first time that Bo Perasol has had a recruiting haul this huge. Now heading into his fifth season in the University of the Philippines, he has brought in blue-chip recruits such as Gerry Abadiano and Carl Tamayo and talented transferees like Joel Cagulangan, CJ Cansino, and Malick Diouf to a team that already has Bright Akhuetie, Kobe Paras, and Ricci Rivero. And don't forget that Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan are only sitting out the next season - and what lies beyond for them is yet to be determined. This is not that different from his time in Ateneo de Manila University when he scored UAAP Jrs. Season MVP Jerie Pingoy, UAAP Jrs. Finals MVP Hubert Cani, NCAA Mythical selection CJ Perez, and NCAA Jrs. standout Arvin Tolentino in his first few years. Those promising prospects then joined forces with Blue Eagle stalwarts Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal Unfortunately, all of Pingoy, Cani, Perez, and Tolentino - along with the rest of the so-called "Magnificent 7" - found themselves with academic deficiencies and, therefore, ineligible by the blue and white's standards. Not long after, they transferred to different schools and squads and then had varying degrees of success. Will Coach Bo's tale get a different ending this time with the Fighting Maroons? Perasol is making sure of that. "From my experience in Ateneo, natuto ako. Ngayon, meron kaming grupo sa programa na nagha-handle lang ng academics ng players," he shared. He then continued, "Sinasamahan sila sa mga klase, pinapakilala sa mga propesor, ine-explain na player natin yan, pag merong problema, coordinate lang po tayo." Apparently, this academic assistance team is made up of former student-managers who have graduated. Now, their first job is all about seeing to it that State U would not have to go through the same sort of headache Ateneo had with its "Magnificent 7." With that, you could be sure that UP's pillars of honor and excellence still stand strong even as all these new faces join Men's Basketball Team. "Walang special consideration. Pumapasok sila, bumabagsak sila. Binibigyan sila ng extra work, humihingi sila ng extra work," Coach Bo said. He then continued, "Ang ine-explain ko lagi sa players at sa professors, ang mahalaga, basta masipag pumasok at nagpapakita ng intensyong matuto." STARRING AND STRIKING At present, just about everybody is still getting used to blue-chip recruits and talented transferees going for UP. That is why there are more questions than answers each and every time they announce a new player. And along with the question of whether or not all these new faces would be up to par in terms of the honor and excellence the Philippines' prime public university prides itself in, there is a question of just how the Fighting Maroons got here in the first place. How could State U, not that far removed from its self-proclaimed "dark days," get all of these players? And not just players, at that, but many big name players. The categorical answer? The program could now afford it. "Meron nang pondo salamat sa sponsors," head coach Bo Perasol explained. "For example, kung makikita mo lang yung patches sa harap ng jersey, malaking pera yun. Nag-aagawan ang marami para dun." At present, the shot-caller said that UP has eight corporate sponsors all getting together for the funds for the program. And unlike Ateneo which has Manny V. Pangilinan or National University which has Hans Sy as primary backers, the Fighting Maroons' system is quite different. "Ang source ng funds ng UP, halos lahat galing sa alumni. Tapos lahat yun, mina-manage ng nowheretogobutUP," coach Bo said. According to its website, nowheretogobutUP (NTGBUP) is "a volunteer group of UP alumni that aims to help, assist, and support the development, improvement, and advancement of the varsity program of UP." All of the finances it manages, however, are not necessarily donations. As Perasol put it, "Yung model ng UP is unique kasi yung support nila, kailangan may balik din from us." For example, the tactician said that many of their players have made appearances, online in this continuing COVID-19 crisis and in person prior to the pandemic, to cheer up employees of Palawan Pera Padala, one of the team's sponsors. More importantly, Coach Bo reminded yet again that the only reason they have all these new faces is because they have to. He pointed out how Abadiano and Filipino-American Sam Dowd would make up for the losses of Jun Manzo and Juan GDL as well as how Diouf and Cansino are already waiting in the wings once Bright Akhuetie and Ricci Rivero graduate. "We're also recruiting for the impending need," Perasol said. "Hindi naman ito biglaan. Since nagsimula kami rito, we all did this nang dahan-dahan lang. Kaya rin yung support from alumni for funding, hindi na rin naging mahirap." DREAMING Still, the mere fact that UP is now a big-time player on and off the court in collegiate basketball seemed so farfetched just five years ago. Before Bo Perasol, the Fighting Maroons were stuck in a vicious cycle. Now, though, they have back-to-back playoff appearances and have traded blows with traditional powerhouses for recruits and transferees. All of this made possible because the very moment he came in, Coach Bo already knew the secret to success. "You cannot build a program without funds," he said. Perasol furthered that his biggest takeaway from his time in Ateneo was that competing with the traditional powerhouses on the court entailed competing with them as well off of it. "Alam ko yung kakayanan ng Ateneo and siyempre, kakumpetensya ko rin nun yung La Salle so alam ko rin yung kanila. Ganun na rin ang kakayanan ng NU and yung iba pa, kakayanin din nila kung gustuhin nila," he said. He then continued, "Kaya kung ang objective ng programa is to be in the top four, your program should be levelled din sa capacity ng top four." The General Santos native then went on to point out how training in the country or abroad, recruitment local and overseas, housing, and food and nutrition all have costs. "To sum it up, everything you're going to do would entail financing. Hindi ito kakayanin ng UP as a public school dahil wala namang pondo ang gobyerno para dyan," he said. He then continued, "Ang pinakasagot nalang ng school is yung scholarship. And siyempre, yung nag-aaral ka sa UP." That doesn't mean, however, that their hands were tied. In fact, the answer to the questions had always been there. "The good thing about UP is there's millions of alumni all over the world and a lot are successful people and businessmen who are willing to help," Perasol said. BELIEVING Indeed, having educated Filipinos for over 112 years now, UP has, without a doubt, more than a few successful alumni. It was all a matter of uniting - and then unleashing - them. Even before Bo Perasol came home to Diliman, NTGBUP was already organized. They were not necessarily thrilled with the Fighting Maroons, though. "Nung una, dahan-dahan lang, ambag-ambag lang para merong kakainin, pambayad sa dorm. Merong nag-donate ng shoes," Coach Bo said. He then continued, "Pero siyempre, they want first and foremost a program with improvements and direction." NTGBUP and the UP community got just that from Perasol as a 3-11, seventh-place finish in 2015 became a 5-9, sixth-place finish in 2016 in Coach Bo's first year. In his second year, the squad improved to a  6-8, fifth-place finish. From there, the Fighting Maroons have been in the Final Four for back-to-back years now - and even made the Finals in 2018. "Nagsimula maging excited ang alumni nung nagsimula ring manalo," he shared. "When we started winning, nagkaroon hindi lang ng physical support, but financial support as well. We were ascending eh." In his third year at the helm, State U, finally, officially had corporate sponsors. And you know how that year went? That was when they ended a 21-year Final Four drought and then a 32-year Finals absence. Safe to say, the sleeping giant was awoken. "Yes, sleeping giant talaga tayo and when we say nagising, ang pinaka-catalyst was the winning," its fearless leader said. Now, UP MBT has a mean machine of financial support on its back, paving the path for its big-time recruiting haul in 2020. Even better, they now have a loud and proud fanbase that is making up for all the lost time they stayed away during the "dark days." "Actually, sa pitches ko sa recruitment, kasama sa presentation ko yung machi-cheer sila nang ganung klaseng crowd," Coach Bo said. SURVIVING At the same time, though, that loud and proud fanbase expects much, much more from this brand new power. For each and every one of them, Bo Perasol has but one reminder. "What we have done in the past years is to level up lang. We have a new gym, we have all these players, we can train abroad," he said. He then continued, "Pero yung mga Ateneo, La Salle, 20 to 30 years na nilang ginagawa yan. What we did was just to level up alongside them." Again and again, Coach Bo has said that what he has been doing is, put simply, putting UP in the best position to win. Still, with a roster as overflowing with talent as this, he could only acknowledge that just about everybody sees them as having gone championship or bust. Credit to him, however, Perasol was blunt with his assessment that he would also be disappointed if they would not be able to taste their first championship since 1986 sooner than later. "Yes, it will be a failed plan kung hindi tayo makakakuha ng championship in the next three to five years," he said. He then continued, "Yan naman talaga ang plano and ang ginagawa natin ngayon is all going towards that objective." And again and again, he is putting all those great expectations on his shoulders - and on his shoulders alone. "Ako naman, hindi ko rin pwedeng hindi gawin itong ganitong recruitment kasi hindi rin naman ako magkakaroon ng chance kung ganun. I have to be in the best position to succeed so that we are in the best position to succeed," he said. Only time would tell if all the seeds he has sown would bear fruit. But Coach Bo is already guaranteeing that whatever happens then, he would have no regrets. "In the end, alam ko namang babalik ang lahat sa akin. Alam na alam ko namang ako ang leader ng team," he said. He then continued, "Ang mahalaga is we gave ourselves a chance. Anuman ang outcome, basta nabigyan natin ang sarili natin ng pagkakataon." After years and years and years as the laughingstock of men's basketball, it looks like it's now UP's turn to smile and wave. Whether or not that ultimately turns into jumps for joy for their first title in three decades remains to be seen. But maybe, just maybe, Coach Bo is right - this is all worth it just to have a chance to compete. Just remember that in the "dark days," that chance to compete wasn't there at all. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 30th, 2020

