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The Adamson University Soaring Falcons, prior to the season, were penciled in by most pundits to take home zero to just a single win in the 78th season of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament.

A rough off-season saw the San Marcelino cagers switch coaches from fiery PBA legend Kenneth Duremdes to relatively unknown Mike Fermin. Their brightest prospect, Matthew Aquino, then moved from San Marcelino to Jhocson Street in a huge coup for the Bulldogs.

With nine rookies in the line-up – only one being considered as a blue-chip recruit -, and with a transferee from a season ago being the veteran player in the squad, only a handful “respected” this batch of Adamson Soaring Falcons.

Then came the start of the season and just as the vast majority expected the Soaring Falcons lost their first six outings. Moreover, they lost by a wide-margin in averaging a -13.8 points a game.

In their final outing for the first round, Adamson faced the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons in a 7 vs. 8 matchup – a familiar sight since the 76th season of the UAAP. “Let’s end the first round with a win!,” was the battlecry of Fermin to his troops prior to the game.

The Soaring Falcons fought through the Fighting Maroons and five technical fouls in the crucial minutes of the game to notch their first win of the season.

The win also introduced a Adamson’s cast of unheralded players to the wide collegiate basketball audience. Hulking yet soft-spoken Cameroonian student-athlete Pape Sarr, aggressive floor general Joseph Nalos, sweet-shooter Jerome “J-Gars” Garcia, and lanky wing JD Tungcab fought their hearts out night-in and night-out for Adamson.

Exactly 20 days after notching their first win, the young squad, who were on a three-game losing streak then, faced a heavily-favored De La Salle University Green Archer squad. Again, no one gave them a shot of winning this game and for three quarters they were right. The Green Archer lead grew to a game-high 16 points and were leading by 11, 59-48, with a quarter to go. The Falcons then switched their defensive stance in the final quarter.

The switch to a 2-3 zone confounded the Green-and-White squad as Sarr anchored the defensive stand. On offense, Nalos and Sarr teamed up to torch the Archers in the fourth quarter hijack.

UAAP 78 AdU vs. UP - Nalos-9035“We are out here to prove that we are not just a one-win team,” said Fermin after that game. Fermin then added that he gave credit to the boys. “Sila nag-eexecute, kami lang taga-gawa ng gameplan,” the rookie interim head coach explained.

After getting blown out by FEU, the Falcons were set to face the UE Red Warriors, a squad who’s trying to fight for the last Final Four spot.

“Going into the game, ang sabi ko sa mga bata ‘maybe we haven’t gained the respect of the other teams,'” the 37 year old interim coach disclosed.

Pape Sarr and the Soaring Falcons heeded the call as they surprisingly coasted through the Red Warriors for the majority of the game and made the necessary stops in the end game, a poison that has plagued the squad in the majority of their losses, to secure their third win.

UAAP 78 AdU vs. DLSU - Sarr-5496Fermin felt that prior to the win, they still weren’t able to gain the respect of the other seven teams in the league in saying, “‘yung panalo namin sa UP, binalikan kami. Then pagkapanalo namin sa La Salle, tinambakan kami ng FEU. “Sabi ko ‘guys, we need to take this win para makuha ang respeto nila,'” he added.

“We just want the respect of the other teams and to prove that we belong in this tournament.”

With just one game remaining in their UAAP calendar for this season, the Falcons have decreased their point differential to just a a -8.7, almost a six point difference after their first round campaign.

Through all this, Fermin is still just the interim head coach of the team. Fermin though doesn’t mind if he does not gain the mantle come next season in saying, “wala namang pressure [on him]. If they want me back, I’ll gladly stay but if they have other plans, I’ll gladly accept it.”

With only one player leaving the team come next season [Joseph Nalos] and the nine rookies the team has right now gaining more maturity and experience, maybe it’s time to bring back the familiarity and continuity the San Marcelino-squad has been lacking since the team had Leo Austria as head coach.

Maybe, interim head coach Mike Fermin is the answer to the futility the Adamson Soaring Falcons have been experiencing the past few seasons.

But definitely, it’s time to give Mike Fermin and the young Adamson Soaring Falcons the respect they deserve.

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’

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Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence

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For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense

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Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs

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It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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