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Ginebra turns things around in third, cruises past NLEX

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For the 22 minutes that bridged the first two quarters of the game, the NLEX Road Warriors seemed poised to stun the Ginebra faithful at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. Not wanting to disappoint the packed coliseum, however, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel flipped the switch in the third frame and turned a close game into a blowout.

“It was a key game for us to win. We needed that for the standings. It was a good win to build momentum since we are coming off a 13 day break,” said second year Ginebra head coach, as they go up to 3-1.

As they forced the Road Warriors into numerous errors in the second half, the Barangay Ginebra were able to pick up their third win of the conference in a 101-92 victory over the still-winless NLEX on Wednesday night.

“It doesn’t feel like three straight wins because they are far apart. We play good in the second half in our last three games but I would like to see us play good defensively in the first quarter,” Cone continued.

Justin Brownlee paced Ginebra with 18 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and three steals. LA Tenorio, who played in his 497th consecutive game, anchored the Gin Kings with 13 points, five assists, and three steals.

“We like the way we are playing like when Justin finds his rhythm because we find our rhythm. LA got more fire in the second half as well,” the winningest head coach in PBA history remarked.

NLEX led by as much as 11 points, 43-32, in the second frame, but Ginebra were able to make a 15-5 rally to cut the lead to just a solitary point entering the half.

After the halftime break, Ginebra clamped down on defense, forcing NLEX into a mind-boggling 11 turnovers in the third frame that led to 18 points. Moreover, Brownlee and Tenorio combined for five of Ginebra’s eight steals during the quarter, while they were also responsible for 20 of Ginebra’s 42 third quarter points.

At the end of the blitz, the Gin Kings held an imposing 27-point lead, 89-62. Ginebra led by as many as 31 points, 91-62, early in the fourth quarter.

“The team did its job in the third quarter giving the opportunity for the other guys in the fourth quarter. But they did not do their job,” Cone lamented.

However, Ginebra’s bench was not able to keep up the momentum, scoring just 12 points in the final frame that “left a sour taste” in Cone’s mouth.

Wayne Chism led NLEX with 16 points and eight rebounds in 29 minutes of game time. Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Eric Camson added 14 and 11 markers respectively. Collectively, though, the Road Warriors shot just 40 percent from the field and a horrid 3-for-26 from downtown.

NLEX lost their 11th straight game, with their last victory coming last January 7, 2017.

Ginebra will next face TNT on Sunday, April 23, at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum. On the other hand, NLEX will have a 13-day break before facing the Blackwater Elite on Wednesday, May 3, at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Ginebra (101) – Brownlee 18, Devance 18, Aguilar 17, Tenorio 13, Ellis 9, Thompson 5, Mercado 5, Taha 4, Cruz 4, Ferrer 3, Marcelo 2, Caguioa 2, De Guzman 1, Helterbrand 0, Jamito 0, Mariano 0.

NLEX (92) – Chism 16, Al-Hussaini 14, Camson 11, Lastimosa 8, Anthony 6, Khobuntin 6, Rios 5, Soyud 5, Alas 4, Baracael 4, Lanete 4, Guinto 3, Monfort 3, Tiongson 3, Villanueva J. 0.

Quarterscores: 27-28; 47-48; 89-62; 101-92.

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Fighting Maroons beg off from D-League commitments

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Studies first

With the University of the Philippines in the midst of its second semester of their academic calendar when the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup begins, Fighting Maroons head coach Bo Perasol asked his players if they could forego of their basketball commitments for the mean time to focus on their studies.

“They will have a really hard time passing, and even attending, their subjects if they’re going to miss classes because of the practices and games,” the incoming third-year UP Men’s Basketball team mentor shared.

Tuesday afternoon, sophomore Javi Gomez de Liano was drafted by the Wangs-Letran Couriers and junior Jerson Prado was selected by Gamboa Coffee-St. Clare Lovers while skipper Paul Desiderio and junior Diego Dario are currently free agents in the league. Desiderio last played for the Cafe France-CEU Bakers during the 2016 Aspirants’ Cup while Dario joined the AMA Online Education Titans as well.

Being a former student-athlete himself, Perasol knows how important the second semester is, especially for eligibility for the 81st season of the UAAP.

“The second semester is very important in their eligibility for the next season,” Perasol added.

With a loaded line-up for the upcoming UAAP season, the Fighting Maroons can’t afford any mishaps.

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Jeff Napa, Letran try to change Wangs Basketball’s fortunes

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For the first time since joining the PBA D-League, the Wangs Basketball Couriers will be bannered by a collegiate team as they have partnered up with the Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights.

Gone are the days that the team is stacked with PBA aspirants and cagers trying to make it back to the big league. Donning the Wangs jersey this time around are the likes of Bong Quinto, JP Calvo, Jerrick Balanza, Jeo Ambohot, Bonbon Batiller, Fran Yu, Christian Fajarito, and Larry Muyang.

With the chance of being able to compete once again in the second league, incoming third-year Letran head coach Jeff Napa wants to repay the trust of Wangs founder Alex Wang by being competitive this season.

“Si boss Alex (Wang) wala naman sinasabi sa akin na target pero gusto ko siyempre masuklian ang kabutihan niya sa amin. Gusto lang niya maging competitive yung team namin.

