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China completes FIBA Asia mastery, bags gold and ticket to Rio



There’s nothing like celebrating at home.

Mighty China put on an electrifying performance in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship final to eclipse Gilas Pilipinas Saturday and notch the lone outright Olympic berth at stake for the continent.

Buoyed by thousands of rabid fans inside the venue, the Chinese side came out on fire in the second half and never looked back as they destroyed the Philippines with a victory which put them back on top of Asian basketball, 78-67.

Gilas will settle for the silver but the road towards the Olympics doesn’t end just yet as they shall compete with other continents’ runner-up nations in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament next year.

China’s win puts them back on top of Asian basketball after they missed the podium in 2013. China won the gold in 2011 when they hosted the event in Wuhan.

Blazing start, hotter response

Gilas’ shooting got off to a hot start after Dondon Hontiveros drained a triple while Jayson Castro had two baskets to push the Philippines ahead 7-3.

Back to back triples by Zhou Peng pulled China within 6-7 although Castro and Gabe Norwood each nailed long distance baskets to hand Gilas a 15-10 lead.

That was when China decided to attack their opponent’s zone defense, feeding lanky big Zhou Qi underneath for countlesa basketa and free throws off fouls.

The home side zoomed to a 12-0 run and snatched a 22-15 lead, before foul shots from Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo cut the deficit to 19-23.

Pulling away

In the second quarter, the Philippine offense continued to struggle against the length and defense of the Chinese, while triples from Guo Ailun and Zhao Ji Wei made it 33-25.

Building momentum, China opened a double-digit advantage although a trey by Ranidel de Ocampo and a basket by Abueva pulled Gilas within 40-31.

The onslaught however, continued for the home team as Guo and Zhai Xiaochuang added to the barrage of baskets from beyond the arc.

China threatened to pull away in the third period although a short 5-0 run behind Andray Blatche and Hontiveros cut the Chinese lead to 49-42.

But Li Gen converted on two consecutive treys later on, capping an 11-2 run which widened the gap to 60-44.

Gilas kept fighting and once again trimmed the advantage down to just 60-50 entering the final frame.

Running out of gas

But a disastrous start in the fourth quarter for the Gilas defense allowed a drive by Guo and an and-one play by Ding Yanyuhang which extended the gap to 65-50.

Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva tried to carry Gilas halfway in the period, with baskets making it 72-58 although the Philippines misfired badly from the field as China cruised towards the end for a dream finale.

China joins the United States, Brazil, Nigeria, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina, Spain, and Lithuania as automatic Olympic qualifiers via the continental championships.

Guo had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists to pace China while Zhou had 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Eventual tournament Most Valuable Player Yi Jianlian also finished with a double-double of 11 points and 15 boards. All three players made the FIBA Asia All-Star Five along with Jayson Castro and Iran’s Samad Nikkhah Bahrami.

No Gilas player finished in double-digits outside of Andray Blatche’s 17 points. Castro was limited to 3-for-14 shooting for 8 points.

The Philippines shot only 35.4 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point area. China in contrast made nine triples on a 37.5 percent clip and had six more free throws made.

Earlier, Iran edged Japan to bag bronze, 68-63.


China (78) – Guo 19, Zhou 16, Yi 11, Ding 9, Li 9, Zhou P. 7, Zhao 3, Zhai 2, Wang 2.

Philippines (67) – Blatche 17, Abueva 9, Romeo 9, Castro 8, Norwood 7, De Ocampo 7, Hontiveros 6, Thoss 4, Pingris 0, Ganuelas 0, Intal 0.

Quarterscores: 23-19, 46-35, 60-50, 78-67.



Joshua Munzon, Westsports snap Saigon’s streak in highly emotional contest



Photo by ASEAN Basketball League

Entering Wednesday night’s game, Mikey Williams and the Saigon Heat were on a high, slaying the winning streaks of Hong Kong Eastern and Nanhai Kung Fu. However, Joshua Munzon and the Westsports Malaysia Dragons had other things in mind, keeping the Heat winless at the MABA Stadium, 91-87.

