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Doubt never crossed Janine Navarro’s mind

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Few can relate to the mental pounding student-athletes go through over the course of a season.

The College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers were favorites to win the NCAA title going into this season. But after disheartening losses in the elimination round, including losses to Final Four contenders AU Lady Chiefs and SSC-R Lady Stags heading into the post-season, CSB looked set for a major let down.

Even so, graduating open hitter, Janine Navarro kept the faith and remained confident in her team.

“Kilala ko ‘yung teammates ko, alam kong wala sa kanilang susuko. Never din tumigil ‘yung coach namin sa pagpush. Kapag hindi tumitigil ‘yung coach, hindi rin titigil ‘yung players,” Navarro recalled.

“Wala kaming natalo sa mga nag Final Four. Nasa ilalim kami ng stepladder. Kapag nasa ganoong kababa ka na, wala ka nang choice kundi lumaban para maka-ahon.”

The Lady Blazers indeed persisted. Working off head coach Michael Cariño’s carefully crafted game plans, CSB fought off their elimination-round tormentors in convincing fashion. They first handled the Perpetual Help Lady Altas then swept the heavily-favored defending champs, AU Lady Chiefs to earn an elusive Finals ticket.

Faced with a daunting task of having to win thrice against the previously undefeated Lady Stags, CSB meticulously worked their height advantage and slowly deflated the morale of their proud opponents. After winning Game Two last Friday, the Lady Blazers need just one more win to bring home their school’s first volleyball championship.

Throughout their climb, Navarro has contributed steadily, playing arguably the best volleyball of her five-year collegiate career. With uncanny length and power in her hits, Navarro has reached double-digit point productions in all of CSB’s playoff matches.

NCAA 91 Volleyball CSB vs. SSCR - Navarro-0744

Faced with a daunting positional matchup in the Finals, Navarro has blossomed. Although fellow open hitter and reigning MVP Grethcel Soltones has outscored Navarro in both matches, Navarro converted a higher percentage of her attack attempts and received better support from her teammates.

Navarro says that there is no pressure with matching the point totals of her former Palarong Pambansa teammate as she knows CSB’s advantage lies in their depth and chemistry.

“Alam namin na karamihan talaga ng bola sa kanya (Soltones) mapupunta. Hindi ganoon sa amin, maraming kayang pumuntos. Matatangkad naman ‘yung blockers namin, magaling din ‘yung libero namin (Melanie Torres) so very confident kami na as a team, kaya talaga namin.”

The Dumaguete native also concedes that managing her emotions has been a challenge over the past few weeks.

“Siyempre hindi talagang pwedeng masyado kang masaya, hindi pwede mag-celebrate agad kasi may mga laro pa kami na kailangan ipanalo. Kahit ngayon one game na lang kami from championship, kailangan focused pa din. Hindi pwedeng magrelax,” said Navarro who remembered the past two seasons where they failed to make the Finals just because of the grandfathered NCAA playoff system where they went to quotients in the event of tied records.

NCAA 91 Volleyball CSB vs. SSCR - Navarro-9918

Navarro has always been confident in Benilde right from when she decided to play for the Taft-based squad after high school. Many people had wondered why she had chosen CSB when other more established volleyball programs had offered her scholarships.

“Alam ko talaga na gusto ko mag-aral sa Benilde. May mga tao na nagtataka kung bakit ako nag-Benilde. When I was looking for courses to take, nakita ko that Benilde had a very hands-on program so ginusto ko talaga pumunta dito,” told the Fashion Design and Merchandising Major.

“Never pang nanalo ang Benilde ng championship sa volleyball kaya gusto lang talaga namin masuklian ‘yung school na nagpapaaral sa amin ng trophy bago man lang kami gumaraduate.”

Navarro and the Lady Blazers can complete their historic run with a win on Tuesday, 4 p.m. at the FilOil Flying C Arena.

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball – from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado’s setting.

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Boxing

Manny Pacquiao eyes bout against Vasyl Lomachenko

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Even if he has hinted at retirement numerous times, Senator Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38KO) continues to stress that the time is not yet now.

In an interview with ANC’s Headstart Wednesday morning, the 39-year-old sure hall of famer reiterated his stance that he and his camp are still looking for the best fights possible.

“I am not retired yet. Alam mo na-mimiss ko yun boxing e,” Pacquiao told Karen Davilla.

“I’m still okay.”

Pacquiao, who lost his last bout against Jeff Horn last July 2, is not afraid that another loss might affect his legacy.

Pressed on who he wants to fight next, boxing’s only eight-division world champion disclosed that he is currently under negotiations with the camp of WBO Super Featherweight Champion Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8KO).

“Wala akong problema kung Amir Khan. May discussion din ngayon kay Lomachenko, he is the number one pound-for-pound fighter,” Pacquiao shared.

“Hindi pa na-finalize pero this year.”

Pacquiao is eyeing an April date for the bout as it will be the time the senate goes on a break.

“This year, by April. Pangako ko sa mga tao na hindi maapektuhan ang trabaho ko. April, magandang idea dahil off kami from March 23 to May 13. April wala kaming trabaho,” a confident Pacquiao added.

“Three months is more than enough time to prepare.”

However, there is still one hindrance to the bout, according to Pacquiao. The two camps have yet to agree on which weight class the bout will be held.

According to reports, Lomachenko wants the bout to be at lightweight — a division Pacquiao has not been in for the last 10 years.

“Hindi pa sure. Nag-uusap pa about sa timbang.”

One thing is for sure. Pacquiao is hungrier more than ever.

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Football

Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory

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Photo from the-AFC.com

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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Basketball

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

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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

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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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