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Coach Eric: “We found our identity with defense”

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“Offense wins games, defense wins championships.” It’s an old maxim that has its origins in the lore of American Football, but it couldn’t be any truer for the newly-crowned UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball champions, the National University Bulldogs.

“We had to find a way to win, and during summer, we really tried to look for an identity. And true enough, we found our identity with defense,” said the NU head coach at last night’s post-game press conference.

“We knew that FEU would come out really aggressive in this game; we felt in the second game hindi sila aggressive, maybe they felt the pressure of winning it all, so I told the team we have to be ready to match that intensity, we just have to do what we do. We can not be somebody else for one game. Kung ano yung sinimulan natin, how we were able to get to this position we will do the same thing and I think that’s our calling card eh— defence lang talaga eh. I think this team showed that you can have teamwork in defense, it’s not only on offense but also on defence.”

The Bulldogs finished the elimination round with the best defense in the league, allowing their opponents to only 57.4 points per game. But it was the Bulldogs four victories over the basket-savvy first seed Ateneo that stand as the greatest testament to how effective the Bulldogs’ newfound slant towards defense was. Bo Perasol’s Blue Eagles were held to an average of 65.75 points per game in four outings with the Bulldogs–well below their elimination round average of 75.9 a game.

“I think the style of basketball that we showed to today is really centered on the team. It’s not on any individual. We we’re able to share the ball on offense. Hindi mo talaga alam sino puputok sa mga players. Our bench really stepped-up today. More than anything, ang nakikita ko lang is pwede ka pala magkaroon ng teamwork sa defense. The type of defense that we play, hindi mo magagawa yan pag hindi kayo one. The players took pride in that, kasi most of the teams gusto nilang umi-score eh. They win with offense, but this team loves to play defense,” said Coach Eric at the presscon when asked about whether the people’s mindset about basketball may have changed after their championship run.

Yesterday’s 75-59 game three victory over the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, in game three is something sports fans in the Philippines won’t easily forget. For some NU, a team whose previous championship came in the 1950s and who spent a good portion of the new millennium as cellar dwellers, defeating FEU, 19-time men’s basketball champions and one of the league’s traditional powerhouses in back-to-back blowout games, may just as well signal the start of a new era in college hoops.

Coach Eric isn’t a stranger when it comes to ending championship droughts. He was part of the 1986 UP Fighting Maroon squad that bagged the title for State U for the first time in almost fifty years.

Prior to game three  members of the press were able to contact Nestor Sapida, a member of the 1954 NU squad, the last team to win the UAAP men’s basketball championship before the start of the program’s sixty-year drought. The 78-year old Sapida was present at the game.

“Well, naka inspire yun,” said Coach Eric at the press conference when asked about Sapida’s presence at game three. “Nagsalita siya kanina before the game. Sabi niya na kailangan may tapang tayo. This type of game, kailangan pakita natin sa kanila na ang NU di bibigay and so he gave his talk. Ang sarap ng feeling makakita ka ng isang player coming from that historical championship in the 1950s.”

Led by two-time MVP Bobby Ray Parks, the Bulldogs had their best elimination round finish in decades last year, finishing at the top of the league at 10-4, but were eliminated in two games by the fourth-seeded UST Growling Tigers.

“Itong championship na ito, it’s not really about me, it’s about the players. Nakita ko yung hirap ng team na ‘to, especially yung last year, yung mga players na naka-experience nung last year, I felt bad for them. Everybody was crying. I could still remember yung scene na yun sa dug-out, they were really dejected. Dalawa lang ang mangyayari roon eh, either it makes or breaks the team. But fortunately for us, it made the team tougher and parang naging hungry sila, like sila Gelo(Alolino), si Glenn(Khobuntin), lahat ng naka-experience noon. I’m sure all of them look back to that scene, and sabi nila di na mauulit yan, di na natin papayagan maulit yan. Again, mga adversities na dinaanan ng team na ito made the team tougher; stronger.”

Lucky for NU, their tower of power is here to stay for the next two seasons. Alfred Aroga, the 6’7 center from Cameroon, was the biggest star on the court yesterday. The eventual Finals MVP scored 24 points, brought down 18 boards, and had 2 blocks in game three, perhaps his most stellar performance this season. He averaged 16 points and 13 rebounds for the finals series.

“Alfred stays with me, he’s like a son to me. Yesterday, we talked a lot, he said “coach, I’m a little nervous,” I said “you know don’t worry about tomorrow, just relax, I got your back.” Today, after breakfast I saw him and said “how are you feeling?” He said “Coach, I’m okay.” And I told him “Alfred you’re going to play your best game this season, itong game na ito,” and true enough he really played his best. If you look at the stats, this is his best game offensively. All throughout the season he just bailed us out with his defense, with his free throws, but you know he always struggled on offense. Di pa niya nakukuha yung bearing niya. And what a time to step up big for us.”

NU basketball will have to face uncertainty once more. Among this year’s batch of graduates are forwards Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin, two of the most important pieces from this year’s campaign. Coach Eric however remains optimistic about next season.

“Lahat ng malaki namin mawawala, so butas na butas kami. We don’t know sino ipapalit namin. Definitely, we’re going to be less competitive as this year. But who knows? This year yun din ang akala namin, pupulutin lang kami sa kangkungan this year, so you’ll never know, maybe another new player would step up again. I think for the school it’s a breakthrough eh. Just like Ateneo and La Salle, when they win championships it’s really a breakthrough, and I hope this is just the start for NU. Sana the culture should be there na and the winning condition is there, and that we would be able to follow through; may continuity.”

