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Captain Hook and crew lead NLEX past Ginebra

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Owing much to the composure of their veterans and their opponents’ turnover troubles, the NLEX Road Warriors go home tonight with their second W, after a 97-81 victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

The first three quarters saw a tight duel between the two squads, but a series of costly turnovers and a lack of defensive adjustability from Ginebra paved the way for a fourth quarter trampling from NLEX.

“Captain Hook” Mac-mac Cardona, displaying an impressive return to form, had 22 points and 6 rebounds for the Road Warriors.

The first quarter opened to a tight exchange of baskets between the two squads, but NLEX would soon manage to control the pace of the game thanks to Mac Cardona and Aldrech Ramos. A three-pointer from Ginebra veteran Jay-jay Helterbrand forced an 18-all deadlock late in the quarter, and a last second floater from another Ginebra old-timer, Mark Caguioa, gave Ginebra the 20-18 edge at the end of the first quarter.

Ginebra would continue to pull away in the opening minutes of the second quarter, with Caguioa and Japeth Aguilar collaborating to build a 24-18 lead in the first two minutes. It was rookie Juneric Baloric however who would hold the fort for the Road Warrior, scoring six points off the bench to steal back the lead for NLEX, 26-24, halfway through the quarter. Answering for Ginebra was Japeth Aguilar, who exploded for a series of dunks that gave Ginebra the 31-26 edge. After another trade of runs between the two squads, the first half would end with the score tied up at 34-34.

The second half opened to a thrilling trade of baskets between Ginebra and NLEX, with neither team pulling away from each other despite numerous lead changes and deadlocks. Leading the charge for NLEX was the duo of Mac-mac Cardona and Jonas Villanueva, while Ginebra answered back with a much more distributed scoring effort. A nine-point explosion from Chris Ellis late in the quarter pushed Ginebra to the driver’s seat, who would close out the quarter with the 66-62 edge.

Things would take a massive turn at the start of the fourth quarter, with the rookie Baloria and old-timer KG Canaleta rallying to steal back the lead for NLEX, 72-71, scoring from a series of turnovers from Ginebra. Later, a triple from Jonas Villanueva completed the 19-3 for the Road Warriors, putting NLEX up 81-72, with six minutes left on the clock. Ginebra would remain unable to put an end to the bleeding, and the remainder of the quarter saw the Road Warriors scoring on every Ginebra error. The Road Warriors would later walk away with the 97-81 victory, dealing the Ginebra their first loss of the conference.

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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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Paul Lee, Hotshots outlast Fuel Masters to extend win streak to three

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Photo by PBA Images

A late-game rally by the Magnolia Hotshots was more than enough to repel a hungry Phoenix Fuel Masters side, 97-91, for their third consecutive victory, Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

The Hotshots have now improved to 4-1, while the Fuel Masters absorbed their second loss in a row and have dropped to 2-3, creating a four-way logjam with Rain or Shine, Blackwater, and NLEX in the team standings.

“It was all mental toughness in the end. It was about our perseverance, our desire to win, and chemistry sa dulo,” said Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero. “Thankful ako sa players kasi they didn’t, give in sa pressure.”

Paul Lee led the charge with 20 points — despite shooting 33 percent — along with five rebounds. Rome Dela Rosa supplied 17 markers on 9-of-10 free throw shooting, while Ian Sangalang had 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Fuel Masters were actually ahead, 89-84, with 3:01 remaining in the fourth, but lost gas afterwards as the Hotshots pulled off a 9-0 rally — punctuated by Lee’s freebies — to build a 93-89 lead with just 42.1 seconds left to play.

Phoenix, even after Gelo Alolino sinking free throws to make it 91-93, never had any chance of yielding the upset ax. Rafi Reavis’ follow-up off a Lee miss with 12.5 ticks left proved to be the dagger that put Phoenix down once and for all.

Mark Barroca had 12 points for Magnolia. Reavis had himself 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Marc Pingris, despite scoring just four, hauled down 17 rebounds, dished out four assists, and blocked two shots.

Alolino led Phoenix with 19 points on 70 percent shooting. Jeff Chan provided 12 markers, four boards, and four dimes, and Matthew Wright gave 17 points on a horrid 7-of-19 shooting on top of four caroms, three feeds, and two steals.

Magnolia will aim to keep their streak alive against TNT next Saturday, January 27, at 6:45 PM, while Phoenix will try to end their skid versus Ginebra on January 26, Friday at 7:00 PM. Both games will be at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Magnolia 97 – Lee 20, Dela Rosa 17, Sangalang 16, Barroca 12, Reavis 11, Simon 6, Jalalon 5, Pingris 4, Ramos 3, Pascual 2, Herndon 1, Melton 0.

