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Gelo Diamante’s 88th minute goal grounds Ateneo; sends La Salle to finals

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Another classic battle between the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles and the De La Salle University Green Archers enters the annals of collegiate sports’ greatest rivalry. An 88th minute goal from returning Gelo Diamante, who had missed the entirety of the second round due to a broken clavicle, paved the way for a 1-0 victory by the Archers, sending them to the UAAP Men’s Football finals for the first time in almost ten years.

As expected, the Archers went for the wing right at the first whistle, and care of Jose Montelibano and Nathan Alquiros had a series of great attempts from crosses from the wing. Two minutes into the first half, Jose Montelibano almost drew first blood after receiving a ground cross from Iñigo Gonzales. Their attempts were thwarted by Ateneo goalie JP Oracion, who was able to dive in and disrupt the play before Montelibano could position himself for the point-blank shot.

Ateneo, meanwhile, struggled to find a way into the box, with the La Salle defenders troubling every Eagle who touched the ball, forcing the Atenean attackers to try from the edge of the box. Senior Emmanuel Paredes, at the sixth minute, had Ateneo’s first good try of the game, recovering a botched free kick from the edge of the box, and redirecting in back to the direction of the goal, but his shot instead sailed wide above the bar.

As the first half went on, it was La Salle who kept the Ateneo defenders on their toes, attacking through the wing with every opportunity. At the 13th minute, captain Gio Diamante came inches to scoring for La Salle. After collecting a sneaky thru pass, Diamante was able to send the ball into the direction of the goal, launching from the center of the box. Ateneo goalie Oracion, however, dove in time to put a stop to the shot. La Salle, who were rewarded with several set pieces in the first half, also found themselves trying to make the best out of every corner kick and free kick given them, but were unable break through JP Oracion’s wide reach.

Ateneo veterans, Emmanuel Paredes and Emilio Acosta, meanwhile, spearheaded the Ateneo charge at the other end of the field, but were unable to find any easy shots due to the La Salle defenders’ aggressive lockdown on their box. At the 24th minute, Acosta came within inches of scoring Ateneo’s first goal, getting a good inside shot after sneaking past the La Salle defenders, but his shot sailed past the bar. Six minutes later, he was forced to spend a couple minutes on the sidelines. A collision with La Salle goalie Raphael de Guzman, after a botched attack, left Acosta sprawled on the ground in pain. He was able to return to the field a few minutes later, helping Ateneo to a couple more attempts on the goal.

At the 33rd minute, Ateneo thought they had something to celebrate about. A nifty inside thru pass by Carlo Liay was gathered by Mike Castillo, who powered his way through the defenders and into the box before sending a powerful kick that sent the ball in flying into the net. Ateneo’s celebration, however, was cut short when the linesman declared the shot offside.

Despite their aggressive push on the wings, La Salle was unable to find a way to score. At the 42nd minute, rookie Christian Zubiri came close to scoring after connecting with Matthew Nierras’ lob with a header, but the ball went inches past the bar. Two minutes later, Gregory Yang took a powerful free kick from the left wing, but his shot sailed past the opposite post. At halftime, neither team still had any goals.

Both teams’ sustained aggression heading into the second half. Ateneo’s Mike Castillo found his chance to score a goal with a powerful shot from the right wing at the 48th minute, but it ended with the ball drifting past the post. Barely a minute later, Emilio Acosta came close to breaking the deadlock, after getting into position to receive a stealthy inside pass from Emmanuel Paredes. His shot, however, was easily disrupted by the La Salle defense. Acosta had another great chance at the 54th minute, after receiving a nifty inside pass from Carlo Liay. Acosta, amid the chaos in front of the goal, was able to launch a powerful shot from the center of the box that ended with the ball missing its mark.

But as the 60th minute drew closer, a visibly exhausted Ateneo midfield collapse and paved the way for La Salle to resume their aggressive play. Gio Diamante almost scored for La Salle at the 58th minute, after collecting a long volley from Matthew Nierras. Diamante’s shot, however, was too weak to power the ball into the goal, and it drifted past the post instead. At the 67th minute, a powerful free kick from Nathan Alquiros almost sent the ball into the net, but Ateneo defender Wilson Marcelino was able to clear the ball off the pitch before anyone could send it back to the direction of the goal. The next 20 minutes of play saw the aggressive La Salle attackers repeatedly come close to sending the ball past the keeper, but none could get through Ateneo goalie Oracion. At the 73rd minute, returning player Gelo Diamante, was subbed in for his older brother Gio, and was warmly welcomed by fans in the stands.

The 80th minute, however, saw another change in the complexion of the game, with a resurgent Ateneo scrambling to win back flow of the ball. Rookie Paolo Alilam, who was earlier subbed in for Renko Gaudiel, had a couple of good shots for Ateneo, connecting with set pieces and crosses set up by Emmanuel Paredes. At the 85th minute, Acosta once again once inches from scoring for Ateneo, but his shot from the edge of the box landed instead in La Salle goalie De Guzman’s hands.

Then in 88th minute, the silence was finally broken. Gelo Diamante, who had only been playing for fifteen minutes, powered his way through the Ateneo defense to collect a stealthy inside cross from Jose Montelibano. Diamante charged into the center of the box, and afterwards launched a powerful shot that sent the ball flying past Oracion and into the top of the La Salle goal. With three minutes left to play, the lead was with La Salle, 1-0.

The Archers, however, showed no signs of complacency, disrupting the Eagles on their every drive of the field and keeping them from having any sudden easy looks. At the end of three minutes of injury time, it was the Archers celebrating on the field.

“Since na-injure ako, wala akong inisip kung hindi maka-balik sa game,” said game hero Diamante. “I had a mission. Coach Hans [Smit] gave me a mission. It was a risk. I’m still kind of injured, but I trusted Coach, and Coach Hans trusted me, and the team played so well.” Diamante did not take full credit for the goal, remarking that the goal was the product of a team effort. The third-year player broke his clavicle in their first round finale with UST. He had four goals for La Salle in the first round.

Long-time La Salle head coach, Hans Smit, lauded the Eagles for their performance. “With all due to respect to Ateneo, I always told my boys without batting an eyelash, they have the biggest heart in football.”

“Whoever won deserved to win. At the end of the day, it was an honorable game to play. La Salle deserves it,” said graduating Ateneo star Emmanuel Paredes after the game. Paredes praised their rivals’ performance and related how far the Ateneo program had improved since his rookie days. “Before the game, at the dugout I told the boys that win or lose, dapat no regrets. If we go down, we go down with guns blazing.”

The Archers are now headed to the finals, and are as of press time awaiting the winner of the ongoing semifinal bout between the FEU Tamaraws and the UP Fighting Maroons. The Archers last made the finals in Season 68, almost ten years ago.

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’

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Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence

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For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense

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Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs

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It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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