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Challenge accepted! Cignal thwarts PLDT to reach Finals

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“Tinake nila yung challenge ko. Sabi ko nga nung meeting kanina, ‘isipin natin yung game ngayon wala nang bukas’. Kahit twice-to-beat tayo, bibigyan pa ba natin sila ng isa pang laban?”

“Sabi ko ‘No’,” Cignal head coach Michael Cariño during the post-game scrum.

The Cignal HD Spikers survived the feisty PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters in their semifinals series with a 25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 11-25 15-8 victory to nail a ticket to the finals of the Spikers Turf Reinforced Conference at the FilOil Flying V Arena, Sunday afternoon.

Lorenzo Capate Jr. led the Cignal offense in the opening set, creating a 23-21 lead against PLDT. JP Torres committed a service error to give the HD Spikers a 24-21 lead, but Berlin Paglinawan blocked Alexis Faytaren to save a point for PLDT at 24-22. Still, Cignal took the set after Edmar Bonono unloaded a cross court attack to nab the set for the HD Spikers.

Peter Torres, Mark Alfafara, and Ron Jay Galang fought back for PLDT in the second set as they overwhelmed the HD Spikers with their offense. Torres ended the set with a runner to tie things at one set apiece. The HD Spikers struggled to get their offensive groove back as they played catch-up against PLDT all throughout the set.

Both teams played a roller-coaster third set, settling with score tied at 18. Capate and Bonono conspired to pull the set from PLDT, but Alfafara kept the Ultra Fast Hitters in the set, scoring three of four points for PLDT to slow down Cignal at 24-23. However, the HD Spikers grabbed the set with a Faytaren runner to spoil the comeback of PLDT.

Alfafara, Henry Pecana, and Torres buried the HD Spikers in the following set as their opponent was unable to create any offense to responsd to PLDT. However, in the final set, Capate waxed hot to give Cignal a 9-3 lead. PLDT had some gas left in the tank as Alfafara and Galang’s timely attacks cut the lead to 3, 9-6 . Still, Capate, Faytaren and Jeffrey Lansangan combined efforts to put the match out of reach for PLDT.

“Tinalo na namin sila last year, sa kabilang liga nga lang. Sinabi ko sa kanila na yun yung gamitin nila na motivation,” Cariño disclosed after the game. “Lahat ng hirap at struggles na pinagdaanan natin gawin nating inspirasyon para umabot sa finals.”

He added that they did not want to extend the series, as “negativity” might set in with the HD Spikers. “Yung previous games kasi namin inisip nila na pasok na sila sa Top Four. Filipino attitude, isip nila kumpiyansa na na nakakapasok kami. Yun yung inaalis namin sa kanila,” he said. “Kung aabot pa sa isa pa, magkakaroon pa ng negativity sa kanila. Maganda ang performace na pinakita nila at satisfied ako.”

Looking forward, Coach Cariño still sees a lot of facets that his team should improve in, especially if they go up against the Philippine Air Force Air Spikers. “Madami pa kelangan iimprove. Sobra pa. Lalo na yung blocking namin. Against Air Force, malakas na team yan e, malaking advantage yung setter nila. Kelangan namin tapatan yun,” he closed.

Capate scored 26 points, 23 coming from attacks to lead Cignal, while Herschel Ramos and Edmar Bonono chipped 12 and 11 markers apiece.

Alfafara finished with 28 points with Galang and Pecana contributed 17 and 12 points respectively for PLDT and setter Vince Mangulabnan tossed 35 excellent sets.

The HD Spikers will face the winner of semifinals series between Philippine Air Force Air Spikers and Philippine Navy Sailors. PLDT will salvage their season in a battle for bronze as they face the loser of Air Spikers- Sailors match.

The Scores:
Cignal (3) – Capate 26, Ramos 12, Bonono 11, Faytaren 10, Christensen 7, Lansangan 2, Calderon 2, Ablan 2, Diezmo 1, Lee, Relata 0, Ybanez 0, Montero (L).
PLDT (2) – Alfafara 28, Galang 17, Pecana 12, Torres P. 11, Franco 5, Torres J. 2, Mangulabnan 1, Paglinawan 1, Casillan 0, Longavela (L).

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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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 called Chris Ross the “N” word that 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 nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though 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 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 against 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 really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great 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’

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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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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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Jason Brickman flirts with triple-double as Mono holds off Singapore

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After playing his worst game of the season last Sunday against Tanduay Alab Pilipinas, Jason Brickman bounced back, steering the Mono Vampire to a 91-88 road victory over the Singapore Slingers, Friday evening at the OCBC Arena.

The 26-year-old, who finished with just seven points and three assists in their 71-104 loss to Alab, tallied 10 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. The league-leader in assists did not take a break, playing all 40 minutes.

But it was not a walk in the park for the Thailand-based squad.

Mono led by as much as 22 points, 60-48, with 7:46 left, 16 points entering the final frame. A furious fourth quarter rally by Singapore sliced the lead, turning the game into a single-possession contest with a minute left. The steady hands of Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary from the stripe fended off Singapore.

Brickman’s compatriot Paul Zamar chipped in 13 markers for Mono.

Since torching Alab last January 3, Filipino-Canadian AJ Mandani has been on a slump, going just 3-for-11 from the field for nine points.

Mono’s World Imports Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary both finished with 26 points with the former hauling down 18 rebounds. For Singapore, Xavier Alexander paced the Slingers with 29 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

With the win, the Vampire kept solo third with a 7-4 slate. On the other hand, the Slingers dropped its second straight game since winning against Alab, falling to 5-6.

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