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Cruz sparks rally to keep Letran undefeated



Down 66-53, fifth year point guard Mark Cruz sparked an epic fourth quarter rally to give the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights its best start since the 2008 season with an 82-76 win over the San Sebastian Golden Stags Tuesday evening at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

The first half was a close knit affair as the Knights led by four to end the first quarter. Jon Ortouste then sparked a huge second quarter in scoring majority of his 19 first half points in the second quarter capped by a buzzer beating three pointer from beyond half court to end the half. Even when big man Bradwyn Guinto was plagued with foul trouble, the front line of the Stags, led by Michael Calisaan, outrebounded the undersized Knights squad 22-10 that led to 14 second chance points for San Sebastian. This was able to set-off the 21 first half turnovers, that led to 17 turnover points, they had. Moreover, the trio of Mark Cruz, Rey Nambatac, and Jomari Sollano combined for 30 points. Entering halftime, the score was 45-39 in favor of the Stags.

The Golden Stags were able to extend the lead to ten points to open the second half. After a non-call by the officials as Nambatac fell from a Jeick Fabian steal attempt at the 8:48 mark, fiery head coach Aldin Ayo scolded the officials that resulted to a technical foul. Afterwards, fired-up by what happened, Cruz rallied his team in scoring four points in a six point run to cut the lead to four, 45-49. San Sebastian was able to quell the rally as the Stags displayed great transition defense in clogging the passing lanes. Fabian was able to end the quarter with a layup to extend the lead to ten, 62-52 to end enter the fourth quarter.

A high banker by Ryan Costelo and a Costelo assist to a cutting Jayson David gave the Stags their biggest lead of the game 66-53. Moreover, the Muralla-based squad further was plagued with their fifth team foul in just the 5:23 mark of the quarter. Back-to-back three pointers by Mark Cruz and Bong Quinto and a layup by the latter cut the lead to just five 66-61. Another three pointer by Cruz cut the lead to just four points. However, the unneccassary fouls committed by the Knights resulted to three San Sebastian free throws and a hook by Guinto. The Knights then went back to its grinding defense that resulted to turnovers for the Stags. After a three pointer by Cruz and a putback by Sollano that tied the game at 73-all, Costelo was able to locate an open Ortouste for a corner three pointer. In the next play, McJour Luib called for an elevator play that resulted to pintsized team captain, Mark Cruz, to knockdown a top-of-the-arc three pointer plus the harm to give Letran a solitary point lead, 77-76. Nambatac was able to steal the ball after and was able to knockdown a corner three pointer to extend the lead to four. A missed three-pointer by Ortouste ended the Stags’ hopes and resulted to a huge comeback win by Letran, 82-76.

Mark Cruz was speechless after the epic rally he led. “Ang nangyari kasi nahulog kami sa laro nila [San Sebastian]. Sabi ni coach [Ayo], ‘sila ang kelangan na maglaro sa game namin,’” an exhausted Cruz said. “Di kami tumigil at nandun pa rin ang puso namin.”

For the final play, head coach Aldin Ayo commended the composure displayed by McJour Luib. “Sa dinami-dami ng plays namin buti naisip ni McJour tawagin ang ‘elevator play’ namin,” the rookie coach said. A move also commended by Cruz, “lagi namin tinatawag yung play na yun, sabi ko na lang gagawin ko ang lahat para maipasok yun. Buti na lang pumasok.”

The now 4-0 Knights were led by the 29 huge points of Mark Cruz. Cruz knocked down six three pointers, dished out five assists, and stole the ball seven times. Rey Nambatac had 20 points and three steals as well. For the Stags, Jon Ortouste had 19 points in the first half but only had 25 points after the game. Michael Calisaan notched another double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. However, Bradwyn Guinto only had 4 points in 26 minutes of play. Moreover, Guinto and Costelo combined for 19 turnovers.

As a team, the Knights were able to force a season-high 43 turnovers against the Stags that resulted to a whopping 42 turnover points. The Stags outrebounded the Knights 42-26 and outshot them 51% to 40%.

The CSJL Knights (4-0) will next face the UPHSD Altas (4-0) on Thursday, July 23 at 4:00pm while the SSC-R Golden Stags (1-3) face the AU Chiefs (3-1) on Friday, July 24 at 4:00pm.

The Scores:
CSJL (82) – Cruz 29, Nambatac 20, Sollano 13, Quinto 9, Racal 7, Luib 2, Publico 2, Apreku 0, Calvo 0, Balagaysay 0.
SSC-R (76) – Ortouste 25, Calisaan 16, Fabian 11, Costelo 10, David 6, Guinto 4, Sibal 2, Capobres 2, Santos 0, Pretta 0, Vera 0.
Quarterscores: 27-23, 39-45, 52-62, 82-76.

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Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory



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2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’



Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Terrence Romeo invited to join Pilipinas 3×3 for World Cup



Stronger than ever

Scoring sensation Terrence Romeo has been invited by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas to join the Philippine team in the upcoming FIBA 3X3 World Cup, according to Philippine Star columnist Quinito Henson.

Romeo, who is currently out due to a right knee injury, has been in rehabilitation and is expected to miss the entire Philippine Cup campaign of the Globalport Batang Pier and the second window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Baka sa second conference na ko makabalik kasi talagang gusto ko malakas ako pagbalik ko,” the 25-year-old shared during Chooks-to-Go Live last January 2.

SBP Executive Director Sonny Barrios personally met with the 6-foot guard, inviting him to be part of the Philippine team.

Romeo has plenty of 3×3 basketball experience under his belt.

Back in 2014, Romeo was part of the Manila West 3×3 team during the Manila Masters. He was adjudged as the tournament Most Valuable Player.

The 2018 3X3 World Cup will take place from June 8-12 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

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Red Spikers extinguish Blazers for second win



Shaking off a forgettable outing against the Perpetual Help Altas last January 11, the San Beda College Red Spikers vented their ire on defending champions College of Saint Benilde Blazers in four sets, 25-15, 25-16, 23-25, 26-24, and claimed their second win of the season, Friday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Sabi ng coaches kalimutan na yung talo,” shared captain Lorenze Santos of what transpired after that match.

So, in this game, the San Beda team poured on what they worked hard for to regain momentum. “Binuhos po namin lahat ng ginawa namin sa training [ngayon].”

After tight starts in all the first two sets, the Mendiola-based side pulled away to register the seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.

Nonetheless, summoning the heart of a champion and led by seniors Isaah Arda and Jethro Orian, the reigning champions pulled off gritty runs to snag the third set and making a tussle of the fourth.

Ultimately, Adrian Viray virtually ended the match with a vicious serve, which the Blazers failed to convert.

The prolific outside hitter finished with 17 points, 11 coming from attacks and five off blocks. Former skipper Mark Encino also registered 17 markers.

The Red Spikers (2-1) will face the Mapua University, also at 2-1, on Friday, January 19.

Orian was such a presence at the net, ending up with 20 points for the Taft-based squad.

The defending champions Blazers (2-1) will try to bounce back later that day against San Sebastian College (0-3).

The Scores:

SBC 3 – Viray 17, Enciso 17, Santos 11, Patenio 7, Amagan 7, Desuyo 3, Zabala 0, Genobaten 0, Manliclic 0, Casin L.

CSB 1 – Orian 20, Arda 18, Bacani 6, Basilan 4, Bautista 4, Magsino 2, Martinez 0, Garcia 0, San Miguel 0, Saldavia 0, Dy L.

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