Aljun Melecio s never-ending quest to prove he belongs

Aljun Melecio has these hardware sitting pretty on his trophy case: UAAP 78 Jrs. MVP, UAAP 79 Rookie of the Year, UAAP 79 champion. Now heading into his fifth and final year in De La Salle University, he remains recognized as one of the best point guards in all of college. Well, recognized by just about everybody except himself. Asked if he feels worthy to stand alongside the likes of NCAA 95 Finals MVP Fran Yu or UAAP 82 Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy, he answered, modest as always, "Nope. I don't. Wala pa akong napapatunayan." Yes, the 5-foot-8 super scorer who was then head coach Aldin Ayo's "most-wanted recruit" feels he is yet to prove himself. Yes, the primetime playmaker who was once comforted by Tab Baldwin after the Green Archers had lost the championship despite his 16 points in Game 3 of the Finals feels he is yet to prove himself. That in itself is not necessarily surprising, though. And that's because all throughout his young career, Melecio has felt, again and again, that he has to prove himself. He had to prove himself even to La Salle, his home of nine years now. "Actually, 'di naman ako ni-recruit ng Zobel dati," he shared. "To be honest, my mindset at that time ay mag-Team B lang sa Zobel para pag may games, mas magagamit ako. Kaysa naman mag-Team A ako and nakaupo lang sa bench." BREAK IN Aljun Melecio, now a graduating guard, is La Salle's most recent homegrown product. Of the Green Archers' probable UAAP 83 roster, the now-22-year-old is the lone player to have come from the Taft-based school's Jrs. programs - and mind you, they have two in La Salle Zobel and La Salle Green Hills. In DLSZ, Melecio was a scoring dynamo who once dropped 42 points on archrival Ateneo de Manila High School. Did you know, though, that he wasn't even supposed to wear the green and white? "I was supposed to transfer sa UST nung high school," he recalled. "Pero napag-usapan naming family na since si kuya, nasa Zobel na nung time na yun, mas okay sigurong Zobel na lang din ako para magkasama kami." Aljun was referring to older brother Aleck who was also his teammate for three years with the Jr. Archers. If not for Aleck, however, Aljun would have suited up for University of Sto. Tomas High School where good friend Renzo Subido had already committed to play for college. After all, it was Subido, and dad Henry, who had convinced the Melecios to move to Manila from Bukidnon. "The reason talaga why we took the risk to come here was because of Coach Henry," Aljun shared, looking back at the time when all of them were repping Lourdes School of Mandaluyong. "They invited us to play basketball in Manila kaya malaki ang utang na loob namin sa Subido family." While Coach Henry and Renzo have been always there to lend a helping hand, that did not necessarily make the transition any easier - especially for a 10-year-old kid who was born and bred in Valencia City. "Grabe yung sacrifice na ginawa namin just for me to have more opportunities in life. That was a big adjustment not just for me, but also for my parents," Melecio said. He then continued, "Dumating yung time na ayoko nang bumalik sa Manila kasi na-homesick ako. Looking back now, normal lang naman siguro yun, lalong-lalo na bata pa ako." BREAKTHROUGH Make no mistake about it, looking back now, Aljun Melecio has no regrets. As he put it, "It was all worth it." Of course, he also had lady luck smile on him somewhat as, yet again following the footsteps of Subido, he transferred from Lourdes to DLSZ. And there, he found yet another mentor willing to believe in him. "Sina Coach Boris [Aldeguer], pagdating ko sa Zobel, they invited me to join yung practice ng Team A. Nagulat ako na kaya ko naman pala so doon na nag-start yung confidence ko," he said. Indeed, Melecio did not let Coach Boris down as in his first year, he proved to be a building block in their rebuild. While the boys from Alabang eventually ended outside the playoff picture, he had made more than enough noise to get the attention of the Philippine national youth team. There, DLSZ's top gun got his first taste of wearing the flag as part of the Batang Gilas training pool. "Masayang-masaya ako nun na makasama sa practice team dahil dream ko talaga maging part nun," he narrated. "May jersey lang and makasali lang ako sa practice, masayang-masaya ako." There, Melecio showcased his skills alongside other promising prospects such as Nieto twins Mike and Matt as well as Jolo Mendoza of Ateneo, Renzo Navarro of San Sebastian College-Recoletos, and Jollo Go of Hope Christian High School. And there, yet again, he knew full well he had to prove himself. During training itself, the new kid on the block believed he was doing so. At the same time, however, he had to come face-to-face with another beast altogether - how to get to practice in the first place. As it turned out, the then-13-year-old had to commute from south to north each and every time he participated in Batang Gilas training. How did his trips go? "From Alabang, mag-tricycle ako to [Alabang] Town [Center] then jeep going to Starmall [Alabang]. After nun, bus to Magallanes, MRT, then LRT, tapos jeep ulit," he shared. He then continued, "So papunta pa lang to Moro, pagod na ako. Then after practice, mag-commute na naman pauwi." Fortunately for him, there were also kind hearts like the Nieto twins who took him to the LRT station in Katipunan or Evan Nelle whom he rode with going back south. Still, around 33km and about an hour separated DLSZ in the south and Ateneo's Moro Lorenzo Sports Center in the north - indeed, that was some sort of workout already. BREAKDOWN In the long run, that was, unfortunately, much too much for young Aljun Melecio. While wearing the flag would have meant much, he also felt circumstances, such as that hell of a commute that cost him PHP 200 for a one-way trip, held him back from giving his all. Instead, Melecio felt he could do much more if he just rechanneled his energy to DLSZ. "After ilang weeks na ginagawa ko yung routine na yun, I started asking myself kung paano maayos yung priorities ko. Pinakiramdaman ko kung saan ako mag-iimprove so I talked to Coach Boris," he said. He the continued, "And I decided na mag-all in sa Zobel." All in for the Jr. Archers, he did, and boy, did it prove to be the right call. He was just getting started in UAAP 76, slowly but surely getting a grasp of both his capabilities and confidence as he helped the green and white barge back into the Final Four. Then in Season 77, it all clicked as he shot the green and white to the second rung of the stepladder all while putting up per game counts of 16.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 2.3 steals. Without a doubt, he willed his way into the Mythical Team that included the Nieto twins, his batchmates in Batang Gilas. The following year, with averages of 22.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 steals, he carried DLSZ all the way to the Finals where they stole one game from eventual champion Nazareth School of National University. And oh, he was the unanimous MVP of Season 78, besting the likes of future Gilas Pilipinas pool members Justine Baltazar and Gomez de Liano brothers Javi and Juan. Even then, though, he wouldn't call himself the best of the best. "I didn't think na I belonged kasi never kong gustong isipin na ganun ako," he said. He then continued, "Ang alam ko lang, I worked extra hard, I had extra motivation to play. Thankfully, coach Boris supported my decision and dahil dun, na-boost yung confidence ko." BREAK FREE From there, Aljun Melecio did nothing but go onto greater and greater heights in La Salle's Srs. squad. Never tell him he has accomplished anything, though, as he would be the first to tell you that you're wrong. Up until now, he feels that he is yet to prove himself. He hopes to prove that he has what it takes to be behind the wheel for the Green Archers' new era. He hopes to prove that he could bounce back following the worst statistical season for him. And he hopes to prove that he has every right to be mentioned in the same breath as his one-time teammates in the Batang Gilas pool and his batchmates who are now part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool. "Lahat naman, ginagawa kong motivation," he said. "May it be positive or negative, we all have our timing so I'm just being patient para sa kung anuman ang ibibigay na chance sa akin." If and when that next shot at wearing the flag comes along, Melecio only vows to do what he has never stopped doing. Asked about getting a golden opportunity at the Gilas pool, he answered, "That's still a dream for me. I know I still have a lot to prove." He then continued, "But I will give my all if given the chance to represent. I always do." If and when that time comes, there would be no more 33km distance, one-hour travel time, or PHP 200 cost. Still, Aljun Melecio would work just as hard - if not more - as he did when he once had to commute south to north just to get to practice. Don't forget, proving himself is already second nature to him. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

