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Cagayan Valley shoots down Air Force in four sets

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Cagayan Valley Rising Suns proved that youth can overcome experience, as they ousted a veteran squad in Philippine Air Force (PAF) Airmen in four sets, 25-16, 25-22, 21-25, and 26-24, in their preliminary round match-up in the Spikers’ Turf Season 1 Open Conference, this morning at the FilOil-Flying V Arena in San Juan City.

The Rising Suns had the upper hand in the opening set, posting a huge seven-point lead as the set drew to its end, 19-12. Errors on their side, however, helped PAF slowly regain footing and close within five, 20-15. Sensing that the Airmen might pull a come-from-behind attack, Cagayan unfurled four straight points off attack and blocks to reach set point, 24-15. PAF’s Edwin Tolentino made a quick attack, which prevented Cagayan to score their fifth straight, 24-16, but an attack error from fellow Airmen, Remy John Balse, closed the set in favor of the Rising Suns, 25-16.

PAF and Cagayan had a close fight in the second set right from the start to the latter part, restricting each other to post leads as huge as five points. Sitting comfortably on the driver’s seat with a three-point lead, 22-19, the Rising Suns saw themselves being chased by the Airmen, as PAF closed within one, 23-22, after an attack off a combination play by Ruben Inaudito went in. However, it proved to be the closest that they will get as Jan Paglinawan and Warren Pirante nailed back-to-back points to close out the set, 25-22, plus a two-sets-to-none advantage.

Cagayan tried to finish PAF off in the third set, but the level of intensity they displayed in the first two sets had dwindled slightly, letting PAF capitalize and take majority of the leads from midway to the end of the set. Furthermore, errors were rampant for the Cagayan side, when they committed eight unforced errors in the set alone. The Rising Suns tried to save their bid for a straight-set win by inching within three, 24-21, after a service error from the Air Force side, but a drop from the high-leaping front liners of the Airmen prevented them from doing so. PAF snatched the third set from Cagayan, 25-21, avoiding a sweep.

Looking to pick up where they left off from the previous set, PAF pounded Cagayan’s net and floor defense by giving them a hard time receiving their quick attacks and cross-court hits. However, the Rising Suns, hard-pressed to prove that they can slug it out and be on top of a squad rich in experience, came back to haunt PAF. Behind by four, 19-15, Cagayan surged back to send the match into a 20-all knot behind Marck Espejo and Rex Intal. From there, exchanges between the two took place, and deadlocks after deadlocks occurred. Behind by one, 24-23, Airmen’s Inaudito nailed a spike off a combination play to equalize, 24-all. Cagayan’s Rudy Gatdula, coming off the bench, staunched a quick hit to put his team up, 25-24, closer to match point. PAF tried to send it to 25-all, but Tolentino’s attack went too far and landed outisde the line, thus giving Cagayan the victory in four sets, 26-24.

Cagayan Head Coach, Nes Pamilar, stated that the adjustments they made were based on their opponents’ movement and pace. “Yung unang galaw namin, naging mas mabilis kami, pero nung third set, pinaalala ko ‘bakit tayo sumasabay sa galaw ng kalaban, eh mabagal?’ Yun nga ang naging advantage namin, naging mas mabibilis ang kombinasyon, kaya mas nahirapan sila [PAF] humabol sa blockings,” said Pamilar.

Four Rising Suns scored in double figures, with Espejo leading the way with a game-high 17 points, 13 of those coming from spikes. Paglinawan had 14 points, with all from spikes. Peter Torres had 13, while Intal added 10. Jeffrey Malabanan led the Airmen with 16 points in a losing effort.

The win kept Cagayan’s record unblemished, as they improved to 4-0.

The Scores:

Cagayan Valley (3) – Espejo 17, Paglinawan 14, P. Torres 13, Intal 10, Pirante 7, Ordonez 3, Santos 3, Calderon 2, Gatdula 1, Ramos(L)

Phil. Air Force (1) – Malabanan 16, Tolentino 14, Inaudito 10, Alinsunurin 8, Dacurong 7, Lopez 3, Balse 2, Mosuela(L)

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Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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FEU

Rose Vargas all set for UAAP return after four-season absence

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In an unprecedented move, hard-hitting Far Eastern University spiker Rose Vargas will return to finish her UAAP career when Season 80 kicks off on February 3 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Vargas last played for the Lady Tamaraws in Season 75. With a year of eligibility left, Vargas left the Morayta-based program to focus on her academics and pursue a career in the semi-pro ranks.

Five years since her last UAAP game, Vargas says that she did not hesitate when FEU officials asked if she wanted to return to play out her final year of eligibility.

During her time in the V-League, she played for the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Bureau of Custom Transformers, and, most recently, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

“‘Yung pag-babalik naman dito (FEU) is hindi ko naman pinag-isipan matagal or nag-dalawang isip ako,” said the Season 74 Best Scorer. “Noong tinanong lang sa akin kung gusto ko daw bumalik, ang sagot ko lang, oo.

“Kasi gusto kong makatulong, and gusto kong makuha ‘yung championship namin na matagal ng hindi nakukuha ng FEU.”

Vargas adds to an already solid FEU core which includes graduating captain Bernadeth Pons, Toni Rose Basas, and Jerrili Malabanan.

The last time Vargas suited up for FEU, she was the main piece to a core that included Mari Toni Basas — Toni Rose’s older sister, a young Remy Palma, Gyzelle Sy, and Tin Agno.

Vargas now sees herself as more of a complimentary piece, the hardened veteran looking to guide FEU’s younger guns in a season where much if expected of them.

“Ngayon, nadagdagan siguro yung maturity and ko, pagiging veteran daw, sabi, na pwede ko mai-share din sa mga bata ‘yun, as a leader, as an ate,” added Vargas.

“Nako-contribute ko kung anong knowledge ang natutunan ko.”

League insiders are confident that Vargas, who turned 25-year-old on December 12 last year, will be declared eligible to play in Season 80. Although the UAAP is yet to have their eligibility meeting this week, a source closely monitoring the situation expressed confidence that Vargas will pass the league’s eligibility rules.

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Basketball

23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas

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Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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ABL

Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor

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Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.

Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.

The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.

Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.

For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.

Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.

Parks averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the week that saw Alab lose to the Slingers at home last Wednesday before bouncing back on the road against the Mono Vampire last Sunday.

Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.

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Football

Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila

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Contributed photos

One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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