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Army hands heavily-favored Cagayan first loss of the season



The Cagayan Valley Rising Suns have been bullying their way past opponents in the inaugural season of the Spikers’ Turf. Brandishing a collection of the country’s top offensive behemoth’s, Cagayan has outspiked each of their opponents by more than double digits; making up for the multiple attack and service errors they have incurred.

So when Cagayan’s sloppy play left the door agape for Army, the Troopers crept in and stole a hotly contested five-setter over their previously undefeated foes, 25-23, 19-25, 21-25, 25-21,15-13 at the San Juan Arena.

Army matched Cagayan point for point in attacks, nabbing 60 each. It was Cagayan’s errors late in sets that came out to bite in the end.

The Troopers controlled much of the first set as their outside hitters easily converted their high-ball sets that Cagayan’s blockers couldn’t get a read on. Cagayan found themselves in 8-13 hole, before their floor defense and blocking finally caught up to Army’s gameplan, allowing the Rising Suns to setup their high-powered attack that eventually brought them to a 19-all deadlock. A quick attack from Greg Dolor followed by Edmar Oxciano off-the-block kill gave Army a comfortable 21-19 lead which Cagayan’s Marck Espejo countered with a crosscourt hit of his own but his own service error kept Cagayan down 22-20. Cagayan crept back into the match slowly as a Peter Torres quick hit preceeded a Jaidal Abdulmajid attack error that placed Cagayan within a point of forcing a deuce 23-24 but Army confidently went to Edmar Oxciano, who crushed an attack off Peter Torres’ hand after a timeout to seal the win for Army.

The early part of the second set saw the sloppiest volleyball played in the Spikers’ Turf as 12 of the first 15 points won came off errors with Cagayan somehow coming out of the mess with a 9-6 advantage. When both finally snapped back out of their daze of errors, the Rising Suns adjusyed their net defense, sending three blockers at Army’s predicted outside attacks which forced the Troopers into attack errors as they overcompensated to navigate Cagayan’s forest of blockers. The Rising Suns built a formidable 16-10 lead which held through to the end of the set.

Cagayan experimented with their lineup in the third set, opting to start with Renz Ordoñez as the setter which sent them into an early tail slide as Ordoñez had trouble giving proper setting up his team’s offense leading to the Troopes scavenging up a 8-4 lead. Eventually, Ordoñez found his footing and got the Cagayan offense churning with a run that brought them to a 13-all tie. Cagayan really got turned the beat up when they kept producing combination plays even off sketchy digs, placing them at their first advantage in the set, 21-20. From there, Cagayan’s Berlin Paglinawan scored three of Cagayan’s next four points, closing out his team’s second set win.

Reeling from their third set loss, Army scrapped their way to a 11-7 lead early in the fourth set through intuitive combination plays and imposing blocking. With the Troopers needing just a point to get into the the set’s second technical timeout, Cagayan stormed all the way back and hijacked Army’s lead momentarily, 16-15 as Army team captain, John Depamaylo sent consecutive attacks array. The Troopers regained control of the set as setter Manolo Refugia a 3-0 scoring blitz that vaulted them back, 18-16. Cagayan nibbled away at the lead, eventually forcing a 19-all tie off a Marck Espejo block on Depamaylo but Army quickly got themselves back on track, earning five of the next seven points to clinch, placing them at set point early, 24-21. Army subbed in service specialist, Michael Reyes who did what serve specialists are supposed to do and notched an ace, forcing a fifth set.

The final set came down to a heavy back and forth as both team’s offense refused to give an inch. A 4-1 Cagayan advantage was quickly erased by Army who then struggled to catch a breakpoint to cushion themselves from the Rising Suns. With the match tied at 12, Joel Villonson got a clutch block on Marck Espejo which Edmar Oxciano followed up by ending a long rally with a thunderous down-the-line kill. Michael Reyes’ service error was quickly vindicated as Marck Espejo’s running serve hit the net, taking their undefeated record with it as it crashed to the floor.

Cagayan still has a tight hold on the number one seed and is the only team who has qualified for the tournament’s next round of eliminations with a 6-1 record. Having played their last match, Army is left hoping for the best as their 4-3 record looks in trouble of holding up with Air Force, Champion, and PLDT all tied with a 3-2 record.

The Scores

Army (3) – Oxciano 18, Depamaylo J. 15, Rojas 15, Dolor 12, Villonson 6, Abdulmajid 3, Refugia 2, Reyes 1, Depamaylo N. 0, Uy (L)

Cagayan (2) – Espejo 20, Pirante 18, Paglinawan 15, Torres 11, Pirante 10, Canlas 1, Santos 1, Zamora 0, Gatdula 0, Ramos (L)


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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Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates



Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting



Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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Jake Vicen performs under pressure as Blazers end eight-year title drought



For the second straight match, the championship showdown between the College of Saint Benilde Blazers and the Arellano University Chiefs reached kicks from the penalty spot. And once more, goalkeeper Jake Vicen came up big.