Eduard Folayang: When an underdog finally became a world champion

In the five years that I was with the ABS-CBN Sports website, I was fortunate enough to have covered quite a number of memorable sports moments, so when I was asked to write about which was the most memorable for me, it was tough to narrow it down to just one single coverage. I could have written about Letran’s momentous upset of a dynasty-seeking San Beda in the NCAA Season 91 Finals, or I could have written about the Philippine Azkals making history by clinching a spot in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.  Being an MMA fan, I could have written about getting to be Octagon-side for the UFC’s first and only trip to Manila, which was indeed a dream come true for me.  When I think about it however, the coverage that sticks with me to this day, even four years later, was being cage-side, just inches away from Eduard  “Landslide” Folayang as he pummeled Shinya Aoki to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion in Singapore back in 2016.  I tell people about that night all the time, and I believe I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my life.  A Fan First As I mentioned earlier, I’m an MMA fan. In fact, being a fan was actually how I eventually got into sports writing.  During my first year or so with ABS-CBN, I got wind of a show on Balls Channel entitled “The Takedown” which was, you guessed it, about the UFC. Immediately, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that show, in any capacity. I even offered to research or write for free, LOL.  While I never did get to work on the show (because unfortunately, it lasted only a few episodes), I did get to make some connections (shoutout to Sir Lori, Ms. Jo, and Ms. Anna!) which eventually landed me a gig as a UFC writer for the Balls Channel Website. During that time, I got to meet and interview stars like BJ Penn, Alexander Gustafsson, Urijah Faber, Cung Le, and even Arianny Celeste. For an MMA fan like me, it was like working a dream job. It was a pretty sweet gig.  Eventually, that job with the Balls Channel Website would lead me to a spot on the ABS-CBN Sports Website which was launched in 2015. By 2016, I had started covering Asia-based MMA promotion ONE Championship quite a bit because ABS-CBN had signed a broadcast deal with them, and because ONE had a ton of homegrown Pinoy fighters on their roster, most notably Folayang and the Team Lakay guys.  Folayang, whose contract with ONE expired in March of 2016, re-signed with the promotion and returned to action in August, defeating Adrian Pang by Unanimous Decision in Macau. That win over Pang earned Folayang the biggest bout of his career at that point: a title shot against reigning champion Aoki.  When I learned of that title fight, I was very excited for Folayang, but had little expectations for his chances, being that Aoki was a legend in the sport.  Best Seat in the House Eduard Folayang finally getting to fight for a world championship was a huge deal for Filipino MMA fans, especially those that had followed the Baguio-based star’s career since his days in the URCC. The Pinoy star was on ONE’s first ever event, but could never seem to gain enough momentum to compete for a world title, until that point.  That November night in Singapore, all the years of work sacrifice that Folayang had put in during his nine-year MMA career would finally pay off.  This was only my second time to cover a ONE event overseas, so apart from having to write stories, I also had to take pictures. Learning from my past mistakes, I asked if I could have a spot cage-side so that I could take some at least decent photos. Thankfully, the ONE people agreed and gave me a spot just beside one of the judges’ tables.  I had the best seat in the house.  Now, as I said, I had tapered my expectations for the fight. I had seen what Aoki could do in the cage. I’ve seen the guy break peoples’ bones before, so honestly, I was just hoping that he wouldn’t injure Folayang. Our guy was the underdog heading into this fight, no doubt about it.  Of course, as a Filipino and as a fan I was hoping for a massive upset. The beautiful thing about MMA is anything can happen.  Shock The World This was legitimately the first time that I felt nervous covering a fight. It’s like that feeling you have when your favorite basketball team is in a close game with just seconds left.  That first round was a frigging whirlwind of emotions if you’re a Pinoy MMA fan. It looked like Aoki was within moments of being able to submit Folayang on multiple occasions.  The second round was a little bit more relaxed for Folayang, especially since he had been able to survive Aoki’s opening round grappling blitz. It looked like he was a bit more confident and he started to throw some of his trademark spinning kicks and elbows.  A miscalculated flying knee attempt led to another Aoki takedown, but this time around, Folayang appeared a little more calm and relaxed under the pressure.  Late in the round, Folayang began to attack Aoki’s torso with punches and kicks, and it looked like it had the Japanese legend a bit winded. The tide had shifted.  Heading into the third round, there was a different feeling in the air. It felt like Aoki was done, and it felt like Folayang knew it.  In the opening seconds of that fateful third frame, Folayang knew exactly what Aoki was going to do and had an answer for it. Aoki shot in for a takedown, and Folayang countered it with a jumping knee to the jaw.  For a brief second, Folayang was on his behind, but managed to outmuscle Aoki and deliver another vicious knee.  “Oh sh*t!” I yelled internally while scrambling to take photos of the ensuing beatdown.  Folayang turned Aoki over and began to connect with punch after unanswered punch.  Without taking my eye away from my camera’s viewfinder, I started yelling for Folayang to finish it.  Folayang continued to punish Aoki with piston-like punches as the Singapore Indoor Stadium began to erupt.  For what felt like an eternity, referee Yuji Shimada watched as Folayang unloaded nine years worth of heartbreak and frustration into a ground-and-pound sequence.  And then, it was over.  There was a new lightweight king.  AND NEW! EDUARD FOLAYANG STOPS SHINYA AOKI IN ROUND 3! — Santino Honasan???? (@honasantino) November 11, 2016     The Landslide Reigns As much as I would have wanted to keep it cool, I started to freak out. I looked to my right and saw my fellow Pinoy journalists doing the same, one was even standing on the table, cheering the new world champion on.  At that point, I had watched UAAP championships, NCAA championships, even some boxing world championships, but this one was different. I knew what Folayang had gone through. I knew that the odds were stacked against him.  As the confetti began to rain down and the celebration inside the ring continued, I recomposed myself and started to take pictures again. I wanted to be able to capture this moment.  After the official decision and the post-fight interview, I remember calling out to Folayang so that I could take a photo of him with his shiny new toy.  I’ve gotten to witness other members of Team Lakay become champions since then. I’ve been blessed enough to see Geje Eustaquio, Kevin Belingon and Joshua Pacio all become titleholders within a single year. While getting to see Team Lakay draped in gold to end 2018 was definitely a sight to behold, being there cage side as ‘Manong Ed’ realized a life-long dream was definitely an experience that I won’t soon forget.  Folayang's title win wasn't Team Lakay's first world champmionship, and it isn't the last. For me however, I think it's the most important, because it showed that no matter how many times you fall, you can still find your way to the top.  Everyone loves a good underdog story.  -- Santino Honasan has served as a sub-section editor for ABS-CBN Sports' website since 2015. He is among thousands of ABS-CBN employees who will be retrenched on August 31, 2020. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 29th, 2020

