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The drought is over: Bulldogs demolish Tams in game three to bag first championship in 60 years

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Finally. After sixty years, the National University Bulldogs are men’s basketball champions once more. Led by the ever-dominant Alfred Aroga, the Bulldogs finally put an end to one of the longest championship droughts in Philippine basketball, routing the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 75-59, bagging their first men’s basketball title since 1954 and denying the Tamaraws their 20th overall, Wednesday afternoon at the Araneta Coliseum.

Finals MVP Alfred Aroga, the big man from Cameroon, had 24 points, 18 rebounds, and 2 blocks for the Bulldogs, dominated both ends of the court to rake in point after point for NU while denying the Tamaraws’ the easy inside look.

The first quarter opened to a strong showing from the Tamaraws, who, led by Mike Tolomia managed to build an 11-5 edge in the first five minutes. The Bulldogs however eventually pulled together, kicking to life their feared defensive lockdown to force an 11-11 tie in the next three minutes. Troy Rosario gave the Bulldogs their first taste of the lead, 15-14, with a minute and a half left on the quarter, but Mike Tolomia fired back on the other end to take back the lead, 16-15. A basket from Kyle Neypes and a three-point conversion off a rare drive to the basket from Alfred Aroga gave NU a 20-16 edge in the next thirty seconds. At the end of the first, the lead remained with the Bulldogs, 20-18.

The Bulldogs opened the second quarter with another staggering display of power from Alfred Aroga, who dominated at both ends of the court to lead the Bulldogs in a 6-0 run in the first three minutes. Though the Tamaraws eventually managed to find a way through the Bulldogs’ seemingly unbreakable inside wall, the cagers of Morayta managed to put in a dismal eight points in the quarter. At the half, the Bulldogs stayed ahead, 30-26. Leading NU was Alfred Aroga, who managed to drill 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks in the first half alone. Mike Tolomia meanwhile was the Tamaraws’ best asset for the first half, with 13 points, 11 of which were scored in the first quarter.

The third quarter opened to a shootout between Aroga and FEU leading scorer Mac Belo, finally finding his touch with the ball after a quiet first half. After a trade of baskets from both squads, a five-point explosion from rookie Rev Diputado gave the Bulldogs the double-digit lead, 49-35, with under three minutes left on the clock. A 6-0 rally from the Tamaraws trimmed the lead to single digits, 49-41, but the fire was immediately put out by a triple from Jjay Alejandro. At the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs remained ahead of the race, 55-44.

The fourth quarter however had no good news in store for the Tamaraws. The Tams continued to struggle to put up easy shots against the Bulldogs, and even a renewed fight from top guns Tolomia and Belo were not enough to put a stop to the Bulldogs’ seemingly unstoppable push. Entering the final two minutes, the Bulldogs held on to the lead, 68-54. Back-to-back baskets from Glenn Khobuntin added four more markers to the Bulldogs’ edge, 72-57. The final two minutes saw the Tamaraws do everything expected in a last minute drive, but time was on the Bulldogs side. Still up by double digits and clock ticking down, Eric Altamirano’s boys erupted into celebration on the court, with the mammoth NU crowd filling the coliseum with their cheers. In the next few minutes, they became the first Bulldogs to lift up the UAAP men’s basketball trophy in sixty years.

Gelo Alolino contributed 12 points to the NU cause, while Glenn Khobuntin and Jjay Alejandro had 10 points apiece. Troy Rosario, the Most Improved Player of the season and game two’s hero was held to six points in his last performance as a Bulldog.

Mike Tolomia had 23 points, 3 assists, and 5 steals for the Tamaraws. Mythical Five member Mac Belo, who led the Tamaraws in the final four had 17 points and 13 rebounds.

“We lost a lot of players. Not only Bobby Ray(Parks), but also Mbe, Villamor, Javillonar,” said NU head coach Eric Altamirano. “We had to find a way to win. And during summer, we really tried to look for an identity, and true enough, we found our identity with defense.”

