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Alaska shrugs off dismal start, routs San Miguel in overtime to bag Game 1

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The Alaska Aces have a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series with the San Miguel Beermen, erasing the haunting memory of a five-point first quarter performance before trouncing their old rivals in overtime en route to an 88-82 Game 1 victory, Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Dominating on both ends of the court, the Beermen opened the first quarter with an 11-2 rally to take control of the game. Capitalizing on their hot start, the Beermen went on a 16-0 run in the later half of the quarter to eventually close out the quarter with a staggering 27-5 lead. The Aces were scoreless for the last seven minutes, after managing to sink a dismal two out of 19 field goal attempts in the quarter.

The Aces showed some signs of life early in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 11, 29-18, after
completing a 13-2 rally capped by a triple from Dondon Hontiveros to open the period. A basket from Chris Exciminiano pushed the Aces to within single digits, 29-20, but Marcio Lassiter answered back on the other end to extend the lead to double digits anew, 32-20. Despite Alaska’s renewed vigor, the Beermen continued to stay ahead of the chase, and at the half, the lead remained in double digits, 45-31. Alaska’s push finally bore fruit late in the quarter, as they managed to come within four, 46-50, thanks to a corner triple from Hontiveros with just around three minutes left on the clock. Alex Cabagnot immediately mailed San Miguel’s response, sinking a three of his own to push the lead back to seven. Amidst flaring tempers in the last few minutes, the Beermen managed to hold the fort and hold on to the lead to end the third, 54-49.

The Aces finally came within striking distance three minutes into the final period, after a lay-up from
Chris Banchero cut the lead to a mere two points, 53-55. Arwind Santos however responded with a
triple on the other end to extend the lead to five, 58-53. Following a couple of big baskets from
Banchero and Vic Manuel, the Aces kept it close for the next few possessions, and
after coming within two, 60-62, a triple from RJ Jazul gave the Aces their first taste of the lead with six
and half minutes left on the clock, 63-62. The Beermen however proved to be the quicker draw in
the ensuing shootout, as they entered the last two minutes with a narrow 73-72 lead.

It was Hontiveros who once more kept the light alive for Alaska, sinking an open jumper from
mid-range to give the Aces the lead, 74-73, with 40 seconds left on the clock. The next possession
was wasted by the Beermen, who, after finding themselves crowded underneath the
rim, missed a series of inside shots, before Calvin Abueva finally corralled the balled for the Alaska
with just 19.3 ticks left on the clock. Following a spirited timeout huddle, Chris Ross managed to
put the pressure on JVee Casio following the inbound pass to force a deadlock with 13.5 left in the quarter. The ball wound up in the hands of San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo, who after being fouled by
Abueva, split two free throw charities to tie the ballgame with eight seconds left. What
seemed like the final sequence of the ball game saw Casio miss the jumper that could have saved the
game, and San Miguel’s Chris Lutz flinging a premature hail mary off the rebound that saw the ball go
out of bounds and back in Alaska’s hands with 1.2 seconds left. Hontiveros, the Aces’ go-to sharpshooter
had the chance to nail the game winner, but was unable to sink the triple off the inbound pass, sending
the game into overtime.

Following back-to-back treys from Casio and Hontiveros, the Aces found themselves with
their biggest lead of the ballgame at the 2:21 mark of overtime. A couple more defensive stops kept
the Aces ahead of the chase, and with 40 ticks left on the clock, they led 84-79. The next few plays
saw San Miguel’s Arwind Santos and Cabagnot miss crucial shots, and at the buzzer, it was the team
with the five-point first quarter output who walked away with the win.

Abueva took home Player of the Game honors following a 22-point, 10-rebound performance.
Lutz led the Beermen with 24 points. Game 2 will take place Friday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

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FEU

Rose Vargas all set for UAAP return after four-season absence

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In an unprecedented move, hard-hitting Far Eastern University spiker Rose Vargas will return to finish her UAAP career when Season 80 kicks off on February 3 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Vargas last played for the Lady Tamaraws in Season 75. With a year of eligibility left, Vargas left the Morayta-based program to focus on her academics and pursue a career in the semi-pro ranks.

Five years since her last UAAP game, Vargas says that she did not hesitate when FEU officials asked if she wanted to return to play out her final year of eligibility.

During her time in the V-League, she played for the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Bureau of Custom Transformers, and, most recently, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

“‘Yung pag-babalik naman dito (FEU) is hindi ko naman pinag-isipan matagal or nag-dalawang isip ako,” said the Season 74 Best Scorer. “Noong tinanong lang sa akin kung gusto ko daw bumalik, ang sagot ko lang, oo.

“Kasi gusto kong makatulong, and gusto kong makuha ‘yung championship namin na matagal ng hindi nakukuha ng FEU.”

Vargas adds to an already solid FEU core which includes graduating captain Bernadeth Pons, Toni Rose Basas, and Jerrili Malabanan.

The last time Vargas suited up for FEU, she was the main piece to a core that included Mari Toni Basas — Toni Rose’s older sister, a young Remy Palma, Gyzelle Sy, and Tin Agno.

Vargas now sees herself as more of a complimentary piece, the hardened veteran looking to guide FEU’s younger guns in a season where much if expected of them.

“Ngayon, nadagdagan siguro yung maturity and ko, pagiging veteran daw, sabi, na pwede ko mai-share din sa mga bata ‘yun, as a leader, as an ate,” added Vargas.

“Nako-contribute ko kung anong knowledge ang natutunan ko.”

League insiders are confident that Vargas, who turned 25-year-old on December 12 last year, will be declared eligible to play in Season 80. Although the UAAP is yet to have their eligibility meeting this week, a source closely monitoring the situation expressed confidence that Vargas will pass the league’s eligibility rules.

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Basketball

23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas

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Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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ABL

Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor

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Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.

Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.

The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.

Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.

For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.

Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.

Parks averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the week that saw Alab lose to the Slingers at home last Wednesday before bouncing back on the road against the Mono Vampire last Sunday.

Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.

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Football

Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila

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Contributed photos

One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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