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Cruz shines in crunch time, helps Rain or Shine snatch victory from Alaska

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The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters may be headed for an outright semifinal berth, after snatching the victory from the previously top-seeded Alaska Aces in the last two minutes of a 98-95 sizzler, Friday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.

Alaska entered the final two minutes with a six point lead, and led by three with a minute to go, but saw their cushion decimated following a series of clutch performances from Rain or Shine.

Rookie Jericho Cruz, who sank the two dagger baskets that carved the path for the Elasto Painters’ victory, took home Player of the Game honors. The 9th overall pick from Adamson University had 16 points and 5 rebounds off the bench.

Both squads traded baskets and leads to start the game. Rain or Shine held on to the advantage for the early half of the period, but Alaska managed to turn the tables down the stretch, getting much needed help from Cyrus Baguio’s eight first quarter points and completing a 6-2 spurt to take a 23-18 lead at the end of the quarter.

Capitalizing on another impressive show of defensive prowess, the Aces led by as many as seven points in the second quarter and held the usually trey-savvy Elasto Painters to a dismal 3-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc for the first half. The Elasto Painters however managed to keep pace despite struggling from the outside, and at the half, the Aces led by only three points, 45-42.

A six point explosion from sharpshooting big man Beau Belga gave the Elasto Painters their first lead since the first quarter, 53-50 around halfway through the third period. The Aces however immediately wrested control of the ballgame, leading by as many as eight points, 68-60, in the following minutes, getting a much needed boost from Dondon Hontiveros’ fiery shooting. At the end of the third, they led 73-67.

Proving to be the quicker draw in the ensuing shootout in the fourth quarter, the Aces stayed ahead of the chase, leading by as many as seven points. Though they were able to suppress most of Rain or Shine’s attempts at mounting a much needed rally, an 8-0 blitz led by Belga entering the final two minutes took Rain or Shine to within striking distance with a minute and a half left on the clock.

Two free-throws from veteran Erik Menk gave Alaska a three point lead, 93-90, entering the final minute of regulation. Belga came alive once more, grabbing the ball in a jump ball situation with less than 40 seconds left on the clock and finding Paul Lee, who sank a triple that forced a deadlock, 93-93, with 33.8 left to play.

Calvin Abueva managed to fire one back for Alaska, sinking a floater to put the Aces up 95-93, with 26 ticks left on the clock. Seconds later, Jeff Chan missed the second of two free-throw opportunities, but the ball was corralled by rookie Cruz, who sank the put-back to give Rain or Shine the edge, 96-95, with 18.5 seconds remaining.

Abueva got another chance at salvaging the Aces’ run, but the lay-up with 16 ticks left bounced off the rim. Players from both squads scrambled for the rebound, but it was Cruz who found the ball with less than ten seconds in the ballgame, escaping the fracas at their end of the court and racing down to the Aces’ end to sink a lay-up on the fastbreak and put Rain or Shine up 98-95, with 0.8 left on the clock. Jvee Casio had the chance to nail the game saver in the following play, but could not get into position for the hail mary.

Lee and Belga, the two other players who shone in the Elasto Painters’ last minute drive, had 19 and 16 points respectively. Abueva led the Aces with 18 points and 8 rebounds.

The Elasto Painters find themselves in the top two spot for the first time in the conference, improving to 8-2. The Aces, who spent most of the time at the top of the standings until their loss to the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel earlier this week, slide to 8-3, third in the standings. Another victory from the Elasto Painters will seal their place as one of the two teams headed to the postseason with an outright semifinals berth.

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ABL

Christian Standhardinger goes perfect from stripe in Hong Kong’s rout of Formosa

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After going a horrid 5-for-17 from the stripe during their first loss of the season last January 9, Christian Standhardinger made sure to make good on his free throws to power the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club to a dominant 99-79 rout of the Formosa Dreamers, Thursday evening in Southorn Stadium.

The 6-foot-8 Filipino-German, who tallied 37 points and 19 rebounds in the overtime loss to Saigon, went a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

The contest itself was not close, as the defending champions were able to impose their will on the bottom-ranked squad, leading by as much as 23 points, 93-70, after two free throws by Standhardinger with 2:58 remaining.

If Standhardinger was having a good day with his free throws, the entire Formosa squad could not say the same, going 13-of-27 from the line.

Tyler Lamb had 25 markers as well for Hong Kong, while Marcus Elliott grabbed a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Lenny Daniel paced Formosa with 25 points and 11 rebounds. World Import Ronnie Aguilar had 14 points and 16 rebounds but went just 5-for-14 from the field.

With the win, Hong Kong goes to 8-1, while the Dreamers fell to 1-8.

