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Espejo dominates as Blue Spikers take Game 1

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Showing no rust whatsoever after their week-long layoff, the Ateneo Blue Spikers take Game 1 of the best-of-three series of the Men’s Volleyball championship against NU, 25-19, 30-28, 20-25, 25-22 held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday afternoon.

The Blue Spikers started the finals with a 5-1 score in the first set with Ysay Marasigan accounting for two attacks. Reception became a problem for NU during that stretch as Villanueva also scored on an easy tip shot. The Bulldogs countered with their own 5-1 blast to tie the game at six with Espejo’s two hits sailing wide, Torres scoring, and Vince Mangulabnan scoring on an easy over.

The Bulldogs led during the first set only twice and only for a short duration at the 7-6 and 11-10 mark. With their floor reception starting to haunt the defending champions once again, Ateneo took charge with Espejo dominating the scoring column in the opening set. As Ateneo led by a precarious 16-15 game during the first set, Ish Rivera also displayed tremendous composure as his hits gave separation between the two squads.

Despite the closely-contested start, the Blue Spikers finished off the opener with an 8-3 rampage as two of the points scored by NU were from Ateneo’s errors. Espejo was lethal late, as he scored half of the points during the run capped by an offspeed shot to close out the first frame.

The Bulldogs found themselves trailing early in the second set at 3-1 with their errors. However, three straight attacks showed signs of life for NU to make it a close encounter. Espejo was checked from the back row by the frontcourt defense of the Bulldogs, as three straight points enabled NU to enter the first technical timeout up by one.

During the middle of the set, Peter Torres started to make noise with four points en route to another entry to the technical timeout with the lead. Furthermore, it was Torres and Espejo that showcased an exchange of points during the entertaining second set. NU started to display better net defense, compared to their opener, as Paglinawan blocked Rivera to give them an 18-15 lead to force Ateneo to call a ceasefire.

A four-point lead erected by the Bulldogs was not enough as Ateneo rallied late with a 4-1 run to tie the set at 22, sealed by a Rivera hit during the rally. Just like the opening set, Espejo played closer with his very crucial points delivered late. Tied at 24, Rex Intal’s spike sailed wide, but he immediately made up for it as he scored on the ensuing play. Peter Torres also delivered late, despite the other NU spikers getting denied by Ateneo’s net defense.

Espejo scored the next three points for Ateneo including an impressive cross-court hit from the back row. Furthermore, NU had their counterattacks to extend the canto multiple times. Rueben Inaudito, however, had crossed the midline that aided Ateneo to take the second set.

The third set went in the way of the NU Bulldogs as it was Ateneo’s turn to commit the detrimental errors during the frame. The lead NU built early in the third set was sustained throughout, and despite short burst of points from Ateneo, the latter’s service errors haunted them when it mattered the most.

Leading by as much as four late in the set, the Bulldogs made sure that the set would be theirs this time around. Jan Paglinawan capped the set victory for NU as the squad committed less errors, 6-11 against Ateneo.

In the fourth set, Espejo once again delivered in the beginning as he bounced back from being checked several times in the third set. The Blue Spikers entered the first technical timeout of the fourth with the lead, as their reception became sharper compared to the previous canto. Two straight over-receptions for NU helped Ateneo’s set on their side gave their spikers the needed play to score.

Ateneo had a five-point cushion at 16-11, and were poised to cruise against the Bulldogs. However, Peter Torres and company had one last rally as they made it a one-point encounter, 18-19. Torres had scored four points in the run, but the momentum did not last. With the reinsertion of Espejo in the front row and Torres being on the back row after rotation, Ateneo took control to finish off the game up by three.

Espejo finished the match with 31 huge points including 28 attacks, while Paglinawan led NU with 15 points, 12 coming from attacks.

