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Déjà Vu: Valmayor strike haunts NU, guides UP to sixth win



For the third straight game in two days, another team climbed into pole position following an ugly win. On Saturday afternoon, it was UP’s turn to seize league leadership after edging NU, 1-0, at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field. Jinggoy Valmayor notched the lone goal of the match which booked UP’s sixth win of the season. No team has more wins than last season’s runners-up.

Scorer of the only goal in their last meeting, Valmayor was certainly on NU’s radar. Still, it did not stop the veteran striker from creating chances for his team. Seven minutes into the contest, the LSGH alum barged into NU’s penalty area but his chip attempt was too high for anyone else to get a touch on. Six minutes after that, the Maroons forward was halted by full back Nico Macapal to avoid any opportunities for UP. Moments later, Michael Simms sent a fine cross from the left to Valmayor who met it with his head. His attempt, however, was stopped by the well-positioned NU goalkeeper Hayeson Pepito.

Wary that UP may take command of the watch’s rhythm, the Bulldogs began to launch attacks themselves. Albeit against the run of play, NU’s Mark Jojo Marcaida was open to shoot inside UP’s box but slipped on the build up of his strike, which went wide.

Both sides had chances to score off set pieces but the respective defenses were able to deal well with danger. Instead, it took a rapidly orchestrated UP attack to threaten the Bulldogs. With five minutes left in the first half, Carlos Monfort linked well with Daniel Gadia to create space inside the box. He had a clear sight on goal but chose to send the ball to Valmayor who was heavily marked and was not able to do much with it. Another close chance came right at the end of the first half, this time for NU. A defensive lapse saw Paolo Salenga almost making the Maroons pay. Fortunately for UP, Albert Yatco was alert enough to keep track of NU’s star striker.

The game’s back-and-forth tempo was evident in the opening stages of the second half, with Salenga and Valmayor missing chances in the first three minutes. At the 53rd minute, tension escalated when Darwin Regala brought down Valmayor just outside the box. The defender, who was marking Valmayor together with his center back partner Arnel Casil, was shown a yellow. The ensuing free kick, nonetheless, was wasted. Valmayor continued to pick up his rhythm, firing another shot at the 57th minute only for his attempt to be blocked by Macapal.

With the game still goalless, NU crafted a couple of good chances to put them ahead. Francis Abalunan’s corner was cleared by the stiff UP defense a minute after the hour mark and Salenga’s lowly-struck free kick the following minute just drifted a few inches away from UP’s goal. They were left to rue those chances for the next attacking sequence proved lethal. Valmayor padded his Season 77 goal tally to a league-best nine goals. The UP forward was set up nicely by Gadia’s nifty through ball, enabling Valmayor to break away from Casil and Regala before smartly putting the ball beyond Pepito’s reach and into the onion bag.

The Bulldogs responded well to the goal. They dictated the last 15 minutes of the game and had good goalscoring opportunities. Salenga, Macapal, and Abalunan led the charge for the equalizer but the Maroons’ defense held on to take the narrow win.

The win puts UP on top of the standings anew but it did not please the Iskos’ mentor Anto Gonzales. “I just think they wanted to get the result. They really didn’t want to play football,” he uttered with frustration. He was unhappy with the way his players seemed to settle after grabbing the lead. “That’s not how it’s supposed to be if they really want to be in the finals,” he continued.

“Binigyan namin sila ng magandang laro,” NU coach Wilhelm Laranas said. He found his wards’ performance alright but commented that the team looked to have played more defensively, preventing them from becoming as aggressive as they had been late in the game. As for the result, it is not the best outcome for the Bulldogs but Laranas believes it was a mere break that led to his team’s defeat. “Ok lang sana sa amin mag-draw. [It’s a] break eh. Wala na tayong magagawa doon.”

NU stays in fifth with 14 points, six less than UP who now regains the top spot after fellow contenders Ateneo and La Salle each had a taste of it.

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Rose Vargas all set for UAAP return after four-season absence



In an unprecedented move, hard-hitting Far Eastern University spiker Rose Vargas will return to finish her UAAP career when Season 80 kicks off on February 3 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

Vargas last played for the Lady Tamaraws in Season 75. With a year of eligibility left, Vargas left the Morayta-based program to focus on her academics and pursue a career in the semi-pro ranks.

Five years since her last UAAP game, Vargas says that she did not hesitate when FEU officials asked if she wanted to return to play out her final year of eligibility.

During her time in the V-League, she played for the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, the Pocari Sweat Lady Warriors, the Bureau of Custom Transformers, and, most recently, the Creamline Cool Smashers.

“‘Yung pag-babalik naman dito (FEU) is hindi ko naman pinag-isipan matagal or nag-dalawang isip ako,” said the Season 74 Best Scorer. “Noong tinanong lang sa akin kung gusto ko daw bumalik, ang sagot ko lang, oo.

“Kasi gusto kong makatulong, and gusto kong makuha ‘yung championship namin na matagal ng hindi nakukuha ng FEU.”

Vargas adds to an already solid FEU core which includes graduating captain Bernadeth Pons, Toni Rose Basas, and Jerrili Malabanan.

The last time Vargas suited up for FEU, she was the main piece to a core that included Mari Toni Basas — Toni Rose’s older sister, a young Remy Palma, Gyzelle Sy, and Tin Agno.

Vargas now sees herself as more of a complimentary piece, the hardened veteran looking to guide FEU’s younger guns in a season where much if expected of them.