Phoenix 91 – Alolino 19, Wright 17, Chan 12, Jazul 9, Eriobu 8, Chua 7, Mendoza 6, Kramer 6, Intal 3, Revilla 2, Perkins 2, Wilson 0, Dehesa 0.

Quarterscores: 30-23, 47-45, 67-75, 97-91.

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Eric Camson apologetic after brawl with Raymond Almazan

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Photo by PBA Images

Eric Camson plans to take the high road

Kia forward Eric Camson was deeply apologetic for the brawl he got into with Rain or Shine’s Raymond Almazan during the Picanto-Elasto Painters match on Saturday, saying that it had not been his intention to hurt somebody.

The two got into it with 3:10 left in the second quarter as their jockeying for position underneath turned to a fistfight, after Camson apparently elbowed Almazan. The two were quickly separated to prevent any untoward incident.

“‘Di ko naman intensyon. Makikita naman sa replay na ang intensyon ko, hindi ko naman talaga habol yung mukha. Box lang ako,” the fifth-year pro explained. “Tinamaan ko, hindi ko naman maiiwasan, tapos ginantihan ako.

“Siyempre sa akin pride ko na yon kaya siguro umabot sa ganon.”

Both of them were slapped with a flagrant foul penalty two and were ejected from the match, which went in favor of Kia, 98-94. But tensions spilled outside the court as the two got into a verbal exchange in the dugout.

Luckily, the gates separating the teams’ locker rooms were closed and prevented another scuffle from taking place, as Almazan claimed that Camson owed him something.

But then again, Camson reiterated that he hadn’t wanted an incident to take place, saying that he was just too caught up in emotions — ones brought upon by their eagerness to win after a 16-game losing skid.

“Hindi ko rin naman ginusto yung nangyari na yon.

“Sobrang eager lang siguro ako, pagod na kasi kaming matalo eh,” said the six-foot-four stretch big man, who already had 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists prior to being ousted. “Ayaw namin na pumasok rally nila na eto na naman kami, kasi aminado naman kaming lahat na once na nag-rally na sila, nalalayuan na kami, yung morale namin bumababa na talaga.”

According to PBA officer-in-charge Willie Marcial, Camson and Almazan will be summoned at the Commissioner’s Office on Tuesday. And for Camson, he is ready to face the consequ

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Returning Jericho Cruz believes complacency led to embarrassing loss to KIA

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Photo by PBA Images

After three months of being on the sidelines due to a medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee, Jericho Cruz finally sniffed the court for the first time this 2017-18 Philippine Cup, Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the return he had envisioned.

The Elasto Painters shockingly bowed to the often-ridiculed Kia Picanto, 94-98 — an unacceptable defeat knowing that the Picanto were winless in 16 games and last tasted a win on May 21, 2017 against Phoenix Fuel Masters, 122-121.

“Siyempre it’s sad. ‘Di namin in-expect. Pero siyempre the ball is round,” said Cruz, who scored just a point in 10 minutes, obviously disappointed with the result.

“Di ako masyadong makasalita masyado kasi sobrang sad.”

Heading into Saturday’s bout, the Elasto Painters were heavily favored to win, considering the way the Picanto lost their last three games. In their bouts against Phoenix, Magnolia, and Alaska, Kia lost an average of 35.7 points.

For the 27-year-old guard, he thinks that Rain or Shine’s overconfidence led to the embarrassing setback.

“Siguro sobrang kumpiyansa lang din namin kanina, kaya yun,” rued the four-year pro out of Adamson. “Sobrang sad namin ngayon, pero okay lang, bounce back na lang.

“Tomorrow’s gonna be another day to get better.”

Asked if Raymond Almazan’s ejection from the match due to a brawl with Eric Camson late in the first half affected the Elasto Painters, Cruz doesn’t believe so.

“‘Di naman, kasi lahat naman kami pwedeng mag-step up eh,” expressed the 6-foot-1 guard. “Pero having Raymond being able to play in the game na nandoon siya, yung presence of mind niya, malaking bagay siya eh.

“(Lalo na) With his defense, with his length, ‘di ba. Ayun,” he added.

But like what he said, the E-Painters will just look forward and try to grow from the loss. And the six-foot-one Cruz personally plans to do the same thing, as he aims to regain his game shape after recovering from his knee injury.

“It’s getting better na (left knee). [But] I’m not yet 100 percent at this stage,” he said.

“Siguro nasa 70 percent. Kulang pa ‘ko sa hangin.”

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