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How Filipino-flavored Hoops Reached Western Sydney

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Members of the Western Sydney Basketball Association Amigos raised their fists, and began celebrating after Vergel Alcantara — who once played for the Hoop Dreams-Australia side, which battled Powerade Pilipinas in 2009 — converted on a reverse lay-up that put WSBA ahead over the Perth Sharks, 57-55 in the final 15 seconds of the contest.

WSBA followed the possession with a defensive stop to prevent Perth from attempting a shot; time expired, and the Amigos stormed the centercourt of San Juan Arena immediately as they finally booked a win after four matches in the Philippines-Australia Goodwill Basketball Invitational, an event organized by Sports Vision and supported by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

The atmosphere inside the WSBA dugout was electric; the players were ecstatic. On one corner was a whiteboard with the words “Best Fil-Aus team?” and “Bragging rights!” written below the team’s game plan and key points for the afternoon.

Down by nine points, 31-40 entering the halftime break, WSBA seemed leaning on “puso,” fighting back in the second half to steal the game. With a handful of Filipino-Australians on the roster, it was only fitting the selection from Western Sydney was able to book a win in stunning fashion.

A 1-3 record wasn’t really something to brag about, but for the team, which traveled several miles to get here, it was something to be proud of, as it validated the team’s passion for basketball.

After all, members of the squad started from scratch a year ago, and had to learn the ropes before finally being able to come together as one.

The team’s mentor Cromwell Alvarez, 34, was from San Andres, Manila, although moved to Australia when he was nine years old. Juggling time between being an IT manager and a hoops enthusiast, Alvarez decided to organize his fellow basketball junkies in Blacktown, Western Sydney.

“It’s my passion. Every Saturday and Sunday we play games, and that’s how it started,” Alvarez said.

Unlike in the Philippines where basketball is king, Alvarez revealed that hoops maybe the sixth or seventh most popular sport in the area, and not many people are knowledgeable about it.

Players who wish to play lack the fundamentals or basic skills, and have to undergo the many phases of training before becoming competitive, a stark contrast to prospects in the Philippines, which seem to possess the natural ability to play basketball since childhood, because of all the exposure and how integrated it is to the culture.

This pushed Alvarez to form the WSBA, trying to inculcate basketball knowledge and basics to people from the area. Prior to having a big league, Alvarez relayed that the association started with groups playing a series of pick-up games.

It slowly garnered attention, and not long after, organized basketball games were played. It is now a community-based sports league giving men and women from different parts of the globe, including a handful of Filipinos, the opportunity to play hoops.

With eight divisions and over 60 teams, ranging from semi-pros (Division I) to developmental teams (Division 8), the WSBA has given aspiring basketball stars new hope. Having started the training ground, Alvarez hopes the league continues to gro and for members to receive breaks in the world of hoops.

“I feel happy, and hopefully it gets bigger and gets more recognized because there are players there that should compete here. Mga Filipino talaga, or yung mga bata namin sana makakuha ng scholarship,” Alvarez shared.

One of the association’s goals is to also build camaraderie with the Filipino basketball population. Alvarez wishes there would be more invitational tournaments to strengthen the partnership between the Asia-Pacific countries, and for them to also learn more about how the Filipinos play.

“The Filipinos play physical. Execution is good. They are athletic, quick, and long. We’ve got a lot to learn, and that’s why we are here. I want the WSBA to grow and have a connection here,” Alvarez added.

After sharing his thoughts, Alvarez and some members chose to stay to witness the National University-Arellano University affair.

There were many points to learn and a long way to go to make the WSBA even better, but with the passion of a Filipino baller, there is nothing holding Alvarez back from achieving such dream.

Photo by JOBOY FLORES

Photo by JOBOY FLORES

“I just want to bring the basketball community (in Western Sydney) back up.”

 Cover Photo by Cleo Diana

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Christian Standhardinger goes perfect from stripe in Hong Kong’s rout of Formosa

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After going a horrid 5-for-17 from the stripe during their first loss of the season last January 9, Christian Standhardinger made sure to make good on his free throws to power the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club to a dominant 99-79 rout of the Formosa Dreamers, Thursday evening in Southorn Stadium.

The 6-foot-8 Filipino-German, who tallied 37 points and 19 rebounds in the overtime loss to Saigon, went a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

The contest itself was not close, as the defending champions were able to impose their will on the bottom-ranked squad, leading by as much as 23 points, 93-70, after two free throws by Standhardinger with 2:58 remaining.

If Standhardinger was having a good day with his free throws, the entire Formosa squad could not say the same, going 13-of-27 from the line.

Tyler Lamb had 25 markers as well for Hong Kong, while Marcus Elliott grabbed a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Lenny Daniel paced Formosa with 25 points and 11 rebounds. World Import Ronnie Aguilar had 14 points and 16 rebounds but went just 5-for-14 from the field.

With the win, Hong Kong goes to 8-1, while the Dreamers fell to 1-8.

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Chooks-to-Go President hopes 3×3 World Cup breaks Philippine Arena record

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Last October 27, 2017, Game Seven of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals between 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 on 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 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 t

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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 has formally announced their 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 their 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 their PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs they have 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 are limited 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 of copping 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 beast.

Going up against the veteran-laden Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burgers-backed squad suffered 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 served as a wake-up call. Adjusting on the fly, Perez and Marcelino rallied the Jawbreakers back — even fashioning 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. The 24-year-old Perez added 19 points, five assists, two steals, and a block.

With their first game in the bag, the duo — and the rest of the Jawbreakers — now have the 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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