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Chooks-to-Go President hopes 3×3 World Cup breaks Philippine Arena record

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Last October 27, 2017, Game Seven of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals between heated rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco Bolts saw 54,083 people troop to the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The attendance broke all records for both the venue and the PBA.

Come June this year, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and Chooks-to-Go are hoping that the upcoming 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup will surpass that record.

“We look at 3×3 as our best hope, really, to get a medal in the Olympics. Kami naman sa Chooks, we are behind SBP realizing that dream. Kanina pinag-uusapan na, if we’re going to break the record in attendance,” said Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas on Thursday afternoon during a press conference held at BGC High Street in Taguig.

“I think the question there is not if we’re going to break, but how many more times. Because FIBA should see how passionate the Filipinos are about basketball. That’s a given,” one of the patrons of Gilas Pilipinas added.

Besides the event itself, the local government of Bulacan has pledged to make the week of the tournament filled with activities to celebrate the Philippines’ 120th year of Independence.

For their part, Chooks-to-Go vowed to help out the SBP in organizing the event and in building the team.

“We are throwing our support not to improve on our finish, but we want to help SBP organize, to win the championship — not just to improve our ranking,” Mascariñas shared.

And the experience he and his company gained after backing the Pilipinas 3×3 team during last year’s tournament will only help.

“In past tournaments, we’ve lost some games na maninipis lang talaga,” he recalled about the team composed of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, and JR Quinahan that competed in Nantes, France.

“This time around, with five months to go, we need to organize and put in the best t

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Football

Ilocos United takes leave from PFL

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Another one bites the dust

After months of speculation, Ilocos United has formally announced their absence from the Philippines Football League for the 2018 season.

A statement signed by Ilocos Chief Executive Officer Tony Lazaro and posted on the club’s Facebook page broke the big news.

“Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful,” the statement opened. “Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL.

“Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.”

Ilocos finished last during the inaugural season, tallying 1 win, 6 draws, and 21 losses with a -49 goal differential.

Still, Ilocos gave their thanks to those who supported the club during the inaugural PFL season.

“We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.”

While their PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs they have started within the area. ¨In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.¨

The latest development will be another big blow for the young league. Meralco Manila pulled out of the competition beforehand, and now Ilocos´ absence leaves only six teams in the competition.

Now more than ever, something needs to be done by the PFL or even the Philippine Football Federation to ensure the feasibility of the clubs and the league itself for years to come.

Football is a hard sport to build in the Philippines despite its resurgence since 2010. There are limited corporate boosters for the sport which is in dire need of a financial push to sustain its growth.

Ilocos´ leave and Meralco´s folding now forces local football´s stakeholders to take a step back and examine the next moves to build the sport.

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CJ Perez, Jaycee Marcelino in unison: D-League is a whole other level

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After falling just two games short of copping Lyceum’s first-ever NCAA crown, the Pirates went to the PBA D-League to gain experience. However, in their first foray in the second league, the Lyceans realized that it was a whole different beast.

Going up against the veteran-laden Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burgers-backed squad suffered a slow start as they adjusted to the tougher calls of the league. The Jawbreakers were down by as much as 17 points early in the third frame, 37-54.

“Yung physicality hindi naman ako masyadong nagulat pero sa mental toughness, yung pagod ka na, tapos may babanggga pa sa ‘yo, ang iniisip ko kailangan mas maging tough,” admitted reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez.

“Nangangapa kami nung una lahat kasi first game namin ito, pati dito sa court na ‘to first game din namin,” added Jaycee Marcelino.

It served as a wake-up call. Adjusting on the fly, Perez and Marcelino rallied the Jawbreakers back — even fashioning multiple attempts to take over the contest late in the game. However, they fell short, 92-94.

“Binalik lang namin yung laro namin dati, pass the ball, hindi yung puro dribble, i-run lang namin yung plays,” shared Marcelino, as he and Perez combined to score 16 points in the final frame.

The 21-year-old Marcelino finished with a game-high 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. The 24-year-old Perez added 19 points, five assists, two steals, and a block.

With their first game in the bag, the duo — and the rest of the Jawbreakers — now have the experience under their belts. And they plan to put in the work to prove that they belong.

“Sa NC naman kasi puro ka-level namin kalaro namin, dito puro beterano ang naglalaro,” said Marcelino. “Hindi talaga namin masabi na yung ginawa namin sa NC magagawa din namin dito.

“Mageextra work pa kami para masustain namin kung ano kami sa Lyceum.”

“It’s a good experience. Ibang iba pala talaga yung laro ng D-League sa NCAA,” expressed Perez, who is a consensus top three pick for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.

“Sobrang grateful kami na nakalaro na rin kami sa D-League.”

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