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

Beast and Baby Beast together in Coach Topex s NCAA First 5

Topex Robinson has been calling the shots for Lyceum of the Philippines University from 2015 to present. Before this, the always amiable mentor was at the helm for San Sebastian College-Recoletos from 2011 to 2014. 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 Topex Robinson's NCAA First 5, as he told ABS-CBN Sports: CJ PEREZ One phone call - one phone call was all it took for the tides to turn in favor of LPU. When Perez was looking to leave the nest of Ateneo de Manila University, he called one person and one person only - Coach Topex, who discovered and then developed him back in San Sebastian. The rest, as they say, is history as in the first year of their reunion, the 6-foot-2 guard was hailed as MVP all while the Pirates sailed to a historic Finals. CALVIN ABUEVA "The Beast" continued to be unleashed under the watchful eye of coach Topex. Already a force under then-coaches Ato Agustin and Turo Valenzona, Abueva stayed Abueva even as he did not replicate his MVP win in Season 87. And up until now, there is still no end-to-end force quite like one-third of the "Pinatubo Trio." IAN SANGALANG Another third of the "Pinatubo Trio," Sangalang had polished post moves from the moment he stepped into the collegiate ranks. He became an all-around player in his later years in San Sebastian, however, and much of that was thanks to the guidance of Coach Topex. The 6-foot-7 big man's MVP came in the season that went unfinished by Robinson, but there remains no doubt that the latter had a huge hand in the rise of the latter. ROBERT BOLICK LPU was woken up from its dream season in Season 93 by San Beda University - who else but dynastic San Beda University. In particular, it was Bolick who dashed their dreams, dropping seven of his 24 points in the last two minutes of Game 1 and delivering seven of his 22 markers in the last five minutes of Game 2. The only thing unfortunate about the Pirates' transformation into a powerhouse was that it just so coincided with the self-proclaimed bench player in De La Salle University's transformation into "Big Shot Bolick." RAYMOND ALMAZAN (Photo courtesy of Mark Cristino, ABS-CBN News) In the early 2010s, San Beda's challenger in the Finals was either San Sebastian or Colegio de San Juan de Letran. In the same time that Baste was the stage for the "Pinatubo Trio," Letran was home to tantalizing talents such as Kevin Alas, Rey Guevarra, and RJ Jazul. Among them, though, it was only the 6-foot-8 Almazan who stood out enough to be recognized as MVP - and his two-way impact throughout his collegiate career has most definitely not gone unnoticed by opposing coaches. --- Coach Topex did not go into detail as to why he went with these five players. In general, though, he said that these five are "for a fact, the best that the NCAA has produced in the last 10 years." Even better, Robinson said that all of Perez, Abueva, Sangalang, Bolick, and Almazan are, at present, keeping at proving his point as stars in the PBA. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 3rd, 2020

GREATEST PERFORMANCES: Joel Cagulangan s NCAA 93 playoff run

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

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJul 2nd, 2020

Bolick bares coach Boyet s key to success - tireless scouting

Boyet Fernandez has brought home four championships to San Beda University. In fact, last year was the first and, thus far, only time he has missed out on a title as head coach of the Red Lions. Through it all, he has overseen the lighting up of shining stars such as Baser Amer, Ola Adeogun, James Canlas, Javee Mocon, and Calvin Oftana. Among all those, there is one standout who made the most out of the full faith Coach Boyet had in him. In his first year in red and white, Robert Bolick came to be known as an impact player at either end. Still, he was known more for his defense - becoming "The Bus Stop" to the "Bus Driver" Jiovani Jalalon - than his offense, even though at that time, San Beda was a run-and-gun team under Jamike Jarin. With Fernandez at the helm, however, the tables turned and the 6-foot-1 playmaker got into his groove on offense. The then-King Lion became a fearless gunner with the capability and confidence to score from all over their side of the court. In NCAA Season 93, he posted per game counts of 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists and saved his best for last, sinking elimination round-sweeping Lyceum of the Philippines University by his lonesome in the Finals. For reference, his averages from the season before were 9.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Clearly, Coach Boyet unlocked something in Bolick. And up until present, the now-NorthPort lead guard is nothing but grateful for that. "Si Coach Boyet kasi, pro style ang ginawa niya sa amin e. Na-ready na niya kami para sa pros," he said in The Prospects Pod last Friday. He then continued, "Siguro, sa utak, si Coach Boyet ang isa sa pinakamautak na coach na nakilala ko kasi grabe siya mag-scout e." And all of that came to be thanks to the veteran mentor's tireless work ethic. "Siguro, kung pwede lang siya pumunta kunwari sa practice nina (LPU star) CJ [Perez], pupunta siguro yun," he said, through chuckles. He then continued, "Lahat, ini-scout e. Lahat, meron siyang film, mula Filoil (Preseason) hanggang ibang lugar. Minsan nga, sinasabi ko nang, 'Pano mo nakuha yan?'" Indeed, there have been more than a few times when reporters have seen Coach Boyet in the venue for the first game of the day even though the Red Lions were scheduled to take the floor for the third of the tripleheader. He has also been seen alongside his trusted assistants and trusty notebook in other leagues - whether it be preseason or in-season - doing his due diligence for their opponents. Without a doubt, Fernandez is one of the most hardworking - if not the most hardworking - mentors in all of college. "Yung work ethic talaga ni Coach Boyet, yun yung mapapabilib ka," his one-time prized ward said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2020

CJ Perez got the best out of Robert Bolick and vice versa

For a winning team like San Beda University, the standard has become San Beda University itself. Having won 11 of the last 14 championships, the Red Lions have dominated the recent history of the NCAA. And with that, back in 2017, Robert Bolick had more than just back-to-back titles in mind as a goal. "Nung nag-champion kami sa (2017 PBA) D-League (Aspirants Cup) tapos natalo pa namin La Salle (sa Filoil Preseason), sabi ko na, baka ma-sweep namin 'to ha," he narrated in The Prospects Pod last Friday. The boys from Mendiola had just reclaimed the crown and were upbeat about their chances of repeating as they had a mostly intact core. Bolick, indeed, went so far as to aim for the perfect season that had only been done by San Beda's 2010 squad led by Sudan Daniel and Borgie Hermida. "Sa San Beda kasi, nakalagay sa court kung sino yung naka-season sweep. Sabi ko, baka ma-duplicate namin ito ha," he said. After an 18-point win to start the season, all was going swimmingly for them. And then, they got ambushed - ambushed by Pirates. "Biglang pangalawang game pa lang namin, natalo kami agad. Sabi ko, hindi ito yung inaasahan namin ha. Nagulat talaga kami sa linaro nila," the 6-foot-1 playmaker said. Lyceum of the Philippines University sent a statement to all of the league with a thrilling five-point triumph over San Beda. From there, they would go on to win each and every one of their assignments in the elimination round - the very first team to go 18-0 in the history of the Grand Old League. Of course, the Pirates had to win two more - and Bolick and the Red Lions had other plans. In the end, the red and white triumphed anew and took away the upstarts' shot at history. "Akala ko nun, magcha-champion na ako sa NCAA. E biglang kumana nang kumana yung Robert Bolick, wala na," Lyceum's CJ Perez then said. Despite the heartbreak, though, LPU only became better as it moved forward. Indeed, it was at that point that San Beda - and by proxy, Bolick - became a true obstacle Perez had to hurdle. As he put it, "Ako kasi, naniniwala ako sa mindset e. kunwari kung kalaban namin San Beda, Robert Bolick, sabi ko talaga gagalingan ko kasi alam kong gagawin niya yung best niya." The Pirates forged a rematch in the NCAA 94 Finals, but yet again came up short. Still, they had made their school proud and that was more than enough. And looking back, the 6-foot-2 guard said that having the Red Lions as the standard did nothing but pull them upward and upward. "Ganun yung mindset ko lagi kaya kapag kalaban yung San Beda, Robert Bolick, matututo't-matututo ka," he said. For his part, Bolick could only acknowledge that Perez did the same for him and LPU did the same for San Beda. "Kailangan talaga yung ganun e. Kailangan mo ng katapat," he said. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 13th, 2020

