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Baguio climbs up the standings, sinks Coast Guard

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Both Baguio and the Philippine Coast Guard teams entered the game looking for their first win, and, afterwards, it was the Summer Spikers who emerged victorious, coming from behind to force a five-set affair over the hapless Lady Dolphins, 25-27, 25-18, 21-25, 25-23, 15-12 victory in the Shakey’s V-League Season 12 Open Conference at the Filoil Flying-V Arena in San Juan City, earlier this afternoon.

Florence Mae Madulid and Cindy Benitez tallied 17 points each to spearhead the Cordillerans’ cause, while Krissian Tsuchiya and Roxanne Almonte also recorded 16 and 11 points, respectively, to shoulder an ample amount of points to outlast their opponent, Coast Guard. The Lady Dolphins, still winless in the competition, relied on Rossan Fajardo, who scored a game-best 29 points. Supporting her in the match were Kath Magsumbol and Hyrize Macabuhay, with the duo joining forces to rack up 30 combined points. In hindsight, Coast Guard may look back and rue committing six more turnovers than their foes—some of which came at critical junctures of the match.

Baguio pulled away early in the first set on the back of a 6-0 run that began when the match was even at six-all in the first set. It appears fascinating that half of those points scored in that period came off Coast Guard’s errors. They were not able to expand the lead, however, as the Summer Spikers also committed three errors to encourage the Lady Dolphins in tying the score at 20-all. Fajardo and Magsumbol were the usual suspects for Coast Guard, while Mary Cristel Rosale and Macabuhay also contributed timely hits to help their team. Errors again looked pivotal when both teams scored more off them than attack points. In that case, it looked as if the more effective win would end up as the victors in the opening set. With the match headed to 24-all, a crucial four touches violation called against Baguio swung the tide of the match in favor of the Lady Dolphins, whose Decie Ann Montero buried a spike that ended the opening frame.

Perhaps frustrated after not bagging the opening set, despite holding set point at one time, Baguio got off to a hot start in the second set to avoid falling down, 0-2 in the match. Tsuchiya led the way by amassing four of the first nine Baguio points as compared to the Coast Guard’s sole point, which came from a Fajardo drop shot. It was, then, a game of runs, unfortunately for Coast Guard, as Baguio established a lead huge enough to win the second set.

The third set was much closer than the first two. Coast Guard threatened to mirror Baguio’s early second set surge to break away and do the same in the succeeding set, but Baguio instantly responded with three quick points of their own. It was a see-saw battle until the moment when Coast Guard constructed a four-point advantage at 20-16, mainly with Fajardo and Magsumbol doing the damage. The Baguio players managed to cut it to one, but a huge 5-2 rally founded on Baguio’s infractions signalled the conclusion of the third set in favor of the Lady Dolphins.

Baguio did take the fourth set, but contrary to how they pocketed the second as they had to withstand the Lady Dolphins’ late run. The set started with the Summer Spikers holding a slim 8-7 advantage entering the first technical timeout. Furthermore, They scored seven of the next 10 points to make it a 15-10 set. The momentum, then, gradually shifted towards Coast Guard, whose Fajardo, Montero, and Magsumbol kept finding ways to pierce the Baguio defense. With the set at 21-19, the trailing Coast Guard had the chance to repeat their heroic first set run to overturn the disadvantage, but Baguio played smarter this time around. Tsuchiya sent the match into a deciding set when she hammered a spike ferociously to the canvas.

There was no need to stress the importance of not committing errors, especially in the fifth set when grabbing 15 points is enough to claim the win. However, Coast Guard suddenly fell to their miscues–three to be exact–to put Baguio slightly ahead at 5-3. Magsumbol almost singlehandedly carried her team midway through the fifth set as multiple Baguio players contributed to pad their lead. At 12-8, in favor of Baguio, the Lady Dolphins remained composed to score the next three points and trim the gap to a solitary point. At a crucial part of the match, the Cordillerans drilled wisely to kill any chances of a 14-all deuce courtesy of Tsuchiya, who thumped the ball down the line to win the game for Baguio.

Henry Fuentes, Baguio’s coach, was clearly delighted with the outcome of the match. “Sa wakas,” he uttered, “First win, at least nakuha sa tiyaga ng players” Fuentes added that the trip from Baguio, less than 24 hours ago, plus the absence of a few players, made it challenging for the Summer Spikers to go up against an equally determined Coast Guard team. “Sabi ko sa kanila ‘Tulong-tulong na lang tayo. Huwag tayo bibigay lang'”, told Fuentes, who also remarked that the trip uphill to their hometown will be sweeter this time around. The result now lifts Baguio, whose record is 1-3, above Coast Guard–still winless in their first four games in the tournament.

The Scores:

Baguio (3) – Benitez 17, Madulid 17, Tsuchiya 16, Almonte 11, Agudia 6, Torres 3, Tolentino 1, Abella (L)

Phil Coast Guard (2) – Fajardo 29, Magsumbol 19, Macabuhay 11, Rosale 5, Montero 3, Espelita 2, Valencia 1, Yumul 1, Acepcion (L)

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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Photo by PBA Images

It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao had called Chris Ross the “N” word, which had caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nag-flare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

However, Guiao denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he had felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also directed at Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it has been a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now gone down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees an urgent need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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