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Foton breaks early slump, eliminates Sta. Lucia



The Foton Tornadoes almost saw their three-peat bid go down the drain, but picked up their performance just in time to strut into the 2017 Chooks-to-Go Philippine Superliga Grand Prix after dousing the Sta. Lucia Lady Realtors, 21-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Sta. Lucia took their incendiary momentum from their two-game winning streak at the end of the elimination round, right into the quarterfinals. The Lady Realtors hampered Foton’s offense with solid serving and focused on defense especially on Foton’s high-scoring import Sara Klisura. The Serbian managed just three points as Sta. Lucia picked up the first set.

The Tornadoes seemed to have recovered in the second frame, taking a quick 15-10 lead and never looking back. The Lady Realtors came alive again in the third set, putting Foton through the ringer and into a 17-14 hole. The Tornadoes had a counter, though. With Dragana Perunicic on the serving line, Foton crept all the way to a 23-18 lead. Trying one last gasp, Sta. Lucia rattled off a late 5-1 run to come within one, 24-23, thanks to Foton’s hitting errors. The Lady Realtors had a solid chance at deuce, but Klisura perfectly read and blocked a Djanel Cheng drop ball attempt.

By the fourth frame, the Lady Realtors’ fire had run out, with the Tornadoes starting the set on a deflating 20-11 blitz. The Lady Realtors caught a few breaks late through Pam Lastimosa’s serving, but ended up falling after a Klisura kill.

“I’ve always believed that Sta. Lucia was a Top 4 team. They just had an unlucky start to the Grand Prix,” said Foton head coach Moro Branislav. “Psychology-wise, this was not the best match for us. But it should give us more sense of urgency heading the semifinals.”

Four Tornadoes finished in double-digits, with Klisura managing 23, Jaja Santiago adding 21, and Maika Ortiz and Dragana Perunicic each tallying 12 markers.

Bohdana Anisova topped the Lady Realtors with 21 points, while Pam Lastimosa added 12.

The Tornadoes move on the quarterfinals, where they face the Petron Blaze Spikers on Saturday at the SM Moa Arena. Petron were the only team to beat Foton in the elimination round.

The Scores

Foton (3) – Klisura 23, Santiago 21, Ortiz 12, Perunicic 12, Rosario 8, Perez 6, De Leon 0, Manabat 0, Vukomanovic (L)

Sta. Lucia (1) – Anisova 21, Lastimosa 12, Field 10, Phillips 10, Sabete 8, Cheng 2, Sante 1, Gendrauli 0, Rivera 0, Moncks (L)


Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball – from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado’s setting.


PBA governors stand united to open Season 43



Despite the on-going leadership struggle in the league, there’s no stopping the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) from resuming operations, as Asia’s first pro league will open its’ 43rd season this Sunday, December 17.

“As what I said in the PBA Press Corps Awards Night, December 17 is still the date for the season opening of Season 43,” league chairman Mikee Romero said during the PBA’s presser, Wednesday afternoon at Okada Manila.

“Ang sabi ko nga ho eh hindi pwede mawala ang PBA sa Pilipino, or ang Pilipino mawala sa PBA.”

Gracing the event were the vast majority of the governors — Mon Fernandez of NLEX, Robert Non of San Miguel, Alfrancis Chua of Ginebra, Rene Pardo of Magnolia, Dickie Bachmann of Alaska, Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine, Raymond Zorrilla of Phoenix, Silliman Sy of Blackwater, Bobby Rosales of Kia. Joining them were TNT assistant team manager Magnum Membrere and Meralco alternate governor Ryan Gregorio.

And for those who had attended the press conference, it was definitely a sight to behold, that it speaks volumes that even just for now, differences were set aside all for the betterment of the beloved league.

“I think we’re a very solid group at this point in time,” Romero opined. “As what we promised — that promise did not come from me, the promise came from all 12 teams… Ito pong December 17 suportahan natin. Business as usual.

“This Sunday, what we should be watching are the players, the superstars of Philippine basketball. 43 years, ang masasabi ko lang, let the games begin.”

