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Blakely leads Star in crucial win over Talk ‘N Text



As the elimination phase reaches its final week and seedings yet to be determined, the Star Hotshots clinched an important 105-93 win over the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters to improve their standings at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Good ball movement for both teams propelled them to showcase an offensive exchange early in the match. With over five minutes passing by, the score was deadlocked at nine apiece before the Tropang Texters built a 12-0 run in three minutes to put distance against Star. Afterwards, Blakely scored four straight points while Joe Devance came off the bench to instantly provide a jumper to aid their team in slicing the lead. The late run by Star in the first chopped the lead down to five at the end of 12 minutes.

The Hotshots opened up the second quarter on a 7-2 spurt to once again tie things up at 27. The bench players also made noise as they crashed the boards while defending core scorers by TNT. A triple by Larry Fonacier to give TNT a momentary lead was answered by an 11-4 response capped by an Alex Mallari jump shot. However, Talk ‘N Text had the last hurrah in the first half game or runs as they outscored Star 8-2 in the last two minutes to just trail by a solitary point heading into the half.

The scoring barrage continued on for both teams in the second half as the Star Hotshots kept on feeding their big men in the paint. On the other hand, Fonacier and De Ocampo were still shooting hot from the perimeter. Two straight stops by Star led to fastbreak buckets on their end to stop the offensive exchange and give them a 57-53 edge. The run further intensified for the Hotshots as Pettigrew was called for his fourth personal foul while Star kept their running game going.

Despite their import nursing foul issues, TNT built a 10-4 run from their locals capped by a triple by De Ocampo and Sam Daghles to make it a 65-63 game. In the last three minutes of the third, the game got chippy with extracurriculars for both teams that made it an intensely-contested match. A wide open Joe Devance triple came up huge late as it ignited a mini-surge for Star to give them an eight-point lead after 36 minutes.

A couple of stops led to two right corner jumpers by Justin Melton including a triple to open things up in the fourth and give his squad a double-digit edge. This jumpstarted another run for Star as bench players started to play well both offensively and defensively. PJ Simon knocked down a mid range jumper to give them a 93-75 halfway in the fourth against the seemingly stunned Texters squad.

TNT had chances to trim the lead but could not get successive baskets going as turnovers started to haunt them. Meanwhile, Star Hotshots started to milk the clock on their next possessions while they scored five more points to make it a 102-83 game with 2:18 left. The necessary stretch was enough to put the nail in the coffin, more importantly grab their fourth win of the conference.

Star had more free throws 20-of-22 and is plus 11 from that category. They also had more assists 21-15 and less turnovers, 10-14. Blakely had 26 points, 16 rebounds and 5 assists. Devance added 19 with four triples.

Star improved to a 4-5 record while TNT dropped to 4-6 in a tightly-fought Governor’s Cup team standings.

Talk ‘N Text will next face Kia on Friday, 4:15pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Star’s next assignment will be up against Barako Bull on Sunday, 3pm also at Araneta.

The Scores:

Star Hotshots(105) – Blakely 26, Devance 19, Melton 16, Simon 15, Mallari 11, Pingris 8, Barroca 5, Yap 5, Reavis 0

Talk ‘N Text(93) – De Ocampo 21, Fonacier 20, Pettigrew 18, Castro 17, Daghles 7, Williams 4, Washington 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 2, Seigle 2, Reyes 0, Carey 0

Quarters: 20-25, 45-44, 73-65, 105-93

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return



Photo by PBA Images

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

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match with Kia Picanto 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 gave Almazan an elbow. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading up to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms against 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’



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



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’



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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