In his fourth game since returning to the Dragons, Munzon filled up the stat sheet, tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Besides putting up the numbers, the athletic swingman from California helped limit reigning Heritage Player of the Week Williams to his worst game so far in the ABL. Averaging 27.33 points, 6.67 assists, and 6.0 rebounds prior to this game, Williams went field goal-less against the Dragons, missing all 11 of his attempts. The Filipino-American floor general was able to dish out eight assists and grab five caroms.

Westsports led by as much as 11 points in the final frame, 82-71, after Munzon found Marcus Marshall for a triple with 4:59 remaining. Behind World Imports Akeem Scott and Maxie Esho, the Heat stormed right back but was answered by a long bomb by Munzon to keep them at bay.

Marshall and Scott figured in a shootout to close out the game but in the end, the hosts were still able to etch out their second straight victory.

Marshall finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Dragons while Scott’s 44-point game went for naught.

After the emotionally charged contest though, few unkind words were exchanged by the officials of both squads that almost resulted into a brawl. Fortunately, things did not escalate beyond that.

In the video, Munzon was also seen shoving a Saigon player to try and pacify the situation. The league is currently investigating the post-game incident.

With the win, Westsports Malaysia raised its record to 3-4 while dropping Saigon to 4-3.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Edward Kelly honored to fight alongside brother Eric



Eric and Edward Kelly lived under the same roof for years in their hometown of Baguio City when they were young and shared the same burning passion in martial arts.

Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Eric and Edward did not always get along with one another as the two fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.

“We were not that close before. We always fought. In short, Eric and I were headaches to our parents,” Edward recalled in jest.

“But of course, things change when you grow up and mature. We now appreciate each other’s company.”

Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them.

Edward paid attention to the growing accolades of his older brother and was heavily motivated by it.

“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he bared. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”

Years later, both men have made remarkable runs as outstanding martial artists in their respective professional careers.

Eric is widely regarded as one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines.

A Wushu practitioner who combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, Eric owns nine scintillating submissions and one knockout out of 12 total career victories.

Eric’s most impressive showing to date came in a submission win over Rob Lisita in July 2014, a performance that earned him the USD 50,000 ONE Warrior Bonus.

Meanwhile, Edward is considered as one of the best and brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the well-established martial arts scene in the Philippines.

With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Edward brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned Wushu to center stage as he showcases his impeccable skillset inside the ONE Championship cage.

In addition, the younger Kelly has won three of his last four bouts under the ONE Championship banner, all by spectacular finish.

The Kelly brothers get a rare chance on Friday, January 26 as the siblings will compete side-by-side when ONE Championship holds its first of the four scheduled events in the country for 2018.

Eric squares off with Brazilian standout Rafael Nunes on the undercard of ONE: Global Superheroes, while Edward crosses paths with Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a three-round featherweight clash.

It is the first time both of them will be featured at a ONE Championship event together, and Edward plans to make it a night they will never forget.

“I am so excited because finally, it’s going to happen. It marks the first time that I will compete alongside my older brother. Surely, it’s going to be a memorable night for the both of us,” he said.

“We have the same aim of winning. So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”

As Eric seeks to get back on the winning track at the expense of Nunes, Edward is likewise looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout winning streak snapped by American stalwart Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.

In his next cage outing, Edward goes up against Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six wins to his credit.

“My coaches has prepared me well for this. I am not going to disappoint my team and my country when I enter that cage on 26th of January,” Edward assured. “I don’t want to let my countrymen down this time. I am here to give them a great bout.

“And of course, win the bout in impressive fashion for them.”

Edward has no qualms if he has to go full three rounds with Meul, but he admitted that his sights are always set on securing the finish.

“I am looking to dominate him for three rounds. But hopefully, I can get the finish,” he vowed.

“A finish will be the perfect way to tell the world that I am back.”

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Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates



Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting



Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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