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Different motivations fuel Ceres, Kaya towards UFL Cup Final

A battle truly beckons tomorrow evening. More than winning the Cup, two teams are chasing to make history in more ways than one.

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Last Tuesday’s semifinal matches saw Kaya FC and Ceres-La Salle FC forge an exciting United Football League (UFL) Cup Final to be played tomorrow evening at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. Entering the clash for all the marbles, the two teams bank on their commitment to accomplish their goals.

For Kaya, a spot in the playoff round of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup lies ahead of them. A win away from opening a door to Asian football, Kaya face a daunting task of beating Ceres-La Salle to get to it. Their attacking threats have delivered so far in the Cup, with Louis Clark, Tishan Hanley, OJ Porteria, and Kenshiro Daniels terrorizing opposing defenses. At the back, they have a solid foundation also. Veteran Aly Borromeo skippers the back four which has only conceded four goals to date inside 660 minutes played throughout the Cup. Nick O’Donnell, one of the country’s fine goalkeepers, also stand his guard well between the sticks. He has proven himself to be a tough figure to get past to, especially in penalty kicks.

OJ Porteria x Ola Okunaiya

Kaya virtually marched their way into the semis but it is there where they had to scrape for a result against an equally motivated Stallion team. The character the team shown in coming back from 2-0 down was enormous and they will certainly need to be just as motivated at the very least when they take on a rarely-defeated Ceres squad. A team which has been comfortable with possession, Kaya also boasts talented players who could quickly turn the game on its head. Whether they would compete for ball control or happy to wear Ceres-La Salle down by playing sharply on the break, Kaya will definitely have to be on point in their finishing, a department where Ceres has been good in limiting their opponents as of late.

If Kaya aspires to be in Asia, Ceres-La Salle wants to take home another trophy home to Negros. Ali Go’s players look in fine form if recent games were to suggest. Three clean sheets kept in their last three matches gives you an idea of how disciplined Ceres-La Salle is at the back. Their unit, which is a mixture composed of Bacolod’s finest, Azkal mainstays, and impressive foreign talent, has been coherently organized in a manner that allows them to play possession football seamlessly at most times. Perhaps their greatest vulnerability is when their fullbacks commit too high up on the field, partly because it leaves a gaping hole that opponents can take advantage of. A Kaya team that reached as far as them looks a different animal than the other teams they brushed aside especially in the earlier stages of the knockout rounds.

Steuble v Barrera

Interestingly, Ceres-La Salle’s weakness also offers a big part to their main strength. Often playing inside the opponent’s half, Ceres-La Salle won most of their games by playing well with the ball whilst patiently but suddenly opening up defenses. They do it with many players figuring in the attacking half, providing them plenty of options available to execute plays. Ceres-La Salle will go against Kaya without instrumental midfielder Manny Ott who picked up a suspension due to accumulated bookings. Nevertheless, Ceres-La Salle boasts a deep lineup which could assure two quality players in each position. Their depth makes them favorites in this match, but Ceres-La Salle may also have to be careful in not letting Kaya dictate the match. As it would seem, their opponents are expected to risk everything for a chance to join them in the next level, but Ceres’ drive to win should be just as much if they want to complete a rewarding season double.

A battle truly beckons tomorrow evening. More than winning the Cup, two teams are chasing to make history in more ways than one. Unfortunately, only one will emerge victorious. Plots like these only add sparkle to the beautiful game and with the feeling of victory always sweeter than defeat, the two teams are expected to showcase their best football in order to achieve their ultimate goals. — LGT

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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Photo by PBA Images

It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao had called Chris Ross the “N” word, which had caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nag-flare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

However, Guiao denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he had felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also directed at Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it has been a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now gone down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees an urgent need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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