WHAT IF… National U failed in must-win run to historic title

History lesson: From 1954 to now, National University only has two titles to show in UAAP Men's Basketball. The Bulldogs won it all in 1954 before going through a six-decade wait for another championship. The wait was finally over when the blue and gold side coached by Eric Altamirano and led by Gelo Alolino, Glenn Khobuntin, and Troy Rosario took home the trophy to Sampaloc. Without a doubt, it was a happy ending to a colorful story, but it was, also without a doubt, a shock to just about everybody. Sans back-to-back MVP Ray Parks Jr., National U wound up with a 9-5 standing at the end of the elimination round. That was pretty good, relative to the long-suffering squad, but that also meant they stood on level ground with University of the East. And if they were to get the better of the Red Warriors for the fourth-seed, they would then be matched up opposite top-seed Ateneo de Manila University and eventual MVP Kiefer Ravena and eventual Mythical selection Chris Newsome. The other bracket wasn't a slouch either as it featured a Far Eastern University with Mac Belo or a De La Salle University with Jeron Teng. Against all odds, though, the Bulldogs did it - coming out on top of UE, coming through against Blue Eagles twice, and claiming the crown in three games at the expense of the Tamaraws. At long last, Jhocson Street was to be the venue of a championship celebration anew. To do so, thought, they had to walk the knife's edge as, aside from the Finals, their first three games after the elims were all must-win. What if they failed there? What if, even in just one of those three tries, the odds proved to be insurmountable? While the Red Warriors, despite the presence of Roi Sumang and Charles Mammie, would remain to be a tall task, there's still a better than good chance that they still fall to Khobuntin, Rosario, and company. And so, we have the blue and gold moving on to a duel with Ateneo. On a high from staying alive, the Bulldogs have a good chance at still stealing the playoff game behind J-Jay Alejandro's breakout game. Game 2, however, should have been where, ultimately, their dreams were dashed. In the real world, National U eked out a two-point triumph over the Blue Eagles on the back of Alfred Aroga's 14-point, 12-rebound double-double. In the what if world, Ateneo shows them the door once and for all in the do-or-die game as Ravena comes out way more determined than his five-point, 2-of-10 effort in the first half. In the Finals, though, FEU gets the better of the Blue Eagles and wins the first of its back-to-back championships. Newsome still fails to graduate on the highest of highs, but at least, he gets to go out in the championship round. Ravena and Von Pessumal return for their fifth and final seasons hungrier than ever, but also fall short of going out on top. For National U, the waiting game continues - and with Khobuntin and Rosario graduating, making the Final Four in Season 78 wouldn't even be a certainty. They still do so, but will also still be booted out by Finals-bound University of Sto. Tomas. Just like the real world, the what if world will then see the exit of Coach Eric and the Bulldogs will be searching for a brand new mentor. It could have still been one-time NCAA champion coach Jamike Jarin, but it could also have been Jeff Napa who gets promoted after winning three titles in UAAP Jrs. What's certain is the National U Bulldogs would still be longing for its first championship since Ramon Magsaysay was President of the Philippines. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 3rd, 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

Remembering UP s one win that was basically a championship

The University of the Philippines is now a legitimate contender in UAAP Men's Basketball. With one Finals appearance, two playoff berths, one MVP, and three Mythical selections in the last two years, it's safe to say that the Fighting Maroons have, indeed, become Winning Maroons. With all that, comes greater expectations, though - however far from reality they may be. "There was a time last year when we were putting so much pressure on the team," S+A analyst Mikee Reyes, who donned the maroon and green from 2009 to 2014, said. "Understandable naman, kasi the make-up of that team was far from how the teams of before were so obviously, the expectations were high." When looking at where State U is now, its climb to contention could actually be traced back to a single game, a sole win, a singular event. SLEEPLESS IN SHUTTLE Of course, the origin story is much richer - what with the 13-113 record from 2007 to 2015 and the trio of winless and couple of one-win seasons in the same timeframe. But when it all comes down to it, however, nowhere to go but up was born on August 9, 2014. Before the sun rose on that day, UP was burdened with a 27-game losing streak. And before the sun rose on that day, Reyes, then still the squad's starting point guard, didn't get much sleep. "Actually, hindi maganda gising ko nun. I've been diagnosed with insomnia and nangyayari siya when I least expect it," he recalled. He then continued, "What a time for it to have come then. 'Di ako nakatulog talaga." The last time the Fighting Maroons could call themselves winners then was back in August 19, 2012 - two years ago, two seasons ago, and even two coaches ago. Facing off with a rebuilding Adamson University side, however, they felt pretty good about their chances. "Obviously, everyone was anxious na kasi loss after loss after loss, but at the same time, we were pretty close as a team so we just picked each other up," Reyes said. "We felt like we were bound for a breakthrough." Reyes remembered how then, State U had, at times, gone toe-to-toe with perennial contenders Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University. "There were moments when we showed our potential, but just couldn't close it out. Alam namin kung anong kaya namin," he said. And that, coupled with a sound game plan, was where they drew their confidence from. "We felt like we just had to stop Jansen [Rios] and Don [Trollano]. We felt like we had more weapons din so laban lang nang laban," Reyes said. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN As it turned out, Reyes brought his A-game and wound up with a career-high 28 points. Apparently, a pregame power nap proved key. "Nakatulog ako sa bus going to MOA tapos nakatulog ako sa halfcourt during warm-ups. I remember Darwish Bederi (had to wake) me up pa nga," he said through chuckles. JR Gallarza turned in his own best game and had 24 points and six rebounds. "Si Coach Ramil (Cruz), there were times na ilalabas na niya kami ni JR kasi natakot siyang baka sobrang mapagod kami, but we told him na ilalaban na namin 'to. He let us play and our confidence came from him as well," Reyes said, referring to the late Ramil Cruz who had to step in for suspended shot-caller Rey Madrid. And with a relatively louder and prouder maroon and green crowd behind it, UP overcame a slow start and erased a six-point disadvantage early on and erected a 34-23 edge late in the first half. "Pagpasok ng court was the first time we felt people actually believed we could win. Andaming tao. It wasn't so loud, pero there were definitely more people there compared to our past games," Reyes said. That’s when the Fighting Maroons knew that was a must-win game. "Na-feel mo talaga sa crowd, na-feel mo talga sa seniors na we had to win because if natalo pa sa Adamson, nangangamoy 0-14 na naman. Last game of the first round na yun e so if all teams (would have beaten) us already, mahirap nang makakuha ng kumpyansa sa second round," Reyes said. Still, the Soaring Falcons put up a fight and turned what was once a 24-point deficit into just a score of 64-73 with 45.5 ticks to go on the clock. Kyles Lao and Jarrell Lim proved steady from the stripe, however, and kept Adamson at bay once and for all. When the final buzzer sounded, State U could finally breathe easy as the final score read 77-64 in their favor. JOY STORY At long last, after 720 days, after 28 tries, it was a winner once more. Reyes has no doubt whatsoever that was his biggest win as a player. "It's always gonna be my biggest win. I never really won much as a player for UP so sobrang sarap to finally get rid of that curse," he said. And if he had to choose between the win and the career game, he would choose the win each and every time. As he put it, "In college basketball, you could play a very, very good game, but if you lose, parang wala rin. I was just lucky my career-high came in a win because without a win, it wouldn't be memorable at all." After that breakthrough, the Fighting Maroons celebrated like champions - lighting the night with a bonfire at the famed Sunken Garden inside the Diliman campus. Years later, those same players would be candid enough to call that celebration "pathetic" - just like they have been candid enough to call their time the "dark days." Only, in the grand scheme of things, that bonfire wasn't pathetic as it actually became the setting for the resurrection of a new Diliman Commune - a school and its students, staff, and alumni getting together for one cause. That cause? Trying and trying and trying to build a winner in men's basketball - and ultimately, all sports. "I believe that game, that win, that was the start of everything. Mukhang 'di rin naman nakalimutan ng community yun," Reyes said. Now, State U is, indeed, a winner. And the players from the "dark days" only hope that the school and its faithful appreciate just how far they have come. "Those of us who were there in the 'dark days,' we know how one win was basically a championship for us. That's why I tend to remind myself and everybody to just enjoy each win," Reyes said. He then continued, "Sobrang lakas na ng team ngayon, but we still have to remember where UP came from." With Season 81 MVP Bright Akhuetie, Season 82 Mythical selection Kobe Paras, and Season 80 Mythical selection Ricci Rivero, UP is nothing but hopeful for yet another bonfire that may come next season. That bonfire, though, would no longer be called "pathetic" and would no longer be set in the "dark days." That bonfire would, hopefully, be to celebrate the Fighting Maroons' first championship since 1986. --- Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 22nd, 2020

