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DLSU seals top seed with lousy win over gritty NU



The DLSU Men’s Football Team capped off the elimination round phase with an unconvincing 1-0 victory against the gutted but spirited NU Bulldogs earlier at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field. Sabin Bustamante was the scorer of the lone goal that handed La Salle their ninth win in 14 games, enough for DLSU to finish with a league-best 32 of the maximum 42 points this season.

NU’s Nico Macapal opened the exchanges with a shot on target routinely collected by La Salle goalkeeper Paeng de Guzman just two minutes after kick off. Three minutes after, DLSU won a free kick along the left flank. Nathan Alquiros’ delivery was misjudged by NU keeper Chris Perocho. No guy in blue was near Bustamante who was at the right place at the right time to tap the ball into the unprotected goal. In their first chance of the game, the Lasallians took the lead right away.

DLSU players continued to put pressure on NU, but their long balls were unsuccessful in locating targets. After falling behind, the Bulldogs did their best to give themselves a chance at equalizing. Alberto Frias’ free kick struck the tall DLSU wall 10 minutes in while Macapal misfired just three minutes later. On the other side of the pitch, Alquiros managed to penetrate into the NU penalty area but the Bulldogs reacted in time to prevent the midfielder from creating the slightest opportunity. Both defenses then derailed each other’s attacking plays in a high-tempo exchange approaching the half hour mark, closed out by Perocho’s denial of what looked like a wonderfully struck shot by Jojo Borromeo.

NU’s eagerness to restore parity prevailed in the last 15 minutes of the first half. Macapal led the way as he had two chances to level the score. At the 36th minute, he obtained the ball off a pass from Patrick Valenzuela but the shot had too much height. Six minutes before halftime, Macapal was beaten to the ball by de Guzman. Four minutes after that, Francis Abalunan had the ball inside the La Salle box but was not able to challenge the opponents’ backline. At the half, La Salle owned a narrow lead that lasted throughout the game.

The Lasallians were tested further as NU sustained momentum in the other side of the interval. It took timely interventions by Matthew Nierras and de Guzman to avoid the Bulldogs from equalizing inside the opening five minutes of the second half. Offensively, DLSU had fewer chances. Their first of the period came at the 50th minute when Alquiros created space to shoot wide from around 25 yards. DLSU’s next chance came eight minutes later, succeeding a troika of NU opportunities. Macapal looked to have set up Valenzuela but Noel Brago deciphered the play to keep the ball away from Valenzuela. Salenga’s free kick was blocked by Nierras before Valenzuela managed to hit a shot that was caught well by de Guzman. After that, La Salle’s second chance of the half took place when Iñigo Gonzales struck off target.

The game’s pace increased in the next 16 minutes of back-and-forth action. Salenga was on pace to meet de Guzman inside the DLSU box but Brago stuck his foot with impeccable timing to foil the NU forward from moving into the dangerous area. La Salle rookie Rigo Joseph then stole the ball from Arnel Casil inside the NU box moments later. Unfortunately for the DLSU newcomer, Eddie Alivio recovered to knock the ball off him. Frias located Salenga with a clever cross but the latter’s header missed the target. It was followed by Macapal’s daring run along the left wing before his attempt struck the goal’s side netting just 20 minutes before time. Salenga emulated his teammate’s move the next minute but was halted by de Guzman.

With just 17 minutes left, goalscorer Bustamante drilled in a cross that was telegraphed by Perocho. Then at the 74th minute, Macapal, who had been active throughout the match, saw his shot saved. Subsitute Chuck Uy found Jose Montelibano, who also started the game on the bench. The ex-DLSZ standout wasted a chance to double the lead as he failed to hit the target two minutes later. Jezer Jalandoni had the same fate as Macapal, when his shot was also gathered by the busy de Guzman. It was the last in the array of wild exchanges as the tempo of the game slowed down heading into full time. La Salle ended the game more aggressively with three chances to NU’s two. Montelibano came the closest six minutes before time when his chip over Perocho seemed perfect only for it to clip the bar before getting cleared. The final whistle was greeted with neither team entirely pleased with the outcome of the game.

“This is the only win that we’ve had that we don’t feel like it’s a win,” stated DLSU coach Hans Smit in dismay. The mentor labeled the win as lousy and thought that his team got away with the underwhelming performance by scoring early, reminiscent of their second round win against UE. His team may enter the semis unbeaten but Smit is adamant that the team holds no particular advantage, especially as the tournament now uses a cup-tie format—meaning the twice-to-beat advantage for the top two teams has been phased out. La Salle will face arch nemesis Ateneo next week after the latter secured the last Final Four slot by beating UST, 2-1, in a simultaneously held contest at FEU-Diliman.

The win by Ateneo meant that NU finished their UAAP Season 77 campaign in fifth, having two points less than the Season 75 champions. Coach Wilhelm Laranas thought the team controlled the match but were unable to translate abundant chances into goals. “Ginawa naman namin lahat. We were really preparing to be in the Final Four. Breaks lang kasi ng game eh. We’ll do harder next time,” the heartbroken mentor assessed.

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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