The third-year custodian denied one of Arellano’s prolific scorers Roberto Corsame in the shootout and sealed the title after eight long years, 3-2, penalties, Wednesday evening at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Blazers made its intentions clear from the get-go as they repeatedly pierced through the defense of the Chiefs.

Nonetheless, at the 38th minute, the white-shirts clinched the goal they much deserved. The Blazers pushed forward, and almost got a call in their favor. The referees, however, played advantage, and fortunately Benilde held on to the play.

Miguel Artillera found himself unmarked on the right flank and easily blasted the ball past opposing keeper Jericho Desalisa.

The Marlon Maro—mentored side continued to play aggressive in the following period and almost plucked a second one. This time, the Chiefs’ backline led by eventual Best Defender Patrick Bernarte held on.

Such stand was rewarded by their attacking force minutes later, and, as expected, the equalizer came from the counterattack.

Corsame received a pass from the middle and defeated two defenders, and seeing Vicen off his line, sent the ball into the onion bag at the 49th minute.

Both sides tried to break the deadlock, but fatigue slowly crept in the dying minutes of the second period and the whole of extra time, setting up another thrilling finish in the shootout.

Much like in Game 2, the two keepers came up big as Desalisa and Vicen denied their second kickers a clear shot. Arellano went to miss another shot, and it was then up to the Blazers to seal the deal.

Dean Ebarle stepped up and calmly and slotted the ball into the goal for the lead at 3-2. Afterwards, Corsame faced Vicen, but this time, the Cebuano keeper would not be denied. The latter went to his strong side, and, fortunately, guessed right for the huge save as pandemonium erupted from the Benilde crowd and squad.

The Finals series hero and season Best Goalkeeper Vicen was pleased that the new champions carved out the historic win despite early adversity. “Big loss ‘yun, si Val [Calvo], kasi may magagawa talaga siya kung nakalaro namin,” he said of losing their former captain.

Nonetheless, the squad stayed focused on getting it done this year.

“Binuhos lang namin every minute sa training. Luckily, hard work paid off,” closed Vicen.

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Kelly Williams rides Angkas to make it to TNT game



The TNT Katropa almost played shorthanded when they took on the Blackwater Elite Wednesday evening at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Early in the afternoon, a fire broke out in C5 that caused major traffic in the area. One of the people that was stuck was TNT’s 12-year veteran Kelly Williams.

“Coming from the South, I got to Taguig in about two and a half hours and I heard there was a fire on C5 and I was like, ‘Oh my god what am I going to do?’,” recalled Williams.

“I considered running, I considered jogging. Whatever you got to do, crawl, walk or run.”

Panicking, the 6-foot-6 Filipino-American was adviced by his driver to download Philippine-based mobile app Angkas — a motorcycle service provider. And it was one heck of a ride for the big man.

“My driver said check Angkas, an Uber for motorcycles. Okay. Quickly got out of the car in the middle of the C5, the middle of traffic, found this guy under the overpass, he was surprised to see me,” narrated animatedly by Williams.

“I got my helmet on, jumped on the bicycle and we got here for about 40 minutes,” he furthered. “Every stoplight, the other motorcycles pull up, double take, ‘Oh, what are you doing here?’, ‘Hi guys!’ It was fun, it was actually pretty fun but never again, make sure you plan ahead guys if you possibly get stuck in traffic.

“But it was a good experience for me. You get to see Manila in a different light.”

Around midway through the first quarter of the game, Williams finally arrived. Though relieved to see him, coach Nash Racela and the rest of the Katropa made sure to let him know that he was late.

“Good experience, I apologized to the team, I owe them a team lunch or something and I told coach I won’t do it again,” the 35-year-old expressed.

“Let’s pray that it doesn’t happen again.”

Williams compensated for it by giving TNT quality minutes. During their 92-83 win against the Elite, he tallied six points, six rebounds, and four blocks in just 17 minutes of action.

“You got to come out there with extra effort after coming in late like that. But it’s always my intention to come out and do whatever I have to do,” he expressed.

“Luckily, I was in a good position to get some blocks and it worked out that way.”

And he owes a lot to his driver Richard, who got him to the venue just in time.

“It was a good experience though, thank you to the cyclist, I think his name is Richard or something like that, he’s a lifesaver.

“I tipped him very handsomely. It was about a hundred but I’m sure I paid with whatever was in my pocket because I was very grateful,” he quipped.

Still, he knows that he also owes a lot to his team. He plans on making it up by treating everyone to lunch during their next practice.

Lesson learned for Kelly.

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