“Ngayon, nadagdagan siguro yung maturity and ko, pagiging veteran daw, sabi, na pwede ko mai-share din sa mga bata ‘yun, as a leader, as an ate,” added Vargas.

“Nako-contribute ko kung anong knowledge ang natutunan ko.”

League insiders are confident that Vargas, who turned 25-year-old on December 12 last year, will be declared eligible to play in Season 80. Although the UAAP is yet to have their eligibility meeting this week, a source closely monitoring the situation expressed confidence that Vargas will pass the league’s eligibility rules.

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23 for 2023 cadet CJ Perez honored to help out Gilas



Having had the chance to represent the Philippines in FIBA-sanctioned cagefests such the Asia Challenge Cup and the 3X3 All-Stars back in 2016, Lyceum Pirates star CJ Perez is no stranger to the international stage.

But the 24-year-old do-it-all swingman admits that he still gets overwhelmed whenever he sees his seniors — the stars and pillars of the program — in the team. “Nasusurprise [pa rin] ako,” he said. “Mga professionals eh.

“Na-istarstruck pa rin ako sa kanila.”

Perez said so when he finally made his return within Gilas’ realms last Monday night. The last time he was with the National Team was in August 2016, when the SBP built an amateur-laden batch of Gilas cagers that served as the transition from the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers squad to the 2017 SEABA team.

“Sobrang grateful ako (sa invitation),” said the talented six-foot-two guard, after practice at the Meralco Gym.

The reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player is back in the fold for Gilas as his name, along with young, up-and-coming stars, was included in the 23 for 2023 pool — a list of cagers projected to be the contingent for the Manila-hosted World Cup.

“Iniisip ko yun (FIBA World Cup 2023) simula magtawag sila ng practice. Actually nandoon na yung utak ko eh,” the Lyceum Pirate ace bared. “Kailangan ko lang mag work hard pa para makapasok dun sa lineup na yun, kahit malayo pa.

“It’s an honor para ma-represent yung country.”

Unlike in 2016, Perez graced the court and took part in drills with the veterans such as Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, June Mar Fajardo, among others. With those type of players around him, he feels that the lessons he can get will be limitless.

“Oo sobra. Kahit kanino naman (matututo ka talaga),” Perez shared. “(At tsaka) Dito parang more on sa mental. ‘Di na iniisip yung conditioning kasi may ibang teams naman sila so about sa mental toughness [talaga].”

For now, the 23 for 2023 cadets are already working out not just for familiarity, but also to help the seniors in preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers this February.

“Sobrang happy and grateful na nakakatulong ako sa kanila kahit sa simpleng practice lang.”

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Blistering Mikey Williams takes home Heritage Import of the Week honor



Photo from ASEAN Basketball League

The resurgent Saigon Heat have been the thorn to topflight clubs teams Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club and Nanhai Kung Fu, handing both squads their first losses in the eighth season of the ASEAN Basketball League. The Heat would not have done it without Filipino-American import Mikey Williams.

Williams, a 6-foot-2 guard out of Cal State Fullerton, dropped 39 points on 14-for-25 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and nine assists in Saigon’s 121-115 overtime win over Hong Kong.

The former NBA G-Leaguer followed it up with a sensational 24-point, five-rebound, and seven-assist outing in their 96-93 win over Kung Fu.

Overall, the 26-year-old guard averaged 31.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 1.0 steals to edge out fellow Filipino AJ Mandani of the Singapore Slingers for the weekly award.

For the Local Player of the Week, two Alab Pilipinas stalwarts were the runners-up for the crown.

Reigning local Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and his floor general Josh Urbiztondo had stellar weeks that earned them honorable mentions.

Parks averaged 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the week that saw Alab lose to the Slingers at home last Wednesday before bouncing back on the road against the Mono Vampire last Sunday.

Urbiztondo, on the other hand, had norms of 14.5 points on a hot 9-for-17 clip from downtown.

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Brazilian football legend Zico to visit Manila



Contributed photos

One of the best to ever play the Beautiful Game is coming to the Philippines. Zico, who electrified the footballing world in the ’70s and ’80s, is slated to visit Manila on the weekend of January 27.

The Brazilian, whose real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra, is considered one of the best footballers in the world during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Zico starred for the Brazilian national team, scoring 48 goals in 71 appearances for the Selecao. In 1999, the attacking midfielder came 8th in the FIFA Player of the Century grand jury vote, and in 2004 was named in FIFA’s list of the world’s greatest living players.

Zico played for legendary Brazilian club Flamengo and also for the Italian Serie A team Udinese. He finished his playing career suiting up for Kashima Antlers in the J-League, the top tier of Japanese football, leading them to an unlikely runner-up finish.

The 64-year-old also had a successful managerial career, leading Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Greek team Olympiacos, and CSKA Moscow to titles. Zico was also in charge of the Japanese national team when they won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Because of that accomplishment, Zico is one of the most beloved football figures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Seven Seas Properties, a company that promotes Philippine real estate and Philippine stocks in the Japanese market, is bringing the football icon here.

“We are delighted to welcome Zico to the Philippines. I’m sure he will give a big boost to the growing football scene here,” says Seven Seas Properties President Yukihiro Nishimura.

Zico will attend a CSR event with young footballers from underprivileged communities on Saturday, January 27. The following day, Sunday January 28, he will lead a football clinic for elite young players and coaches in the McKinley Hill stadium in Taguig. Football fans and media are welcome to watch this event, which kicks off at 2:00 pm. Admission is free.

Zico in Manila is also made possible by Otsuka – Solar Philippines, Inter Sports Partners, AgriNurture, and Primex.

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