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Amidst losing season, Meralco’s Mika Reyes flourishes in the PSL

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Unquestionably, the DLSU Lady Spikers have the most dominant volleyball program in the nation. With legendary head coach Ramil De Jesus and his staff constantly recruiting and developing top-level talent, DLSU has featured in almost every UAAP Finals since 2000 and has churned out one legendary volleybelle after another.

But all this is why their recent stint at the PSL Grand Prix had supporters scratching their heads. With former and current Lady Spikers on the roster, the Meralco Power Spikers have lost eight of their nine matches in the tournament – the same number of defeats the Lady Spikers have had in the past two UAAP seasons combined, if postseason games are considered.

Amidst the ashes of the burning negativity lit by people outside the team, the Lady Spikers have produced multiple reasons for optimism – amongst those is Mika Reyes’ consistently impactful play. The former Kulasa has been a constant menace at the net, blocking and smashing kills against local veterans and imports alike. She’s recorded a block kill on four of the seven spiking imports: a Lynda Morales back-row bomb? She stopped that missile on her own. A Bojana Todorovic cross-court smash? She’s walled that off too. While there are kinks she and her setter Kim Fajardo need to work out, Reyes has put away a few highlight kills as well, recording multiple double-digit scoring outputs. She was often the second or third best scorer in the team behind their two imports.

PSL GP Petron vs. Meralco - Reyes-1545

Tiebreaker Times caught up with Reyes after their first win of the season against the RC Cola-Air Force Raiders. Reyes said that keeping a positive attitude throughout the season was key for her and the team in persevering through the losses. “At times, maiisip namin na ‘Bakit pa kami magti-training? Wala naman kaming panalo?’ Pero we removed that from our thinking. Pinakinggan lang namin ‘yung laging sinasabi ni coach na tiyagain lang ‘yung every point, every set, every game,” she said.

The two-time UAAP champion also revealed that she really had to push herself in order to match the level of play of the pros and imports in the PSL. “Siyempre, as a team, we’ve really just been playing in the collegiate level so it was challenge going up against ‘yung mga graduates and veterans. Aaminin ko na din, noong una umasa talaga kami sa imports. Pero, as time went by and natatalo kami, naisip ko na kailangan ko na magtrabaho. Naisip ko na may tiwala ako sa sarili ko first of all and before ako magsalita, kailangan ko muna ipakita na nag-wowork hard ako.”

As mentioned earlier, playing against internationally-hardened imports has been the highlight of her season. She realized their superior height and skills could give her optimal experience for the upcoming UAAP season this coming February. “Sobrang challenging, ang saya kaya [playing against imports]. Minsan ka lang may makalaban na ganoon e. Imagine, they’re above six feet and they’re still really skilled. Sa UAAP, with exemption of Jaja (Santiago), wala naman masyadong ganoon. Sobrang magandang experience naman talaga siya,” Reyes told Tiebreaker Times.

Moreover, when asked about her favorite moment so far in her PSL debut, she singled out playing against Philips Gold’s Serbian reinforcement and U.S. NCAA National champion, Bojana Todorovic as her favorite experience. “Sobrang idol ko talaga siya. Kahit ganoon ‘yung height niya, maganda ‘yung defense niya and ang smooth niya gumalaw. Sabi ko kukunin ko ‘yung palo niya tapos, noong nangyari and nakuha ko nga, sobrang saya lang.”

PSL-Grand-Prix-Philips-Gold-vs-Meralco-Reyes-attack

The Power/Lady Spikers and Mika Reyes have blocked out all the scathing social media comments and continued to keep in their heads on the task at hand. Ask anyone on the team about all the losing, and they’ll tell you that it has just brought them together as a team; no finger pointing, no complaining, just positive remarks.

There’s more to their 1-8 tournament record: backed into a corner, different Lady Spikers stepped up and carried the load for the team – exactly what they needed to happen, considering two of their key players (Ara Galang and Desiree Cheng) are still recovering from knee injuries. If they win the UAAP Championship this Season 78, their challenging run in the PSL should be looked upon as a key factor. The Meralco Power Spikers play their final match of the season later against the Cignal HD Spikers at the San Juan Arena.

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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.

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1 Comment
  • ricky

    Nag level up na baby mika ko!

Basketball

Vic Manuel says Alaska yet to return to contender status

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Photo by PBA Images

Even if they have won their third straight game coming from a 0-2 start in the 2018 Philippine Cup, Vic Manuel thinks that it’s still not enough to tell that the Alaska Aces should be considered as one of the topflight teams in the league.

“Hindi pa rin masabi, kasi lahat ng team ngayon, talagang malalakas na eh, hindi na basta-basta easy yung mga game eh,” said “The Muscleman” Sunday night, after he and the Aces took down Barangay Ginebra, 97-83, at the Ynares Center.

The way the Aces have been playing this 2018 is remarkably different from the way they did last 2017, where they raked in more losses than wins. For Manuel, it’s partly because of the team regaining their competitive fire.

“Sa practice pa lang, talagang nakikipag-compete eh. Walang easy kahit sa practice, talagang bigay-todo lahat,” said the 30-year-old, who has been with Alaska since 2014.

“Sobrang aggressive, kaya yun, nadadala namin sa game.”

It also helps that the Milkmen have been healthy so far this season, unlike last year where they couldn’t even field a complete line-up in almost every outing. Manuel knows it too well, as he had been injury-plagued last season.

“Yung injury ko talaga, hindi madali eh, kasi sa tuhod talaga, sa left knee,” said the six-foot-four forward from Nueva Ecija. “So pinu-push nila ako kung ano ang kailangan ko gawin. Ayun, nagbubunga naman lahat.”

Now, eyes are on the Aces if they can keep this streak of theirs going. And for Manuel, who led the Aces with 18 points and five rebounds against the Gin Kings, all they need to do is to sustain what they have right now in their next games.

“Kailangan every game, focused pa rin kami, mas maging aggressive kami,” he said.

“Kung anong mga ginagawa namin nitong mga last three games namin, kailangan dalhin pa namin sa mga susunod naming games.”

Apologies to LA Tenorio

After the bout, Manuel had actually planned to approach Ginebra’s star point guard LA Tenorio regarding the spat they figured into late in the third quarter, after the former undercut the much bigger Manuel near the rim.

But Manuel made it clear that he wasn’t going after Tenorio to get back at him. All that he wanted to do was to apologize, as he found out that Tenorio was just trying to help him get back up and not trying to instigate something.

“Sabi niya, ‘bakit mo ako binigyan? Itatayo na nga kita eh.’ Nahiya din ako sa kanya. Magso-sorry sana ako, eh wala eh, lumayo na siya eh,” Manuel shared with a chuckle.

“Lalapitan ko sana eh, pero umalis agad.”

That incident was just one of the many things that frustrated Tenorio. Aside from absorbing their second straight loss, he couldn’t get things going, as he only scored five on a dismal 1-of-13 shooting from the floor.

“Magandang bonus din sa’min yun kasi medyo masama yung nilaro niya,” said Manuel.

“Swerte na lang siguro kami.”

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Basketball

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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Basketball

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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