The road to the championship

At the start of the season, the Bulldogs faced uncertainty, playing without two-time MVP Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and key players Jean Mbe and Jeff Javillonar, who had led them to the final four in the previous year. The Tamaraws meanwhile were considered one of the favorites to make the final four, having much of their core left intact despite losing former MVPs Terrence Romeo and R.R Garcia. The Bulldogs finished first in last year’s elimination round, but were eliminated by the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in the final four.

The Tamaraws finished second at 10-4, after prevailing in a play-off for the no.2 over the De La Sale Green Archers, who had also finished with a 10-4 record. The Bulldogs on the one hand finished 9-5 at the elimination round, tied for fourth with the UE Red Warriors. The Bulldogs however managed to finally book their final four slot, after surviving a hotly-contested play-off with the Warriors, 51-49.

In the semi-finals, the Bulldogs faced the first-seeded Ateneo Blue Eagles, whom NU had swept in the elimination round. The first-seeds however were in for a shock, as the Bulldogs continued to dominate the Eagles, edging the former five-peat champs in two games.

The second-seeded Tamaraws also had to fight and cleave their way to the finals, beating back the defending champions De La Salle Green Archers in two games. Aroga denying season MVP and Ateneo leading scorer Kiefer Ravena the game-tying basket and Mac Belo’s buzzer-beating three over La Salle to send their respective squads to the finals remain as some of the most memorable moments of the season.

The Tamaraws took game one of the finals, 75-70, but game two went to the Bulldogs, 62-47.

This year also marks the Bulldogs first double-victory in college basketball, the NU Lady Bulldogs having swept the final series against the FEU Lady Tamaraws in their own finals series two weeks back. This is the second straight year both seniors basketball crowns were won by the same school, the De La Salle Archers and Lady Archers having won in last year’s men’s and women’s tournaments.

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Chooks-to-Go President hopes to break PH Arena record come 3×3 World Cup

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Last October 27, 2017, Game Seven of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals that pitted heated rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco Bolts saw 54,083 people troop to the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The attendance broke all records for both the venue and the PBA.

Come June this year, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and Chooks-to-Go are hoping that the upcoming 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup will surpass that record.

“We look at 3×3 as our best hope, really, to get a medal in the Olympics. Kami naman sa Chooks, we are behind SBP realizing that dream. Kanina pinag-uusapan na, if we’re going to break the record in attendance,” said Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas Thursday afternoon during a press conference held at BGC High Street in Taguig.

“I think the question there is not if we’re going to break, but how many more times. Because FIBA should see how passionate the Filipinos are about basketball. That’s a given,” one of the patrons of Gilas Pilipinas added.

Besides the event itself, the local government of Bulacan has pledged to make the week of the tournament filled with activities to celebrate the Philippines’ 120th year of Independence.

For their part, Chooks-to-Go vowed to help out the SBP in organizing the event and in building the team.

“We are throwing our support not to improve on our finish, but we want to help SBP organize, to win the championship — not just to improve our ranking,” Mascariñas shared.

And the experience he and his company gained after backing the Pilipinas 3×3 team during last year’s tournament will only help.

“In past tournaments, we’ve lost some games na maninipis lang talaga,” he recalled about the team that was composed of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, and JR Quinahan that competed in Nantes, France.

“This time around, with five months to go, we need to organize and put in the best team to win the championship.”

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Football

Ilocos United takes leave from PFL

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Another one bites the dust

After months of speculation, Ilocos United formally announced its absence from the Philippines Football League for the 2018 season.
A statement signed by Ilocos Chief Executive Officer Tony Lazaro and posted on the club’s Facebook page broke the big news.

“Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful,” the statement opened. “Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL.

“Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.”

Ilocos finished last during the inaugural season, tallying 1 win, 6 draws, and 21 losses with a -49 goal differential.

Still, Ilocos gave its thanks to those who supported the club during the inaugural PFL season.

“We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.”

While its PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs it started within the area. ¨In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.¨

The latest development will be another big blow for the young league. Meralco Manila pulled out of the competition beforehand and now Ilocos´ absence leaves only six teams in the competition.

Now more than ever, something needs to be done by the PFL or even the Philippine Football Federation to ensure the feasibility of the clubs and the league itself for years to come.