SUPER SHOWDOWN: Ayo s Mayhem Letran vs Tan s Big, Bad Letran

In the last decade, only one school has stood between San Beda University and its complete and utter dominance of NCAA Men's Basketball. That school? The Red Lions' archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran. In 2015, the Knights came from out of nowhere to put a stop to San Beda's search for a sixth straight title. Four years later, the Red Lions were going for a fourth consecutive championship and, more impressively, a season sweep only to be resoundingly rejected, yet again, by their archrivals. And so, Mendiola is home to 80 percent of total trophies since 2010. The other 20 percent, though? They are proudly presented in Intramuros. Come to think about it, though, which triumph over its fierce foe was sweeter for Letran? Here in ABS-CBN Sports Super Showdown, that is what we aim to answer. To determine who comes out on top between the blue and red's proud champions, we will be judging them in five categories (frontcourt, backcourt, coaching, level of competition, and shock factor) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision. FRONTCOURT The trademark of Aldin Ayo's very first championship team was that of playing much bigger than its expectations, its own size, and its, more often than not, bigger opponents. Ayo's nominal center was 6-foot-5 Jom Sollano while his regular 4-man was 6-foot-4 Kevin Racal. Off the bench, his first quote-unquote big was 6-foot-3 Felix Apreku. Still, those three played their roles to a tee and, along with the rest of the team, assembled a well-oiled machine that made the most of its speed advantage. Fast forward four years and "undersized" could no longer be used to describe Letran. In 6-7 Christian Balagasay, 6-6 Jeo Ambohot, 6-6 Pao Javillonar, 6-5 Larry Muyang, 6-4 Ato Ular, and 6-4 Mark Sangalang, Bonnie Tan finally had big, bad weapons in his arsenal. And for sure, those big, bad weapons flipped what was once a chink in the armor of the Knights into a super strength. And for sure, this department would be dominated by that rotation of ready and raring big men. Advantage 2019 Letran, 10-8 BACKCOURT The two teams' Finals MVP both come from the backcourt. Mark Cruz, like he has always done, came up big for Letran and averaged 17.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.0 steals Fran Yu, meanwhile, used the big stage and bright lights to break out to the tune of norms of 13.7 points, 6.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. In those two, the Knights had capable and confident counters to San Beda's own primetime playmakers in Baser Amer and Evan Nelle. The edge here, however, would have to go to Cruz whose signature play in the winner-take-all Game 3 was not a shot. Rather, it was a setup - after driving through the lane and drawing defenders with under a minute left, he found Sollano open at the baseline. Sollano only made good on the assist and his shot proved to be the go-ahead basket for the title. Add Rey Nambatac's offense and Mcjour Luib's defense here and Ayo's Letran just had a more well-rounded backcourt compared to Tan's which also included Jerrick Balanza and Bonbon Batiller. Advantage 2015 Letran, 10-9 COACHING Ayo is one of the best collegiate coaches in all of the Philippines. He has seen Tab Baldwin win the last three titles in the UAAP, but it still wasn't that long ago when he won back-to-back championships with different teams and in different leagues. Time and time again, the youthful mentor has proven to get the most out of his players - from the Cruz-Nambatac-Racal triumvirate in Letran to Ben Mbala-Jeron Teng De La Salle University and now, University of Sto. Tomas with Soulemane Chabi Yo, Rhenz Abando, CJ Cansino, and Mark Nonoy. What he doesn't have, however, are the so-called "super friends" of Tan. Through the NCAA 95 Finals, NorthPort head coach Pido Jarencio and assistant Jeff Napa were sharing their mind with the Knights themselves during timeouts. They were informal additions to regular assistants Rensy Bajar, Lou Gatumbato, Raymond Tiongco, and Ginebra point guard LA Tenorio. Even more were behind the bench in Letran special assistant to the rector for sports development and San Miguel Corporation sports director Alfrancis Chua, NorthPort team manager Erick Arejola, Columbian governor Bobby Rosales and head coach Johnedel Cardel, and Magnolia governor Rene Pardo. Asked about all those behind his back, Tan answered then, "In business, you need partners to be successful and in sports naman, we need friends lalo na yung mga may alam kung paano manalo. Friends ko yan lahat so welcome sila - brainstorm and synergy kami." Still, it's already a given by this point that competition only fuels the already burning fire inside Ayo. With that, there is just no doubt that he would only push himself harder and farther in the face of Tan and his so-called "super friends." And the one-time NCAA and one-time UAAP champion coach much more motivated than ever is nothing but a scary thought. Advantage 2015 Letran, 10-9 LEVEL OF COMPETITION NCAA 91 was the year of "Kagulo sa NCAA." Then, six squads out of 10 had a legitimate claim to a playoff berth. So competitive was the field that Jiovani Jalalon and Kent Salado's Arellano University as well as a University of Perpetual Help side that had Scottie Thompson, Prince Eze, and Bright Akhuetie fell short of the Final Four. Illustrating the competition even further, the season's Finalists only had one member of the Mythical Team between them - San Beda's Art Dela Cruz. On the other hand, NCAA 95's playoff cast was completed a week before the end of the elimination round. Yes, there was a Red Lion team that automatically advanced to the Finals and had three out of five Mythical selections. Still, that tournament's fourth-seed was San Sebastian College-Recoletos who had an 11-7 standing. Comparing that to NCAA 91's fourth-seed in Mapua University who sported a 12-6 slate and the 2019 Golden Stags wouldn't even make the 2015 playoffs. Advantage 2015 Letran, 10-9 SHOCK FACTOR It was a shock to see Letran upset San Beda in Game 1 of the NCAA 95 Finals after the latter won each and every game in the elimination round, It was even more of a shock to see the Knights actually topple the dynastic and season sweep-seeking Red Lions. Still, there was always an outside shot of that happening. "Letran is one of three shoo-ins for the Final Four – as well as a strong contender to wage war in the Finals and even possibly, hoist the trophy," ABS-CBN Sports stated in its preseason preview for the blue and red then. "This fully loaded lineup has the makings of a dynasty-ender – what’s only up in the air is if it would be motivated enough to do just that." On the other hand, nobody, nobody at all aside from Ayo had Letran contending in NCAA 91 - much more, winning it all. As ABS-CBN Sports stated in its preseason preview then, "It remains to be seen if the Knights' fortified defense and added offensive firepower can overcome their lack of size especially against the Final Four teams, all of whom have only gotten bigger." Even when the Knights finally charged to the championship round, not that many gave them a chance. In fact, all that doubt became tattooed on the mind of Ayo whose first words in the post-game conference when they finally claimed the crown was, "Joey, follow your heart!" The fiery mentor was referring to the Philippine Star's Joey Villar who said in the leadup to the Finals that his heart wants to root for Letran, but his mind knows San Beda would win. He wasn't alone. Even Ayo had to admit that his players themselves didn't believe until the season was already underway. "Sa totoo lang, nung team-building namin nung preseason, nung tinanong ko kung naniniwala ba silang magcha-champion tayo, they laughed. Nung natalo lang namin yung JRU nung (second game of the season), dun lang sila naniwala.," he said then. Advantage 2015 Letran, 10-9 FINAL SCORE: 48-46 for 2015 Letran.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsApr 21st, 2020

