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Basketball

Ben Mbala reflects on Finals heartbreak: ‘You can also learn by losing’

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As the buzzer sounded and confetti rained at center court of the SMART-Araneta Coliseum, one half of the venue was stunned. Some were in tears, while some stood in silence.

The De La Salle University Green Archers, the team that were pegged to repeat as champions this season, had just been handed a heartbreaking 88-86 loss in the title-decider.

Standing out from the sea of green was two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala. At 6-foot-7, the Cameroonian student-athlete openly wept on the floor.

“This has to be a learning experience for me. You can’t just learn by winning, you can also learn by losing.

“This is a situation that you have to learn by losing and I take it as a man,” the 22-year-old shared.

Having come off a stint with the Cameroonian national team in the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket last August, Mbala added new weapons to his arsenal. He was faster, more dangerous, and more experienced compared to his first year in La Salle. However, the league — and specifically, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles — has also improved.

During the Finals, Mbala averaged 15.67 points on 52.78 percent shooting to go along with 14.0 rebounds, 1.67 steals, and 2.67 blocks. But during Game Three, the Green Archers faltered at the most crucial of times, allowing the Blue Eagles to bomb threes all over them while settling for tough shots. This gave Ateneo a 78-70 cushion with 4:30 left in the season.

“Ateneo played better as a team. They stuck to their game plan.

“We didn’t get to play our game, we didn’t have our rhythm,” admitted Mbala. “We just played within the flow and we took a lot of bad shots, turned the ball over when it was the most important.”

Mbala has vowed to come back stronger next season once he clears things up with the Green Archers’ brass. But as of now, he just plans to move on from this painful defeat.

“It’s a game after all, just not because it’s Ateneo or La Salle you have to hate each other,” Mbala said.

“After the game, we still have our lives and we have to keep going on with our lives.”

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After getting first D-League experience, Zark’s-Lyceum ready to get loose

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After a hesitant performance in their PBA D-League debut last Thursday that resulted in a loss to the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burger-Lyceum Jawbreakers seemingly caught up with the league’s style of play on Tuesday.

Zark’s-Lyceum displayed their true form and stamped their class all over the Batangas-EAC Generals with a 37-point destruction, 112-75 — so far the biggest winning margin the franchise has ever had in its D-League history.

“Medyo adjusted na kami on everything — the calls and the teams we’re playing against with,” said Zark’s-Lyceum head coach Topex Robinson after the match at Pasig Sports Center. “But the things we want to mind are those things we control.

“We just have to keep on doing what we are doing. It’s more on replenishing na lang on our old ways.”

Robinson’s claim was strongly backed up by the numbers that the Jawbreakers produced.

CJ Perez had 21 points and 10 rebounds. MJ Ayaay produced 15 points and 10 boards, and Mike Nzeusseu delivered 14 markers and 11 boards.

Even the bench made their presence felt in the victory. With guard Jaycee Marcelino spearheading the supporting cast’s charge with 12 markers, the bench contributed a remarkable 56 points to their total output.

Photo by PBA Images

“Ano lang, cinontrol lang namin yung pace kasi yun naman talaga yung laro namin, yung mabilisan,” said the 24-year-old do-it-all forward, who also collected three steals.

“Kailangan talaga mabilisan para ma-execute namin yung mga ginagawa namin.”

This week will be a rough one for the Pirates, as they will play right away this Thursday against the AMA Online Education. And for Perez, he strongly believes that they will be able to carry over their momentum.

“Oo. Nandun pa. Energy talaga yung puhunan namin para makalaro ng maayos.”

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Bonbon Batiller shows what he can bring to Letran in D-League debut

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Photo by PBA Images

Tuesday proved to be a double debut for Bonbon Batiller. Aside from beginning his first foray in the PBA D-League, it also marked his debut for the Letran Knights, who are carrying the Wang’s Basketball Couriers franchise.

And the 5-foot-11 guard showed what he can bring to the table. Batiller collected 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists to help the Knights raise the curtains of their campaign with a 93-75 rout of the Batangas-EAC Generals.

“Nagworkout yung pinagpraktisan namin,” said Batiller. “Nagbunga rin yung tinuro samin ni Coach Jeff (Napa) lalo sa depensa. Tsaka siguro sa rebounds — laking lamang namin sa rebound. Nagsipag mga bigs namin.”

But what has him even more satisfied is the warm reception and trust he’s had from the Knights, even if he has spent barely a year with them after transferring from University of the East last 2017.