Game two of the series will be played on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The scores:

ADMU: Espejo 31, Marasigan 22, Rivera J. 9, Villnueva 7, Intal 4, Polvorosa 1, Baysa 1, Rivera B. (L)

NU: Paglinawan 15, Torres 14, Tolentino 11, Inaudito 9, Mangulabnan 3, Capal 1, Ismail 1, Tipay (L)

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Basketball

Marc Pingris wants Rafi Reavis to break Robert Jaworski’s record

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Marc Pingris was all praises for veteran Rafi Reavis Saturday night, as the 40-year-old center made his presence felt in the Magnolia Hotshots’ 97-91 victory — their third straight win — over Phoenix Fuel Masters at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The six-foot-nine Reavis finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks — a performance perfectly punctuated by a follow-up of a Paul Lee miss with 12.5 seconds left to play that knocked out the Fuel Masters for good.

“Papasalamat ako kay Rafi na talagang kababalik lang niya pero binigay niya talaga lahat,” said Pingris after the bout, as Saturday night was just Reavis’ second outing in the 2018 Philippine Cup after recovering from a hip injury.

“Nag-usap nga kami kanina e, hindi pa siya 100 percent. So bukas, ang sabi niya babalik daw siya sa gym dahil gusto niya ibalik yung lakas ng legs dahil wala pa daw,” added the 36-year-old, who also suffered a hip injury last season.

Reavis has been playing in the league for 16 years. Seeing the work he has put in, Pingris, who finished the game with 17 rebounds, four assists, four points and two blocks, believes that the 10-time PBA champion can play for 10 more years — at least.

“You know naman Rafi eh, katulad ko rin yan eh – rebound and depensa. At tsaka sobrang vocal siya sa team eh,” beamed Pingris, who himself is a 14-year veteran. “Walang siyang inaano, talagang sinasabihan niya kung sino yung mga nagmi-mistake, kung paano kami mag-adjust, so nakikinig naman lahat sa kanya.

“Talagang nandun yung respeto namin kay Rafi.”

And if Reavis stays healthy for the next decade, Pingris wants Reavis to exceed Jaworki’s 958 games played — third most all time.

“Nasa kanya yun, basta kaya mo ba eh. As a player, kung masipag ka naman at may disiplina sa sarili mo, kaya niya yun.”

Still, Reavis has a lot of catching up to do.

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JRU

Altas surge to fifth straight win, slam Heavy Bombers

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Pulling double-digit scoring outings from three spikers, the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas remained unbeaten in NCAA Season 93 after a straight-set triumph over thr Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers, 25-17, 25-16, 25-20, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Middle blocker Ronniel Rosales topped the Altas with 13 points off 10 attacks and three blocks. Team captain Rey Taneo and Joebert Almodiel added 12 markers apiece.

The Altas dominated every scoring category, recording 44 attacks to JRU’s 26, five blocks to the Bombers’ zero, and three aces to JRU’s one.

Breezing through the first half of the season, Altas head coach Sammy Acaylar lauded his team’s consistency and hoped they continue getting better as they aim for a championship.

“So far, masasabi kong maganda ang nilalaro ng mga bata. Consistent naman ang mga galaw nila and focused sila sa mga laban,” said Acaylar.

“Pero alam nilang may ibubuga pa sila. We still need to get better and reach the championship level. Kailangan hindi mawala ‘yung ganito naming killer instinct,” the decorated mentor added.

The Altas take on a major test on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre when they face fellow undefeated squad Arellano Chiefs (4-0).

Wenjo Lahaylahay led the Bombers with 10 points while captain Patrick Rabaja managed seven.

JRU (0-5) limps into their Wednesday showdown against defending champs College of Saint Benilde (3-1).

The Scores

UPHSD (3) – Rosales 13, Almodiel 12, Taneo R. 12, Muhali 7, Ramos 5, Atentar 1, Catipay 1, Salo 1, Bation 0, Solamilo 0, Taneo S. 0, Kalingking (L)

JRU (0) – Lahaylahay 10, Rabaja 7, Sulivas 6, Salazar 4, Cebrero 1, Soriano 1, Cruz 0, Ferwelo 0, Defensor (L), Flor (L)

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage, held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu skills to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the fighters returned to their feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to the Mahindra Floodbuster.

But his achievement won’t be too memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat at the hands of Paul Lee and the Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix were in contention all throughout the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But the Hotshots’ comeback skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” admitted the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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