SUPER SHOWDOWN: Ayo s 15 Letran vs Ayo s 16 La Salle

Aldin Ayo is one of the best collegiate coaches in all of the Philippines. He has seen Tab Baldwin win the last three titles in the league he has been competing in, but it still wasn't that long ago when he did something so special that it may very well never ever be seen again. In 2015, Ayo came from out of nowhere to lead alma mater Colegio de San Juan de Letran not only to a surprise playoff berth, but to a shocking crown coming at the expense of archrival and defending champion San Beda, no less. A year later, he crossed over to De La Salle University and wasted no time assembling its Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng-powered machine into a juggernaut that went 16-1 and took the title from archrival Ateneo. Yes, Ayo won back-to-back championships in 2015 and 2016 - but they came with different teams and in different leagues. Even more, he did it all by driving two definitely different vehicles - one aging, well-worn, and not expected to go anywhere far and the other customized, souped-up, and assumed to win it all. Which Ayo-coached championship is better? That's what we look into in the return of ABS-CBN Sports' Super Showdown. To determine who wins between Aldin Ayo's couple of championship teams, we will be judging them in five categories (frontcourt, backcourt, depth, mayhem, and intangibles) with a boxing-style 10-point must system determining the decision. FRONTCOURT Mbala. That's it. That's more than enough for La Salle to dominate this department. The 6-foot-8 Cameroonian was so dominant in UAAP 79 that he ultimately became the first foreign student-athlete to win MVP in over two decades as he posted per game counts of 20.5 points in 53.3 percent shooting from the field, 15.6 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, and 1.1 assists. Letran took pride in having gone all-Filipino and still giving the likes of Ola Adeogun and Allwell Oraeme all they could handle, but Mbala is Mbala and there will be nothing at all that 6-foot-5 Jom Sollano, 6-foot-4 Kevin Racal, and 6-foot-3 Felix Apreku could have done to even slow him down. And if by some miracle, the Knights find a way to have done so? Then the Green Archers could have just sent in Jason Perkins or Abu Tratter or even Justine Baltazar. But wait, there's more as when it mattered most, it was actually Teng who came through for the Taft-based team. Putting up per game counts of 19.0 points on 52 percent shooting, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in the Finals opposite archrival Ateneo, he was the undisputed MVP of the championship round as he just willed his way through the likes of Mike Nieto, Vince Tolentino, and Raffy Verano. Just imagine what he would do to the undersized Knights. Advantage La Salle, 10-8. BACKCOURT Mark Cruz is the prototype point guard for all Ayo-coached teams - fearless, fiery, and fast. Since then, Aljun Melecio and Mark Nonoy have followed his footsteps, but either is yet to put it all together like Cruz did back in 2015. Letran was not necessarily a good offensive team then and it fed off of its full-court pressure for easy looks and baskets. Still, whenever they needed a basket bad, the smallest player on the floor was, more often than not, there to come up big as he averaged 18.6 points, 4.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.6 steals and totaled a league-best 73 triples. Indeed, "Ant-man", who was named the NCAA Season 91 Finals MVP, would have posed problems for Melecio, Andrei Caracut, Thomas Torres, and even Kib Montalbo and Julian Sargent. And that's not even taking into account Cruz's fellow guards Mcjour Luib and Rey Nambatac also ready and raring to do damage. Advantage Letran, 10-9. DEPTH Mbala is scary. Teng is scary. Another thing that makes La Salle's 2016 championship team scary is the fact that its second unit would have been the starting five of several squads. Mbala, Teng, Torres, and Melecio were regulars in the first five while waiting in the wings were Caracut, Montalbo, Perkins, Sargent, Brent Paraiso, Prince Rivero and Abu Tratter On the other hand, Letran could only go six-deep with Apreku, Cruz, Luib, Nambatac, Racal, and Sollano while the likes of Jerrick Balanza, JP Calvo, and Bong Quinto were far from ready from delivering the goods just yet. And oh, La Salle's end-of-bench players for majority of the season? Well, it just included names like Baltazar, Mark Dyke, Jollo Go, and Ricci Rivero. Advantage La Salle, 10-8. MAYHEM In terms of physicality, Letran has La Salle beat in imposing the full-court pressure that was Ayo's then-trademark as the former forced opponents into 27.9 turnovers which were quickly converted into 24.6 points. What the Green Archers had far more, however, were more players who had more talent - as already ascertained by them winning the aforementioned "depth" department. That allowed them to put their opponents, including Baldwin-coached Ateneo, inside a pressure cooker where they forced 24.9 turnovers which were quickly converted into 24.2 points. In particular, Montalbo was at his very best in 2016, as he transformed into the "Man of Steal" and became the stuff of nightmares for opposing backcourts by norming a league-leading 2.8 steals. Make no mistake, Cruz and Luib would have eaten just about anybody alive who lost their nerves in the face of the blue and red "Mayhem" as they combined for 2.8 steals per game, but the green and white's deeper bench just meant their "Mayhem" never stopped. And with Montalbo, channeling his best Patrick Beverley back then, fronting the charge? Good luck to all the other teams trying to set up their offense. Advantage La Salle, 10-9. INTANGIBLES Rewind to Game 3 of the NCAA 91 Finals with Letran leading San Beda, 84-82, and Sollano at the line for one more free throw. With 6.7 ticks to go on the clock, Luib intentionally steps onto the lane even before Sollano puts up his shot. Looking at one another with questions in their eyes, Art Dela Cruz and Ola Adeogun follow Luib onto the lane. As it turns out, Luib wanted them to do just that. All along, the Knights knew the possession arrow pointed to them - and so, with the two teams committing lane violations, a jumpball was called and the ball was awarded to Letran. “Second free throw, rattles out.” “Samin!” “Nice one, Jour!” “And possession arrow points in favor of the Letran Knights!”#NCAASeason91 was, mos def, a good one. pic.twitter.com/42ODXWN9wK — Normie Riego (@riegogogo) March 19, 2020 Not long after, Cruz converted a couple of charities, but without a doubt, the play that clinched the championship for the Knights was Luib's outsmarting of Dela Cruz and Adeogun - a play that not many players would have been able to take and make, or even think about. Advantage Letran, 10-8. FINAL SCORE, 47-45 for Ayo's '16 La Salle.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 19th, 2020

Scrubbed: March Madness leads long list of canceled sports

By EDDIE PELLS AP National Writer The world's sports schedule cratered at warp speed Thursday, with one of the biggest events on the U.S. calendar, the fun-filled and colorful college basketball tournament known as March Madness, becoming the first mega-event to be scrubbed due to fear of the spread of the coronavirus. Leaders at all levels of sports, including the NCAA, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, tennis and soccer, decided the risk of playing games with the threat of the virus hanging over them was too great despite the billions of dollars — to say nothing of the trophies, pride and once-in-a-lifetime experiences — hanging in the balance. By late in the afternoon of an extraordinary, headline-a-minute day across a pandemic-rattled globe, the NCAA, which regulates March Madness and virtually all major U.S. college sports, basically had no choice. With conferences and individual teams calling off their basketball seasons at breakneck pace, the NCAA followed suit. They scrapped all college winter and spring championships, the highlight of which is the men's basketball tournament — a three-week extravaganza that stands as the biggest event this side of the Super Bowl on the U.S. sports calendar. The cancellation leaves a massive hole in American sports — from campuses across the country, to a growing passel of sports-betting businesses that rely on college hoops money, to say nothing of the hearts of players who were poised to get their first, or last, or only chance to shine on the big stage. All of it was to be covered by CBS and its partners; about 80 percent of the NCAA's $1.05 billion annual budget is bankrolled by the money the networks pay to present the 68-team tournament over the air, on cable and online. “This is bigger than a sport or championship,” said Kansas University coach Bill Self, whose team would've been the likely favorite to win it all. Hours earlier, Kansas and Duke had each taken matters into their own hands, announcing they wouldn't be sending any of their teams to games, no matter the stakes. It wasn't even the most jaw-dropping moment of the morning. That came, fittingly, at one of the world's most renowned sports venues — Madison Square Garden — where at halftime of a Big East Conference tournament game, the PA announcer came on and said the tournament had been called. By then, every major conference, and virtually all of the minor ones, had done the same thing. They were prompted in part by the NCAA's decision a day earlier to hold all its tournament games — which had been scheduled to start next week in nine cities and close April 6 at a 71,000-seat stadium in Atlanta — in front of friends and family and limited “essential” personnel. Only 24 hours later, with the stock market tanking, mixed messages coming out of Washington and no promise of quick relief being offered by world health experts, it became even more clear that gatherings involving thousands of people were hard to justify. Also clear: The NCAA would have trouble assembling an equitable bracket for its tournament, given that most games designed to suss out the most-deserving teams and automatic qualifiers had already been scrubbed. “I’m not a researcher in immunology or infectious disease, but those who are engaged at the NCAA level provided some stark information yesterday,” said Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. The March Madness news meant it will be a world free of basketball for the foreseeable future. A day after the NBA put its season on temporary hiatus, a second member of the Utah Jazz — Donovan Mitchell — tested positive for the coronavirus. The league said its suspension would last for at least 30 days — possibly a conservative guess, as teams undertake the task of identifying any player or referee who has had recent contact with the Jazz, then putting them into isolation for the required two weeks. “What would kill the NBA season is if more players catch it,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said in an interview on CNBC. He called the hiatus a matter of “us being vigilant, as all businesses should be. Businesses are going to have to be incredibly vigilant, and that's hard.” The NHL also suspended its season, though it did not report any positives for COVID-19. Major League Baseball scrapped spring training and postponed the start of its season, currently scheduled for March 26, for at least two weeks. Before the start of one of the biggest golf tournaments on the calendar, the PGA Tour announced that the last three rounds of The Players Championship, best known for the rowdy gatherings around the island green on the 17th hole, would be played without fans. The same goes for the three events that follow, all of which lead into the Masters, which was, for the time being, slated to go on as scheduled the week of April 6. The LPGA postponed three tournaments, beginning next week, including its first major of the season. Tennis will also be canceling events. The ATP called off men's tournaments for the next six weeks; the WTA said its tournament in South Carolina, set for April 6-12, would not be held as scheduled, with decisions about the rest of the season to come in the next week. NASCAR announced it would race the next two weekends, in Atlanta and Miami, without fans, and IndyCar made the same decision for its race this weekend in St. Petersburg, Florida. Horse races were going on in several states, though without fans in the stands — leaving the parimutuel wagers to be made online; organizers of the Kentucky Derby were moving forward with plans for the May 2 race. The NFL, never off the radar even in the depths of the offseason, announced a number of changes and cancellations on its schedule of meetings, fan fest and scouting trips — all related to coronavirus. The U.S.-based Major League Soccer said it would shut down for a target period of 30 days. Earlier in the day, soccer leagues and teams scrambled to make changes: —Belgium's soccer league backpedaled on an earlier decision, and decided to close stadiums to fans. —A Champions League game involving Real Madrid was postponed after the Spanish team puts its players in quarantine. —Dutch soccer authorities canceled all matches through the end of the month, including friendlies against the United States and Spain. —Also, a second player from Italy's top soccer division tested positive. All sports in that hard-hit country have been suspended through April 3. For once, there were no major announcements coming out of Tokyo, where conflicting messages about the status of this summer's Olympics have come out of the country, and the IOC, for weeks. Instead, the IOC went ahead with its ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame, an event held in front of the ruined Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia. "We are strengthened ... by the many authorities and sports organizations around the world which are taking so many significant measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus,” IOC president Thomas Bach said......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 13th, 2020