“Masaya po kasi tinanggap nila ako sa Letran ng buong-buo,” said Batiller, who normed 10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals with UE in two years. “Tsaka yung tiwala nila na makakatulong ako sa team nandoon.

“Kaya masaya ako sa pinakita nila sa akin.”

That is why the General Santos native is hard-pressed to prove himself to Letran, saying that he’s all about giving back to the school that gave him another opportunity to resume his young, up-and-coming basketball career.

“Kailangan kong may mapatunayan na deserving ako sa binigay na second chance sa akin ni Letran,” said Batiller, who decided to switch schools partly due to academic reasons.

“Malaki ang utang ko sa Letran.”

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Tireless J-Jay Alejandro heads from D-League game to Gilas training

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Former NU Bulldogs captain J-Jay Alejandro was at the Pasig Sports Center Monday afternoon, making his debut for the Go for Gold Scratchers. After their 75-68 win over Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers, he immediately packed his bags and headed for the exit.

Why was he in a rush? He did not want to be late for Gilas later on.

PHOTO by PBA Images

“Sayang, malapit na ako eh. Pasig lang. Walang showbiz-showbiz, malapit lang talaga,” shared Alejandro, who had five points, five rebounds, seven assists, and two steals for Go for Gold. “Wala rin akong gagawin kasi.

“Tsaka minsan lang magpa-tawag ng practice, every Monday lang, so sayang ‘yung chance makapag-practice.”

The 6-foot-2 combo guard was a much-needed body by the pool of Gilas as only eight players suited-up for Monday’s session. Besides helping out the seniors team, the 22-year-old is looking at the sessions as a way to not just improve but also get in touch with his former collegiate foes.

“Well, ganoon talaga eh. Player, mapapagod at mapapagod ka talaga,” said the All-UAAP team member.

“Pero nakakasama ko sila Arvin Tolentino, sila CJ Perez, tsaka ‘yung ibang mga PBA players, siyempre experience ‘yun eh, tsaka learning process din sa akin.”

Moreover, he knows that being under the tutelage of coach Chot Reyes will only do wonders for him, especially with the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft just months away.

“Mas pisikal talaga sa PBA. ‘Yun, kung paano mo gagamitin ang utak mo pati ‘yung katawan mo sa tamang posisyon sa laro, makukuha ko yun rito,” he said.

“Well sa akin kasi, ‘yung mapabilang ka sa Gilas, mapabilang lang ang pangalan mo sa Gilas, sobrang fortunate na ako, sobrang blessed na ako,” Alejandro added.

“And siguro sa akin, may opportunity na nag-open, so iga-grab ko na lang — either PBA or Gilas.”

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Loaded Wangs-Letran wallops AMA in debut

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Armed with new recruits, the Wangs Basketball-Letran Knights embarked on its new chapter with a rousing 93-75 rout of the AMA Online Education Titans, Tuesday afternoon at the Pasig Sports Center.

Everyone clicked for the Couriers with Bong Quinto spearheading the blowout with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

Newcomer Bonbon Batiller added 15 markers, five boards, and three dimes in his debut, while starting point guard JP Calvo chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, and two assists.

Christian Fajarito also registered 11 markers and nine boards, while Alex Mandreza had 10 points for Wangs-Letran.

Despite the promising showing, coach Jeff Napa said that he still wants to see more from his Couriers moving forward.

“Masaya kami syempre dahil nanalo. Pero marami pa rin kaming kailangang gawin,” he said as he wanted more from the Knights after outrebounding the Titans, 57-44.

Quinto and Calvo triggered Wangs-Letran’s second quarter pullaway to establish the 38-26, lead which grew to as high as 22 points, 81-59 in the payoff period.

Michael Cañete topscored AMA with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Kris Porter had 13 in the defeat.

Wangs-Letran will have vengeance on their minds on Monday, January 29 when it takes on NCAA tormentors Che’lu- San Sebastian Revellers. AMA, on the other hand, will have a tough assignment when it takes on the Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers on Thursday, January 25.

The Scores:

Wangs-Letran 93 — Quinto 19, Batiller 15, Calvo 12, Fajarito 11, Mandreza 10, Trinidad 8, Publico 6, Vacaro 4, Balagasay 3, Ambohot 3, Muyang 2.

AMA Online Education 75 — Cañete 20, Porter 13, Escalambre 11, Casiño 10, Antonares 6, Manalang 6, Garcia 4, Ng 3, Parcero 2, Bragais 0, Carpio 0, Paras 0, Raflores 0, Salonga 0.

Quarterscores: 16-13, 44-35, 67-52, 93-75.

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