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Aljun Melecio, Andrei Caracut speak on behalf of devastated Kib Montalbo

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A loss in the finals will always be a bitter pill to swallow. All those hours put into practice and the process to get there could end up for naught with a loss.

This year, it was the De La Salle University Green Archers’ turn to taste defeat at the hands of their arch-rivals Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles in a grueling three-game series.

Isaac Go’s dagger three in the last 50 seconds of the contest sealed the deal for the Blue Eagles, as they had an 85-80 cushion against the Green Archers. La Salle tried to make a comeback, but it was just not the Green Archers’ day. Ateneo eventually prevailed 88-86 to clinch their first championship in five years.

“Breaks of the game siguro,” lamented La Salle point guard Aljun Melecio, who averaged 17.33 points and 1.3 steals in the epic three-game series.

“Congratulations to Ateneo.”

Melecio’s fellow guard Andrei Caracut echoed his sentiments.

“Breaks of the game. Ganun talaga yung buhay sa basketball pero marami kaming natutunan ngayong game na ito. Sana madala namin next season.”

With the game tied 66-66 at the end of the third period, La Salle sought to seize an early advantage and forced three after three to no avail early in the fourth quarter. By contrast, Ateneo sunk three of their seven three-point attempts that doomed La Salle.

“Hindi lang pumapasok shots namin,” rued Melecio, a sophomore.

Come the final buzzer, it was the Blue and White who emerged victorious after 40 minutes of basketball. As the confetti rained down on center court, the Green Archers were either weeping or standing in disbelief. One of those most devastated was skipper Kib Montalbo.

“Speechless. Wala ako masabi talaga,” shared a downcast Montalbo, who posted norms of 5.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals in the series.

Overall, Ateneo simply outscored and outlasted La Salle, and a big reason for that was the Blue Eagles’ overall efficiency from the downtown. The newly crowned champions went 10-for-25 from downtown compared to La Salle’s 8-of-33.

Still, Caracut — speaking on behalf of his two closest teammates — expressed that they had given it their all even if the result did not go in their favor.

“Binigay naman namin yung best namin,” said the third-year guard, who put up 8.67 points per game in the season finale.

La Salle will have a mostly intact lineup next year, as it is only Abu Tratter who has played out his eligibility. Cameroonian star Ben Mbala is still eligible for one more year based on the current eligibility rules. Redemption mode is officially on for the Green Archers.

“For sure siyempre kailangan talaga double yung effort and hardwork. Mag-prepare kami (for) next year,” vowed Caracut. “Bounce back kami.”

Meanwhile, Montalbo declared, “I don’t know what to think right now man but we’ll bounce back. Yun lang.”

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Lorenzo’s a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

2 Comments
  • Martin Gomez

    Lord, the work is yours…Saint La Salle

  • Tekamots

    Sayang… good player, focused more on off the play antics than actually contributing in the game. Getting inside the other’s team huddles, blocking off hi fives of the opponent from the freethrow line, even blocking off the other team from picking up the ball for an inbound. Should respect the game more.

Basketball

PBA governors stand united to open Season 43

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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?

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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

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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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Koy Banal downplays Marinerong Pilipino’s tag as D-League Draft winners

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The AMA Online Education Titans may have acquired the first overall pick, but the clear winner of the 2017 PBA D-League Draft Tuesday was the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, with all the talent they were able to acquire in the hour-long proceedings.

The sophomore club team was able to nab the likes of UE Red Warriors’ Alvin Pasaol, ex-Letran Knight Chester Saldua, two-time UAAP champion Abu Tratter of De La Salle Green Archers, and newly-minted UAAP gold medalist Vince Tolentino of the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

“Ang kinonsider ko is mostly makakalaban ko are collegiate teams eh, so we needed young legs who would be able to keep up with our opponents na young legs din,” said head coach Koy Banal of the logic behind his picks.

They may have harvested the best crop of talents available, but the multi-titled mentor was quick to play down such idea, saying that their rookies, despite being heralded cagers in college, have yet to prove that they can mesh well.

“Diyan maraming nagkakamali eh. Akala nila maganda yung mga picks (okay na),” said Banal, who are looking for players who can gel with holdovers Achie Iñigo, Renzo Subido, and Mark Isip.

“So tinitignan namin kung sino magja-jive.

“All of them are good picks and can contribute anytime in any given game dito sa team namin. Kilala naman namin sila. Siyempre meron kaming existing na, and we’re hoping na magkaroon ng magandang chemistry,” he added.

Marinero finished fourth in their maiden campaign in the 2017 Foundation Cup, all thanks to a miraculous ru . And now, with all the pieces they have acquired, Banal and his deputies aim to emulate such feat in the upcoming season.

“That’s the plan. That’s the goal actually,” said the veteran strategist.

“Natutunan namin na after our campaign last conference, more or less we know how to [play consistent] from day one up to the end. Kasi we started so slow eh.”

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