NCAA Season 95: Lady Chiefs take share of lead

Three-time defending champion Arellano University absorbed its first set loss in NCAA Season 95 women’s volleyball competition. After getting a mouthful from head coach Obet Javier during the break, the Lady Chiefs responded with a dominating outing in the fourth frame to carve out a 25-17, 25-18, 25-27, 25-13, win Saturday to move up to a share of the lead at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Arellano U collected its fourth straight win to remain unscathed and joined College of St. Benilde on top of the standing. Still, Javier wasn’t all too happy with their win. The Lady Chiefs were just two points away from wrapping up the match 23-19, but a costly service error from setter Sarah Verutiao opened a golden opportunity for the Lady Stags to capitalize to steal the frame. “Kumbaga nag-sub ako ng dalawa para advantage sana sa amin para maging tatlo ang spiker ko. Ang problema ‘yung kapitan ko ay nag-error naman,” said Javier. “’Yun ang laging sinasabi ko na ang service na ‘yan kahit na service lang ‘yan ay napakahalaga ng bola na ‘yun. Pwede ka kasi manalo, pwede ka matalo so yung third set dahil nag-error ang kapitan ko, ang setter ko, kami ang natalo.” Javier then put the Lady Chiefs back to their senses during the lull and Arellano U responded with an early breakout to take the win. Regine Arocha once again was instrumental in the Lady Chiefs’ latest conquest, their sixth win overall since last year’s come-from-behind Finals series victory, tallying a personal-best 24 points she claimed off 19 attacks, four aces and a kill block. The reigning back-to-back Finals MVP added 11 digs and nine excellent sets to further boost her stock in the race for the season’s highest individual award. Season 95 MVP Necole Ebuen finished with 10 points, Princess Bello had nine markers while Mikaela Juanich and Carla Donato combined for 16 points for the Lady Chiefs, who won their sixth head-to-head game against SSC-R since Season 92. The Lady Stags dropped their fourth straight game in as many games. Jamille Carreon got 13 points while Reyann Canete posted 12 markers in a lost cause for SSC-R. Meanwhile, the Chiefs took a share of the lead after outlasting the Stags, 25-23, 16-25, 25-27, 25-19, 16-14, in men’s play. Arellano U kept its unbeaten card intact with its fourth win tied with grand slam-seeking University of Perpetual Help. Christian Dela Paz exploded for 29 points while Jesrael Liberato and Demy Lapuz had 16 and 12 markers, respectively, for the Chiefs. The Stags suffered its third loss in four games despite the 25-point effort of Reynald Honra and Julius Lana’s 20 markers. In juniors play, the unbeaten Braves tied six-peat-seeking Perpetual with their fourth win at the expense of the Staglets, 25-19, 25-13, 25-15.       ---     Follow this writer on Twitter, @fromtheriles.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 25th, 2020

Giannis, Bucks visit prison with Laker showdown looming

By Keith Jenkins, Associated Press STURTEVANT, Wis. (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks chose to recover from the end of their 18-game winning streak at a medium-security Wisconsin state prison. Two days before an anticipated showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team was scheduled for a “player individual day” Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) — usually used for individuals to get extra training or medical treatment. Instead, the players opted to hear stories from inmates at the Racine Correctional Institution. “I wasn't seeing guys that made mistakes,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was just seeing humans, humans that were laughing, that were trying hard, humans that shared their stories. That really touched me and I realized sometimes we take things for granted. That's not going to happen again.” Antetokounmpo, his older brother, Thanasis, and other Milwaukee teammates Sterling Brown, Kyle Korver, George Hill, Pat Connaughton and D.J. Wilson traveled about 30 miles south of Milwaukee to the prison to take part in the “Play for Justice” initiative, which brings together NBA teams and inmates at correctional facilities across the country. The event, organized by Represent Justice, One Community and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, sets out to break down stigmas associated with individuals — disproportionately people of color and the poor — who are impacted by the criminal justice system. The event was launched alongside the upcoming film, “Just Mercy,” about a wrongfully convicted black man on death row in Alabama. The Sacramento Kings held the first “Play for Justice” event last week at Folsom State Prison in California. Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer, some of his assistants and former NBA player Caron Butler — born in Racine — also attended as some of the more than 1,600 incarcerated men shared stories of crimes and mistakes that changed their lives. “Whenever you're around anything that's powerful, that's bigger than you, that makes you think about how do we make a difference in life and other people's lives, and makes you think about other people, I think it makes our team think about their teammates or how they could be doing something maybe better for each other and be more empathetic toward each other," Budenholzer said. Each player also shared stories of their respective journeys, recalling childhoods in broken homes or impoverished environments. Brown has a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department and the city that stems from a January 2018 incident where a group of officers took him to the ground, tasered and arrested him after a parking violation at a Walgreens. The incident prompted an internal investigation that ended with several officers suspended and others retrained. Brown, who was not charged in the incident, opened up about that night and his mission going forward. “I'm not doing it for myself," he said. “I'm being that voice for those that don't have a platform.” Antetokounmpo said he didn't always make the best decisions while growing up in Greece. He said his family, specifically his father Charles, helped him straighten out his life. Charles died of a heart attack at 54 years old in 2017. Antetokounmpo said he spoke with his family after the visit and told them it was an eye-opening experience. “It’s crazy how many things you take for granted,” he said. “Obviously, they made mistakes. But at the end of the day, you have to realize they're human.” Budenholzer, Bucks front office personnel, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes played a game of basketball alongside some of the inmates. Antetokounmpo and his teammates served as honorary coaches. The Milwaukee players laughed and cheered with each possession. Antetokounmpo even took jabs at Budenholzer for his lack of effort on defense. “He made a big 3 and gave us a lot of momentum," Antetokounmpo said. “So I was happy with him and kept him in the game for like 25 more seconds because I realized defensively he wasn't that good." The Bucks return to the court Thursday (Friday, PHL time) against the Los Angeles Lakers in a showdown of teams tied for the NBA's best record. It will be Antetokounmpo against LeBron James — and possibly a preview of the NBA Finals. With all of that looming, the Bucks thought getting out of the training facility would be the best way to prepare. “It's means a lot," Antetokounmpo said. “Just seeing one another off the court, especially when you go and do something for a good purpose and try to change people's lives, it's always good. That definitely brings the team together. And when you have each other's backs off the court, you have each other's backs on the court. It's a lot easier.".....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 19th, 2019