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Petron breathes sigh of relief, survives Generika-Ayala to advance

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Judging by the number fans in the FilOil Flying V Centre, no one expected the Petron Blaze Spikers versus Generika-Ayala Lifesavers quarterfinals match to be exciting.

However, Petron — a consistent, dominant force throughout the 2017 Chooks-to-Go Philippine Superliga Grand Prix — were dragged into their toughest match of the conference by the seventh seed Generika-Ayala.

The Blaze Spikers still prevailed in their first five-setter of the conference, 19-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 15-11, and moved into the knockout semifinals phase.

“Hindi talaga ito ‘yung laro namin,” gasped Petron head coach Shaq Delos Santos as he sputtered into the press room. “Ang ganda kasi ng training namin buong linggo for this tapos sobrang baba ng nilaro namin ngayon. Sobrang tense ng galaw namin.”

Petron’s tension was palpable right from the onset, as Generika-Ayala grabbed a decisive win in the first set. After taking the second frame in equally decisive fashion, Petron seemed to have control of the match.

Generika, however, refused to give way. With the third set hanging in the balance, Generika-Ayala rattled off a 3-0 run thanks to clutch serving from Katarina Pilepic, that gave them a 24-21 advantage. After a Petron point, the Lifesavers salvaged a broken play and turned it into a terrific hit for Darlene Ramdin to clinch a 2-1 sets lead.

Petron began to regain form midway through the fourth set. Tied at 10, Ria Meneses delivered aces and solid serves that powered a 7-1 Petron rally that broke the game wide open. Generika-Ayala tried to rally, coming within four points, 14-18. They got in their own way, though, as their consecutive errors pushed Petron to a decider.

The fifth frame had Petron up 5-2 early, before Generika countered with a 4-0 run to take the lead. From there, the Blaze Spikers finally got over their foes. Generika’s stingy defense unraveled in the end, as Lindsay Stalzer and Hillary Hurley picked them apart and combined for six of Petron eight points, in a run that gave them a 14-10 advantage. Hurley then capped the match, powering in a cross-court kill over two Generika blockers.

“Alam naman ng lahat na kung ganito lalaruin namin sa semis, delikado kami. Kaya wake up call na din sa amin to pero, at the same time, malaking pasalamat namin na nagkaroon pa kami ngbopportunity,” closed Delos Santos.

Stalzer finished with 27 points, while Hurley added 21 to lead Petron. Mika Reyes had an-all around game, scoring 13 points off five attacks, four blocks, and three aces.

Ramdin put on her best performance in the PSL with 35 points, while her Croatian tag partner Katarina Pilepic added 22.

The Blaze Spikers will face the winner of the Foton versus Sta. Lucia match in the semifinals, which begins on Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores

Petron (3) – Stalzer 27, Hurley 21, Reyes 13, Molina 9, Meneses 8, Palma 4, Dimaculangan 2, Hingpit 0, Pons 0, Pontillas 0, Rondina 0, Pineda (L), Fukuda (L)

Generika-Ayala (2) – Ramdin 35, Pilepic 22, Casugod 4, Masangkay 4, Cortez 2, Araneta 1, Ceballos 1, Adorador 0, Legacion 0, Orendain 0, Snuka 0, Arado (L)

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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.

Basketball

Yeng Guiao pays tribute to Boyet Fernandez

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Yeng Guiao took over from Boyet Fernandez last October 5, 2016

You have to look back in order to move forward

When the NLEX Road Warriors launched its new shield for the upcoming 43rd season of the PBA, incoming second-year NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao made sure to look back at the history of the four year old franchise.

Prior to the success the team experienced during the 2017 Governors’ Cup, NLEX entered into numerous talks and executed a handful of transactions to build the roster that they have today. But the current iteration of the team could not have been made possible without the vision of the team’s first-ever head coach in Boyet Fernandez.

“I would like to pay tribute to all of our former players and ang dati nating coach na si Coach Boyet Fernandez,” Guiao shared Monday afternoon in an event held at the NLEX headquarters in Caloocan.

“Kung hindi po sa kanila, if they did not lay down that foundation, e baka po one year na ngayon, hindi pa tayo ganito kalakas.”

During the calendar year, the Road Warriors were able to acquire the likes of Alex Mallari, Larry Fonacier, JR Quinahan, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, and Kenneth Ighalo that helped turn around the fortunes of the team that finished dead last in both the 2016-17 Philippine Cup and the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup. The losses the team incurred during the first two conferences also resulted to them being granted the second overall pick in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft that saw the Road Warriors pick Kiefer Ravena.

“We feel that we are a very competitive team right now because of the work that’s been done previously and we just tried to improve it,” the seven-time PBA champion coach added.

With the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation focusing all its resources on the Road Warriors, the pressure will be on for Guiao and his troops. And the veteran tactician vowed to make it all worth it come the new season.

“Makakaasa kayo na sa darating na conference, we will make the NLEX company and the MPTC group be proud of this team.”

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Christian Standhardinger brings home second Heritage Import of the Week crown

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Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

Christian Standhardinger was the undisputed Player of the Week

After almost erasing the scoring record for Heritage Imports, Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger of the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team was crowned as the unanimous ABL Heritage Player of the Week.

The 6-foot-7 Philippine export averaged 29.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals, 2.5 assists, and 1.5 blocks during the week that spanned from December 4 to 10, 2017.

Last December 8, the 2017 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist posted a statline of 40 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, and five steals to lead his team to a 112-105 road win over the Mono Vampire Basketball Club.