The impasse wasn’t discussed during the presser, as the league requested moments prior to the event that the members of the press refrain from asking questions about it. Commissioner Chito Narvasa though was in attendance, but did not grant any interviews.

With the league still in a bit of a turmoil, it is still a mystery on how the 43rd season will roll out. Vice Chairman Mon Fernandez did not go into detail about their plans, but he promised to “make the PBA very relevant to the Filipinos.”

“There are a lot of plans but we cannot reveal yet,” said the former NLEX governor. “Definitely, what the board promises you is we will have a more exciting year and we’ll continue to delight the millions of fans of the PBA.

“We promise that with your support, we will continue to make the PBA very relevant to the Filipinos.”

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Where is Joshua Munzon?



Still remember Joshua Munzon?

The uber-athletic Fil-American made waves in the ASEAN Basketball League last season, producing highlight-worthy plays and excellent numbers for Vietnamese squad Saigon Heat and the Westports Malaysia Dragons.

He had also gained ground with Filipino fans when he and Saigon came the Philippines back in January to face Alab Pilipinas. The Heat may have lost 99-79, but Munzon won the hearts of Pinoys that night with the way he played.

But now, with the new ABL season rolling, he is nowhere to be found.

It is baffling, to say the least, that such a talented cager like Munzon isn’t suiting up for an ABL squad this season, considering that he posted commendable numbers of 19.4 points and nearly five steals in his rookie year.

He still made strides in the Thailand League with club team PEA, after his ABL stint last March. However, it was still a mystery why Munzon isn’t in the ABL, especially with the amount of teams that want his services.

But he has finally shed light on the issue.

“Me and KL (Westports) couldn’t agree to terms on a contract, so I tried to sign with another team. But I guess KL would have to release me to play for another team, although I’m not under contract with KL,” Munzon told Tiebreaker Times.

Munzon added that the apparent “gentlemen’s agreement” among the ABL team owners — which means he has to wait for a year before signing with another club — is what landed him in this unfortunate situation.

“KL told me they won’t release me to sign with another team this season, so I’m going to have to wait ’til next season to sign with another team,” revealed Munzon, who also shared that five ABL teams had reached out to him.

The California State-LA alumnus is currently at his home in Los Angeles, continuing his workouts and waiting for developments, if any. But Munzon did not hide the fact that being held like this is extremely disappointing.

“Very tough. It’s been a very unfortunate situation that I definitely don’t feel I deserve to be in.”

Back in January, Munzon had actually made clear his intentions of playing in the Philippines. Not for a Filipino ABL team, though, but in the PBA. And he was also aware of what he has to do first: play in the D-League.

“Yeah, play in the D-League first,” Munzon was quoted saying back then. “We’ll see after the (2016-2017) season. I’ll weigh my options first and go from there.

“But definitely get in the D-League first, and hopefully move forward from there.”

When he wasn’t seen anywhere in the ABL, those who have been following Munzon’s career assumed that he was bound to fulfill his plans, and it was expected that he will make himself eligible in the 2017 D-League Draft.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

“I wasn’t aware of the deadlines to apply,” admitted Munzon, the consensus top pick, as the deadline of submission of requirements for Fil-foreign applicants was due last November 10. “I think I’m too late for PBA D-League.”

Had Munzon joined this year’s draft, teams would definitely show strong interest. Standing at six-foot-five with the ability to attack the rim, shoot from downtown, and defend, he perfectly fits the Filipinos’ style of play.

But until then, the fans still have to wait.

He may be clouded with uncertainties in the ABL, but that does not spell the end of Munzon’s young pro career. In fact, he might even fly back to Southeast Asia and return to Thailand for yet another campaign.

“I could possibly be playing in the upcoming TBSL season in Thailand,” Munzon shared. “[But] I’m not sure which team yet though, but I should know sooner than later.”

Munzon is slowly carving a niche for himself as a journeyman in this part of Asia. Asked if he will soon fly to the Philippines to play in the PBA, the 22-year-old said that that possibility will happen “in a matter of time.”