Football is a hard sport to build in the Philippines despite its resurgence since 2010. There aren’t a lot of corporate boosters for the sport which is in dire need of a financial push to sustain its growth.

Ilocos´ leave and Meralco´s folding now forces local football´s stakeholders to take a step back and examine the next moves to build the sport.

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Basketball

CJ Perez, Jaycee Marcelino in unison: D-League is a whole other level

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After falling just two games short to cop Lyceum’s first-ever NCAA crown, the Pirates went to the PBA D-League to gain experience. However, in their first foray in the second league, the Lyceans realized that it was a whole different animal.

Going up against the veteran-laden Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burgers-backed squad had a slow start as they adjusted to the tougher calls of the league. The Jawbreakers were down by as much as 17 points early in the third frame, 37-54.

“Yung physicality hindi naman ako masyadong nagulat pero sa mental toughness, yung pagod ka na, tapos may babanggga pa sa ‘yo, ang iniisip ko kailangan mas maging tough,” admitted reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez.

“Nangangapa kami nung una lahat kasi first game namin ito, pati dito sa court na ‘to first game din namin,” added Jaycee Marcelino.

It however served as a wake-up call. Adjusting on the fly, Perez and Marcelino rallied the Jawbreakers back — even having multiple attempts to take over the contest late in the game. However, they fell short, 92-94.

“Binalik lang namin yung laro namin dati, pass the ball, hindi yung puro dribble, i-run lang namin yung plays,” shared Marcelino as he and Perez combined to score 16 points in the final frame.

The 21-year-old Marcelino finished with a game-high 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block while the 24-year-old Perez added 19 points, five assists, two steals, and a block.

With their first game in the bag, the two and the rest of the Jawbreakers now have this experience under their belts. And they plan to put in the work to prove that they belong.

“Sa NC naman kasi puro ka-level namin kalaro namin, dito puro beterano ang naglalaro,” said Marcelino. “Hindi talaga namin masabi na yung ginawa namin sa NC magagawa din namin dito.

“Mageextra work pa kami para masustain namin kung ano kami sa Lyceum.”

“It’s a good experience. Ibang iba pala talaga yung laro ng D-League sa NCAA,” expressed Perez, who is a consensus top three pick for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.

“Sobrang grateful kami na nakalaro na rin kami sa D-League.”

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Basketball

Renzo Subido to bring Marinerong Pilipino experience to UST

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When Renzo Subido decided to skip out the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers’ UAAP Season 80 campaign, he had only one thing in mind: to improve on his craft. And he was able to do so under coach Koy Banal in the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers.

After the AMA Online Education Titans had a quick end to their campaign during the 2017 Foundation Cup, the 5-foot-9 floor general was immediately picked up by Marinerong Pilipino for the playoffs. Liking his style of play, he was again tapped for the 2018 Aspirants Cup.

And he showed a lot of growth from then, leading the Skippers to a 94-92 victory over fellow contenders Zark’s Jawbreakers. The 21-year-old tallied 20 points, three rebounds, and five assists while knocking down the crucial free throws to seal off the Lyceum-backed team.

“It was a good win for us. We’re happy that we won the game because it’s a good way to start the conference,” beamed Subido. “I’ve played against Lyceum in the past so I had familiarity with how they play.

“It was a good experience for us.”

Expectations are high for Marinerong Pilipino this conference as they are pegged as their blend of veterans and young guns are seen too overwhelming for the rest of the field. Still, Subido knows that it will be a tough climb as the other teams, especially the collegiate-based squads, have familiarity on their side.

“We’re taking it one game at a time but the goal is to win the championship,” he said. “But we know that it’s not going to be easy since we are going up against the top collegiate teams.

“So we’re just going to go all out every game.”

Besides winning the championship, Subido is on a personal mission. Being one of the seniors for the Growling Tigers next season, he hopes to learn to become a better leader for next season.

“I want to become a better leader. I know that everything I can learn this conference, I can bring to UST,” Subido expressed.

“For all I can see, coach Aldin [Ayo] is a guard-oriented coach. So I’m using all the experience I get here in Marinero, I’ll bring it to UST.”

For sure, Subido wants to make up for lost time.

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