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Alaska goes big, a calculated risk that paid off for Compton



The story of the first two games of the Alaska-Star PBA Governors’ Cup semi-final was how the Aces were able to force — subconsciously or not — the Hotshots to play small to match up with the Aces’ undersized yet dangerous unit on the floor.

For stretches, the series has seen Marqus Blakely play the four and was surrounded by wing guys like Alex Mallari and PJ Simon, and a backcourt guy like Mark Barroca. But those rosters did not work against the Aces in the first two outings, as they were quick enough to switch on ball screens and rotate to challenge shots.

In the first two games, Alaska outrebounded Star by an average of 13.5 boards.

“Actually nakita namin ng first game [they went small], pero knowing Coach Tim [Cone], he would make an adjustment pero magiging minor lang given the rest allowed. ‘Yung team defense namin, we practice individually. Our main focus is stopping Marqus Blakely,” Alaska assistant coach Louie Alas said.

In Game 3 Sunday, Star finally went back to its big lineup to shut down Alaska with size. Blakely was joined by Yousef Taha, Marc Pingris, James Yap, and Joe Devance. It came against a diminutive Alaska unit which quickly went on a zone defense, although Star controlled the boards and the first half, 46-37.

“We talked about going into this game, there is going to be adversity. That is a champion team and they shocked me with their starting lineup that was effective. With their versatility they went super big ball against a small ball. They went huge and that caused us problems,” Compton said after Game 3.

Then came an adjustment from the Aces that turned the tables on the Hotshots: Compton fielded in an equally big line-up that only had JVee Casio as the natural backcourt player. Romeo Travis, Sonny Thoss, and Calvin Abueva played the frontcourt positions while Rome Dela Rosa slid to the two spot.

Although the unit looked on paper like it did not have much shooting aside from Casio, the combination was still respected by the defense as any of the three forwards (Dela Rosa, Abueva, Travis) are able to beat opponents using straight line drives or one-on-one plays; Thoss is an excellent back-to-basket player, while Casio has a penchant for draining threes. Thus, space was not sacrificed.

The said unit carried Alaska back, and tied the match at 56-all late in the third period. It continued in the fourth with Vic Manuel in the place of Thoss, and the unit made it difficult for the Hotshots to penetrate and score inside the paint.

The five on the floor were able to match better and switch on ball screens without sacrificing size. Casio was the only guy with a mismatch against Yap, although he stood his ground.

“We went big in the third to match up with their bigs. We had to do something new. It was a calculated risk and if we stayed small against them, it was really going to cause us problems,” Compton bared.

“My guess is because we won the rebounding in both two games significantly, they felt they had to dominate the glass but we matched up with them and went big.”

Alaska finished once again outrebounding Star, 43-39 while shutting the latter down to only 31 points in the second half and 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Abueva, Travis, and Manuel secured the rebounds in the payoff period; the Aces also prevented the Hotshots from shooting well from the outside (6-for-21) as they switched ball screens.

In a Titanic duel between the two best coaches in the country, Compton won slightly when it comes to the player match-ups, as he won three straight games by putting the right combinations on the floor.

“Our job as coaches is to prioritize the possible adjustments and quickly review in a walk-through what the opponent will do. They caught us off-guard completely. It is going to be the players’ ability to adjust and do things never done before. We had to because they were huge.”


*Photo from PBA Images

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win



Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the bout returned to the feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots



Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for Phoenix Fuel Masters Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to Mahindra Floodbuster.

But that achievement of his won’t be that memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat they had absorbed into the hands of Paul Lee and Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix was there in contention all through out the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But then, the Hotshots’ comebacking skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” expressed the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face Barangay Ginebra next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics



FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to its’ first win after a historic 16-game skid at the expense of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover the six-foot-four forward made.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made it. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all by himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he got frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win



Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

Alab’s bench however could not sustain the effort of the starters that led to them clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a sparkplug, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided the spark for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. were on-point with the former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards that resulted to the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan to slice the lead to as low as four points. Free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28 when they take on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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