“I would have to play D-League before [going into the PBA], or wait until I’m 28 — but I’m 22,” he quipped. “But I definitely see myself playing in the PBA eventually.

“It’s just a matter of time.”

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Low-key Owen Graham out to prove worth as top pick



When the AMA Online Education Titans announced Owen Graham as the first overall pick in the 2017 PBA D-League Draft, many quickly went to Google to search on who the Filipino-Canadian was. However, there were only a few articles that could be found about his past exploits.

This was in stark contrast compared to their draft haul a year ago that was headlined by heralded Jeron Teng. And that’s just the way the Filipino-Canadian likes it.

“With hard work and dedication, I’m pretty confident that you’re gonna hear more about me,” the 25-year-old shared.

“Maybe not now, not later, but someday you’ll hear more from me because I believe hard work pays off.”

Even with a class that includes the likes of local collegiate stalwarts Alvin Pasaol and Arvin Tolentino, the staff of head coach Mark Herrera decided that’s it is better to stick something that is familiar to them rather than risk getting spurned after one conference just like what happened a season ago.

“Rookie siya sa D-League pero he played for me sa NAASCU na, sa Fr. Martin and NCRAA, so medyo marunong na ‘yung bata,” said Herrera.

“Pretty much, I heard there are tryouts and I just decided to stop by. I just asked to play with them,” recalled Graham, who decided to take the risk of coming back home to the Philippines in 2016.

“They gave me a shot and I just showcased my abilities after that.”

The 6-foot-4 swingman though almost did not get a chance to fulfill his dreams of playing basketball.

Back when he was in college in Toronto, Canada, he, together with close friends Norbert Torres and James Forrester, was recruited by schools such as De La Salle University. However, he had to fulfill a promise to his mother first. He needed to get his collge degree before he could pursue his hoop dreams.

“I’m a late bloomer. I started to take the game serious when I was 20,” shared Graham, who is also close to Matthew Wright and LA Revilla. “When I was younger, they told me to come here, but I had to fulfill my moms dream which is finishing school in Toronto.

“Now I’m fulfilling my dream.”

Graham hopes to achieve the same success as his friends are experiencing in the pros. But it’s a good thing he knows that the journey will be long and tedious. More importantly, he knows that nothing comes easy here in the Philippines.

“They told me nothing comes easy so I got to come in with a chip on my shoulder, stay hungry, stay humble. That’s just my way,” he said. “Nobody knows about me, I like it that way. It just give me a better chance to prove myself.

“You know I’m forever grateful for this opportunity. There’s always be pressure in everything you decide to do, but I’m just gonna stick to what I know which is do my best, work hard, dive for the ball, get dirty if I have to and hopefully, make an impact.”

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Ramil de Jesus sees simple solution for Cargo Movers: ‘Kailangan lang namin pumasa’



Far from their top-seed form, the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers looked dreary in their loss in Game One of the 2017 Chooks-to-Go PSL Grand Prix Finals. For the entire course of the game, it seemed that they were a notch lower than the Petron Blaze Spikers, figuring in miscues and errors uncharacteristic of the team.

Safe to say, Game One was their worst loss of the season.

For F2 Logistics’ decorated head coach Ramil De Jesus, the solution is simple for the Cargo Movers to win in Game Two.

“Well, kailangan pumasa next game.

“‘Yun lang naman ‘yung puno’t dulo hindi kami nakapasa,” De Jesus staunchly told the media after being on the receiving end of a 14-25, 21-25, 16-25 sweep.

No Cargo Mover was in the stats sheet for excellent receives, meaning they were all net negatives with their passing. This resulted to nine aces for the Blaze Spikers.

Still, De Jesus feels his team is in a good place mentally. He’ll take tomorrow to make adjustments and get his team prepared for Game Two on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Wala ako masyadong sinabi, basta sabi ko we need to bounce back next game. Give your 100 percent, give your best for next game,” claimed De Jesus, who is raring to win his first-ever Grand Prix crown.

“Well-prepared yung Petron and then siguro itong team first time papasok sa ganitong finals. So let’s see next game.”

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