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Basketball

Calvin Abueva, Raymond Almazan cut from pool

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SMART Gilas Pilipinas’ third session for the second leg of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers ended early on Monday evening.

Prior to the end of the practice, head coach Chot Reyes talked to team veterans Jayson Castro, Gabe Norwood, and June Mar Fajardo. The outspoken mentor told the seniors of the team that he is cutting Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan from the pool.

“The reason why we’re dropping Abueva and Almazan for the second window is because they haven’t showed up,” lamented Reyes.

“It’s already our third practice at hindi pa sila nagpapakita. It’s simply a matter of disinterest.

“I guess they’re not interested so we have to move on we can’t wait for those guys,” he pointed out.

Both Abueva and Almazan were part of the teams that competed in the 2017 SEABA Championship, the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, and the first window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Only 10 players from the pool showed up for the team’s third session. And with the second leg exactly one month away, Gilas cannot let a slip up happen especially against Australia.

“Aside from those two we don’t know where Matt Wright is, while Allein [Maliksi] is attending a wedding in Australia. Other than that it’s really just an issue of Calvin and Raymond if they don’t want to be a part of the pool.” expressed Reyes.

“That’s the reason we’re dropping them for the second window.”

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2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers

23 for 2023 cadets fill up Gilas practice

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With just 31 days until the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, only 10 players from the pool attended the team’s third session, Monday evening at the Meralco Gym.

Suiting up in the session presided over by Coach Chot Reyes were June Mar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Jio Jalalon, Mac Belo, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, and Roger Pogoy. Carl Cruz and Jayson Castro were in attendance but were in street clothes.

Not present were Matthew Wright, Japeth Aguilar, and Allein Maliksi. Calvin Abueva and Raymond Almazan have yet to attend practice.

Joining the seniors team to prep them up for the World Cup Qualifiers were 10 players from the 23 for 2023 pool.

Ateneo Blue Eagle Matt Nieto attended his first Gilas practice. Joining him were teammates Isaac Go and Thirdy Ravena.

Completing the night’s cast were CJ Perez, Abu Tratter, Will Gozum, J-jay Alejandro, Arvin Tolentino, and Juan Gomez de Liano. Joshua Sinclair watched from the sidelines as he is still recovering from an ACL injury.

Gilas will take on Australia in Melbourne on February 22. The Philippine will then host Japan three days later at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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CSJL

San Beda fends off Letran for back-to-back wins

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With seasoned setter John Carlo Desuyo steering the wheel to near perfection, the San Beda College romped to their second straight win.

The Red Spikers pulled double-digit outings from four players to upend archrival Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights, 19-25, 25-13, 25-21, 25-22, and register their fourth win of the season, Monday early evening at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

It was the Knights, however, who started on the right foot, overhauling a 4-10 deficit to snag the first set. Better passing from liberos Aljune Centeno and Johnsen Timbreza resulted in kills from captain Bobby Gatdula.

Nonetheless, San Beda picked up the service game in the next three sets to ultimately finish off the blue-shirts.

Despite the win-loss record they currently sport, the Red Spiker playmaker admitted that t

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Basketball

Michael Calisaan tows Che’lu-San Sebastian past Perpetual

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Photo by PBA Images

Michael Calisaan poured 20 points as he captained newcomer Che’Lu-San Sebastian Revellers to a decisive 83-70 win over the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas to start their voyage, Monday evening at the Pasig City Sports Center.

Doing it all for the Revellers, the veteran forward provided the stability for his side as he shot 8-of-15 from the field while also hauling down nine rebounds, two assists, and two steals in the conference-opening win.

But it wasn’t all Calisaan as Che’Lu got contributions from all over its roster.

Samboy de Leon chimed in 16 markers and nine boards. RK Ilagan went 2-of-5 from threes to collect 13 points, eight dimes, and three rebounds, while big men Alfred Batino and Jeepy Faundo combined for 20 in the victory.

Despite the triumph, coach Stevenson Tiu gave all the praise to his players, noting the team’s lack of time preparing for the tourney.

“Nanalo kami dahil sa talent ng players. Medyo mali ko rin kasi nahirapan pa ako mag-adjust sa players. Hopefully, we play much better in the coming games,” he said.

The Revellers used a 16-4 run to finally break away from the Altas, taking a 77-60 lead with 4:03 to play as they punished their foes for their turnovers, turning Perpetual’s 30 miscues to 28 points in their favor.

Prince Eze anchored the Altas with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and seven blocks in their first game under new head coach Frankie Lim.

Che’lu-San Sebastian look to make it two in a row when they take on the Wangs-Letran Couriers on Monday, January 29 at 5:00pm. Perpetual, on the other hand, hope they can notch their first win when they take on Mila’s Lechon Mighty Roasters.

The Scores:

Che’lu-SSCR 83 — Calisaan 20, De Leon 16, Ilagan 13, Batino 10, Faundo 10, Bulanadi 6, Costelo 6, Calma 2, David 0, Lao 0, Santos 0, Valdez 0.

UPHSD 70 — Eze 15, Coronel 13, Villanueva 13, Jimenez 9, Charcos 7, Peralta 7, Gallardo 5, Pido 1, Antonio 0, Aurin 0, Tamayo 0, Tongco 0.

Quarterscores: 17-22, 34-38, 59-53, 83-70.

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