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Breaking down Petron’s first round PSL sweep

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From the start, everyone labelled them as the “team to beat,” and they never failed to deliver.

Fully charged and fully armed, the Petron Blaze Spikers completed a first round, 5-0, sweep in the 2015 Philippine SuperLiga All-Filipino Conference, after sideswiping the Mane ‘N Tail Lady Stallions in five hard-hitting sets, 25-27, 25-22, 25-16, 17-25, 16-14, Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome.

“For the last five games madami kaming natutunan like ‘yung [mga pagbawi sa slow starts] namin sa past games,” said Petron head coach, George Pascua, on the team’s sweep. “Sabi ko nga sa kanila, hindi natin kalaban kung ano man [kasi] pag kinalaban niyo ang sarili niyo, iyon ang mangyayari sa atin. Sabi ko rin sa kanila kung gugustuhin nila, kaya naman nila.”

Moving on, let us now look at the factors that led to this team’s impressive start.

Tantalizing Trio

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Every team must have a go-to player at all times, and luckily for Petron, their Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Abigail Maraño, Rachel Anne Daquis triple threat is every opposition’s cause of headache.

Superstars in their own right, each player previously mentioned effectively meshed their unique skill sets, which made Petron the well-oiled machine it is today.

In Manabat, arguably one of the best attackers in PH volleyball, the Blaze Spikers can easily penetrate any defensive scheme thrown to them. Also, the former National University Lady Bulldog’s volleyball IQ was always on full display as she effectively served as decoy in a lot of possessions, which kept their opponents second-guessing.

On the other hand, Maraño adds grit and leadership to an already stacked squad. The former De La Salle Lady Spiker’s all-around game also made her team more versatile, which can often lead to unconventional ways of attacking the opposition. Furthermore, Maraño, the PSL’s two-time Best Blocker, is one of the better two-way players in the league as her offensive and defensive prowess can easily ease off the pressure on her other teammates. Of course, we also can’t forget just how deadly her crosscourt spike of doom is.

Last but not the least, Daquis completes Petron’s Big Three. The former Far Eastern University Queen Tamaraw is the one responsible for doing all the little things for the team. She may not get as much touches she had during her younger years, but she definitely knows how to get things done. With every loose ball, steady reception, quick sets and the like, Daquis will always be the team’s bailout option.

Solid Supporting Cast

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Aside from their triple threat, the rest of Petron’s roster is composed mostly of established players, who were known to lead their respective schools during their collegiate playing years.

Filling out the rest of the Blaze Spikers’ roster are the likes of Fille Cainglet Cayetano, Mina Aganon, Frances Molina, Maica Morada, Jen Reyes, Alexa Micek, Grace Masangkay, Ivy Perez, Ana Del Mundo, Jozza Cabalsa and Mayette Zapanta.

Clearly, having that kind of supporting cast easily makes the game lighter for the team as their collated experience can carry them when pressure arises. In addition, the younger members of the team can easily learn a thing or two from their highly experienced seniors.

Room for Improvement

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Petron’s rampage in the PSL doesn’t stop here.

Even though the team is currently sitting comfortably atop the standings, they still have some glaring issues, particularly their habit of starting the game slow, which often results to huge deficits. As a matter of fact, the team’s last three games started a little bit sloppy, since they always let the opposing team take the lead first, and they had to play catch-up all throughout the contest.

Also, Perez should show more confidence especially during crunch time since she tends to succumb under pressure. As the team’s secondary setter, she must distribute the ball more with ease, rather than concentrating it on just one attacker. If she improves her craft as the tournament goes along, Petron will be even tougher to beat.

“Noong first three games namin, si Ivy ang binabad ko [sa starting six] para magkaroon ng confidence,” Pascua remarked. “Ngayon nakaka-adjust na siya.”

Another concern for this team is their players’ tendency to go into prolonged slumps. Yes, the team may be loaded with stars, but they often find themselves sitting on the fringe as they sometimes struggle to get their game going.

“Sabi ko sa kanila na once na hindi tayo natuto sa mga mistakes natin, possible tayong matalo,” Pascua added. “Individually malakas kami, pero dapat maging united pa as team dahil walang impossible pag gugustuhin namin manalo.”

Although it is safe to say that there will be a lot of time for improvement with the season merely being halfway through, the Blaze Spikers must always bear in mind that starting strong will lead to better results. In other words, prevention is better than a cure.

The Blaze Spikers next game will be against the Philips Gold Lady Slammers this Monday, 6:15 pm, at the Cuneta Astrodome.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the bout returned to the feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for Phoenix Fuel Masters Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to Mahindra Floodbuster.

But that achievement of his won’t be that memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat they had absorbed into the hands of Paul Lee and Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix was there in contention all through out the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But then, the Hotshots’ comebacking skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” expressed the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face Barangay Ginebra next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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Basketball

Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics

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FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to its’ first win after a historic 16-game skid at the expense of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover the six-foot-four forward made.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made it. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all by himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he got frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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ABL

Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win

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Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

Alab’s bench however could not sustain the effort of the starters that led to them clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a sparkplug, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided the spark for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. were on-point with the former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards that resulted to the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan to slice the lead to as low as four points. Free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28 when they take on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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