The 28-year-old big man followed this up with a complete outing of 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and three blocks in an 81-77 victory over the Singapore Slingers in the latter’s homefloor.

Standhardinger bested Filipino-American Jason Brickman of Mono Vampire for the crown. Brickman, a floor general, averaged 9.0 points on 50 percent shooting to go along with 11.5 assists, and 3.0 steals during the same span.

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New era dawns for new-look NLEX

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A new journey lies ahead for the NLEX Road Warriors

Four year old PBA franchise NLEX Road Warrriors unveiled a new logo that is inline with the entire Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation, Monday afternoon at NLEX’s headquarters in Balintawak, Caloocan.

The need to rebrand the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned franchise came about after the subsidiaries of the MPTC did so early in the year.

“Yung Metro Pacific Tollways had a rebranding that took a lot of time before we came out with our new identity,” said NLEX alternate governor Rod Franco. “There were new logos for MPTC, for NLEX, for CaviTEX, for SCTEX, and all the members of the Metro Pacific group.

“We had to do that because we wanted to project to the market the complexity of our business and the capabilities that we have as a group.”

With the Road Warriors being the representatives of MPTC in the PBA, the group felt the need to repackage the Road Warriors as well.

“After we had to do that, as I keep telling you, our business includes the Road Warriors.

“The Road Warriors embody the MPTC and the MPTC embodies the Road Warriors. The NLEX Road Warriors is the representative of the entire MPTC family. So we had to rebrand it also,” furthered Franco.

Prior to the change in logo, the Road Warriors experienced numerous changes inside the team. It was sparked by the hiring of seven-time PBA champion coach Yeng Guiao. This was then followed by drastic trades and capped by the drafting of stalwart Kiefer Ravena.

“It’s really an honor to coach the NLEX team. Isang taon na po ang pinagdaan natin dito at napakahirap. This last draft, nakuha natin yung isang magaling na player, si Kiefer Ravena,” recalled Guiao.

“Pero bago natin siya nakuha, mahirap yung pinagdaan natin.”

After all the transactions and acquisitions they made, the Road Warriors will enter the 43rd season of the PBA with high expectations. But for Guiao, what matters most is that they make the MPTC group proud of them.

“We will make the MTPC group very proud of this team,” Guiao said.

“Sa ating mga supporters, we hope that every time that we play, we can show the values that embody this company.”

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Petron, F2 Logistics ready for rematch

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Hunger will be a major factor when the Petron Blaze Spikers and the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers kick off their Chooks-to-Go/Philippine Superliga Grand Prix best-of-three title series tomorrow at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Game One is set at 7 pm, following the bronze medal match between the Cocolife Asset Managers and Foton Tornadoes in the 4:15 pm tilt.

After slicing through the eliminations with a commanding 7-1 win-loss card, both the Blaze Spikers and Cargo Movers crushed their respective foes in the quarterfinals, before emerging victorious in the semifinals to book a finals duel for the second time this year.

Petron went through the wringer before pulling off a 30-28, 21-25, 25-23, 25-21 victory over defending champions Foton, while F2 Logistics creamed Cocolife, 25-17, 25-16, 25-17, in the semifinals over the weekend at Mall of Asia Arena.

This will be the fourth consecutive time that the Blaze Spikers to advance to the finals of the season-ending conference, while the Cargo Movers are on a quest to win their first Grand Prix crown since joining the league last year.

Although they won the prestigious title in 2014 with American spiker Alaina Bergsma and Brazilian playmaker Erica Adachi at the helm, Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos stressed that they are very hungry to regain the crown.

“Sobrang happy kami and yung eagerness din kasi ng team namin. Sobrang gustung-gusto namin talagang ma-beat sila, kasi syempre gusto namin ng championship,” said Delos Santos, who had been part of George Pascua’s coaching staff when the Blaze Spikers ruled the Grand Prix three years ago.

“Ako personally, gustong-gusto kong mag-champion.”

Delos Santos noted that they had suffered a crushing four-set loss to the Cargo Movers in their lone encounter this conference, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 19-25.

In that match held at the University of St. La Salle Gym in Bacolod City, F2 Logistics were still a mystery, as they had just been making their debut after missing the league’s first two weeks due to the University Games in Dumaguete City.

“Nakilala namin yung team namin kung nasaan na kami before, that time nung natalo kami,” said Delos Santos, adding that they had no answer to the power of imports Maria Jose Perez and Kennedy Bryan during their first encounter. “Nakita namin na mas kailangan pa namin ng bonding, yung communication sa isa’t isa. Ang dami kaya sobrang thankful kami sa nangyari.

“May purpose talaga kung bakit nangyari yun.”

But Petron are not the only team looking to satisfy their thirst for the crown.

F2 Logistics head coach Ramil de Jesus had already conquered the UAAP after winning 10 titles with the De La Salle University, and he also took the PSL All-Filipino Conference after reigning supreme last year.

The Grand Prix, however, is a different story.

“Hindi naman pressure na magchampion. Unti unti basta paghandaan lang yung mga susunod na game kung ano man yun,” said de Jesus, who has never won the Grand Prix crown.

“Ngayon na finals na kami hindi naman lahat ng teams mabibigyan ng chance na makapasok sa ganitong finals so kami yung nabigyan ng chance so dapat kung nandito na i-grab na yung opportunity at paghandaan mabuti kasi minsan lang ito.”

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