“Sa Letran naman, kailangan naman magka-experience in preparation for next season. Focus namin yung bonding namin para maging maganda yung season namin,” Napa said.

Joining the Letran core are their drafted players, headlined by his former players in National University — Michael Pate and Hubert Cani. Even with his familiarity with the two upstarts, Napa wants the two to earn their stripes with the team.

“Sana maging maganda yung response nila sa sistema namin,” the youthful mentor said. “Hindi naman porke’t naging player ko sila e magkaka-minutes na sila. Nakadepende pa rin sa system namin kung ano ang gusto namin mangyari.”

Besides the two, he also picked up UST Growling Tiger Henric Caunan, UP Fighting Maroon Javi Gomez de Liano, and Mapua Cardinal Christian Bunag.

Despite a deep team, the National University lifer is not guaranteeing anything, only saying that they will give a good fight.

“Okay naman. Satisfied naman ako sa dinraft namin. We’ll see kung anong mangyayari pero at least nakikita ko yung mga projection sa team namin,” Napa shared.

“This Aspirants’ Cup, magiging maganda ang labanan.”

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AMA head coach likens top pick Owen Graham to Arwind Santos

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The AMA Online Education Titans got the luxury of picking first in the PBA D-League Draft for the second straight year. But this time though, they picked a no-namer in Owen Graham — a move deemed unusual considering the amount of proven talents in the pool.

“Si Owen Graham kasi, he played for me for almost one year na,” justified AMA head coach Mark Herrera of his decision. “He’s a school-based player, he stands at six-foot-fpir, Fil-Canadian siya. He can play the 2, 3, 4, and 5 spots.

“Mabilis siya at all-around player siya. Para siyang si Arwind Santos.”

What inclined Herrera to pick Graham was his familiarity with his system as he has utilized the swingman in the collegiate level”

“Ang advantage lang niya, kabisado ko na ‘yung bata, tsaka alam natin ‘yung kakayahan niya going to the D-League,” he added. “Rookie siya sa D-League pero he played for me sa NAASCU na, sa Fr. Martin and NCRAA.

“So medyo marunong na ‘yung bata.”

AMA’s choice for the first pick maybe far from what they did last year, when they nabbed proven talent Jeron Teng. But for Herrera, he likes what the team did in the 2017 proceedings as they have addressed their needs.

Aside from Graham, the Titans floor generals Philip Manalang and Levi dela Cruz, and bigs such as Michael Canete, Barkley Eboña and Richard Escoto.

“Yung mga draftees namin kung makikita niyo, more on mga 5 and 4 ang kinukuha namin, kasi nga ‘yung mga players namin before, magka-comeback din naman eh, tulad nila [Mario] Bonleon, sila [Andre] Paras,” Herrera explained.

“So ang kulang ko lang talaga ang kinuha ko, tsaka isang point guard (Philip Manalang).”

With their draft moves, Herrera is now full of optimism that the Titans can now compete with the other 12 teams in the league. Not just to compete though, as he now aims for the school-based squad to make it into the semifinals.

“Every conference naman talaga, pumapasok si AMA sa quarters, last conference lang hindi,” Herrera said.

“So this time around, ang target namin, sana umabot kami ng semis going to the championship.”

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Fil-Canadian Owen Graham selected as top overall pick in D-League draft

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Little-known Filipino-Canadian forward Owen Graham was picked as the first overall pick in the 2017 PBA D-League Draft by the AMA Online Education Titans, Tuesday afternoon at the PBA Cafe in Pasig City.

Graham is 25 years old and stands at 6-foot-4.

School-based squads Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas, and Akari-Adamson University Soaring Falcons opted to pass on all their picks, electing to field players from their own schools.

Wangs Basketball-Letran selected Jerrick Balanza as the second overall pick followed by Allen Marquez (EAC-Batangas), Keanu Caballero (CEU Scorpions), CJ Perez (Zark’s-Lyceum), Mohammed Pare (Gamboa Coffee-St. Clare), Kyle Toth (Marinerong Pilipino), RK Ilagan (Che’Lu-San Sebastian), Jose Romeo Bellosillo (Mila’s Lechon), and Kendrix Belgica (Go for Gold-CSB Blazers).

Other notable picks are Arellano Chief Michael Canete (Round 2, 1st) and Levi dela Cruz (R15, 1st), FEU Tamaraw Richard Escoto (R3, 1st) and Barkley Ebona (R4, 1st), and UE Red Warrior Philip Manalang (R12, 1st) to AMA; Alvin Pasaol (R2, 8th), Chester Saldua (R3, 8th), Abu Tratter (R4, 8th), and Vince Tolentino (R5, 8th) to Marinerong Pilipino; FEU Tamaraw Arvin Tolentino (R7, 9th) and former UP Fighting Maroon Rob Ricafort (R6, 9th) to Che’Lu-San Sebastian; and UP Fighting Maroon Javi Gomez de Liano (R10, 2nd), former NU Bulldog Michael Pate (R11, 2nd), FEU Tamaraw Hubert Cani (R13, 2nd), and Mapua Cardinal Christian Bunag (R14, 2nd) to Wang’s-Letran.

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