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FINALS REMATCH! DLSU staves off late ADMU rally to clinch 2nd finals slot

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DLSU (8-2), 1st72031001014114
ADMU (7-3), 2nd42102001212189

The DLSU Green Batters were still in danger of losing a top-two spot if they lost this rivalry game, the continuation of the suspended game against the UP Fighting Maroons, and the playoff game that would have followed it.

In the quest for their first UAAP Senior’s crown, Dino Imperial, Carly Laurel, and Carlos Muñoz, the seniors of the DLSU Green Batters, did not allow any more setbacks in fending off a late Ateneo rally and eventually booked their spot in the finals last Thursday, at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

The Ateneo de Manila University started the game with rookie Radito Banzon to replace senior Iñigo Untalan as he was nursing an injury. Moreover, former UAAP MVP and best pitcher Andy Tan was supposed to start the game but arrived late, which let sophomore Nacho Cojuangco pitch in his place.

In the top half of the first inning, sophomore standout Nacho Cojuangco struggled with the bomb squad of the DLSU Green Batters. Lead-off batter Paolo Salud was able to pop a single to open the game. Carly Laurel then reached base after a fielder’s choice, while a sacrifice bunt by Gabriel Pineda gave Salud and Laurel prime real estate. Carlos Muñoz and Dino Imperial were walked to give DLSU their first run of the day and still have the bases loaded. A costly throwing error by ADMU co-captain Matt Laurel, gave DLSU two more runs while gaining the corners with Imperial at third and Boo Barandiaran at first. Cojuangco then walked Cholo Dominguez and Paul Naguit that gave DLSU another run with just one out. Francis “Hashi” Hashimoto then popped a huge double to left field that led to runs by Barandiaran and Dominguez. At that point, the DLSU offense had already rotated their entire batting order and efficiently scored six runs. Another costly error, this time at first base, led to a Naguit run. The DLSU rally ended with the ouster of Hashi at home and a caught fly by Laurel.

The lanky rookie from De La Salle-Zobel, Jonathan Park, was tasked to anchor the DLSU defense against the defending champions. ADMU lead-off batter and fifth-year player Adriene Bernardo was hit by a pitch while Radito Banzon was able to secure base off an error by DLSU’s second baseman to immediately give ADMU two bases. The bases were loaded after the current best slugger in the tournament, Matt Laurel, was walked due to balls. A sacrifice fly by Dio Remollo sparked an Ateneo rally that scored Bernardo and Banzon while Matt Laurel scored a run of his own off of a Ryon Tionloc double. Finally, Renzo “Chong” Ramos capped off the ADMU rally with an RBI single to cut the DLSU lead to just three runs to end the opening salvo.

Dino Imperial had an impressive second inning in assisting on a Carlos Muñoz run after connecting with a double, and also picking-up a run of his own coming from a Boo Barandiaran RBI, to extend the DLSU lead to 9-4 midway through the second inning. The blue and white squad then rallied back. League leader in RBIs, Matt Laurel, popped a single in the second inning that led to an Adriene Bernardo run. Matt Laurel also picked up a run of his own coming from a Ryon Tionloc RBI in that same inning.

After getting warmed up at the Ateneo bullpen, Andy Tan was all set to go and replaced Nacho Cojuangco at the top of the third inning. After a fly out of the first two batters, Carly Laurel was able to gain third base after an error while the other corner was secured by Gabriel Pineda. Fortunately for the ADMU fielder, a fly out by Carlos Muñoz left the two runners stranded. The ADMU offense managed to cut the lead to just two runs, the smallest lead of the game, at the third inning after an RBI single by Banzon that led to a Ramos run. Inning ended with DLSU on top by just two runs 9-7.

Even with Andy Tan pitching against the DLSU offense, the momentum was clearly in favor of the team known as the Bomb Squad in the fourth inning. On the fourth inning they were able to make three runs, pushing the DLSU lead to 12-7 highlighted by back-to-back RBI singles from Hashimoto and Paolo Salud. Then at the top of the fifth inning, DLSU would go up by six runs courtesy of a Barandiaran sacrifice that led to an Imperial run.

Senior and team captain Carly Laurel was then designated as pitcher in the middle innings, replacing De La Salle Zobel rookie Jonathan Park. With two outs at the bottom of the fifth, rookie Radito Banzon popped a 2 RBI double that led to runs by Chip Esguerra and Rapho Balagtas. The fifth inning ended with DLSU still up 13-9.

After giving up four runs during the first two innings he pitched, Andy Tan, already getting a feel of the opposing batters, only gave up a single run at the eighth inning from Boo Barandiaran. Chong Ramos redeemed that run at the bottom of the eighth. Going into the final regulation inning, the defending champions were still down 14-10.

Andy Tan and the Ateneo defense shut out the DLSU offense at the top of the ninth highlighted by a huge 1-2-3 double play to close the top half of the ninth. Coach Joseph Orillana then subbed out Carly Laurel for a hardly warmed-up Carlos Muñoz. This was just the second game Muñoz pitched this season, the last one being the ADMU-DLSU game of the first round.

After Adriene Bernardo was tagged out at second base for first out, Radito Banzon and Matt Laurel were able to obtain first and second base respectively. Luis Puno was then tasked to pinch run for Laurel. Then, Dio Remollo hit a single to load all the bases with just one out. Next batter Ryon Tionloc was then walked due to balls to score Banzon. After a strike-out of Lorenzo Ramos for second out, Luis Puno slid in a run off of a passed ball to cut the DLSU lead to just two runs. Chip Esguerra was intentionally walked to again load the bases for the defending champions. Supposed next batter John Altomonte was subbed out for senior Iñigo Untalan. However, Untalan’s fly was caught at first base to seal the game for the Green Batters.

After leading the team standing for the majority of the season, the ADMU Blue Batters will go into the finals with a three-game losing streak. The majority of the team were in somber spirits postgame, but team Captain Matthew Laurel tried to console them. There’s no time to sulk for the team as the finals match is scheduled to take place in seven days.

After the game, we had a chance to talk to ADMU’s ace pitcher Andy Tan. “Big Game” Andy told us that the team became relaxed after the first round. “Some of us were medyo laxed because once we knew we were 7 and 0, we knew we were in the finals. Also, some of our players pa got injured like Matt [Laurel] and [Iñigo] Untalan pulled their hamstrings. But those aren’t really excuses to lose games.”

“Coming into this game, we really wanted to win this game and especially get our rhythm for the finals. Of course, when you play La Salle, you always want to beat La Salle,”the former MVP added.

During the first two losses of the team, the ADMU hitting was clearly missing. The team had a season-low five hits during their game against UST. “In training yesterday, we were working on our hitting because apparently that’s what we lacked the past few games but today we had three guys with three hits so that’s already nine. What we have to work on for the finals is our defense because a lot of the runs scored are unearned and through our errors,” Tan concluded.

DLSU senior Dino Imperial had an excellent outing, his best this season, in having three runs and two RBIs.

Dino Imperial told us that the feeling of having another shot at winning their first senior’s crown in 12 years was a euphoric feeling. “We finally know that we can beat Ateneo,” added Imperial.

“Looking back, we started the season really rough. We had two losses in the first round. We worked harder at practice which resulted to us sweeping the second round.” Moreover, with seven rookies in the line-up with four coming from La Salle schools, Imperial told us that the integration of the rookies is a testament to the excellent La Salle Baseball program.

After beating the UP Fighting Maroons last Sunday with a score of 9-4, the Green Batters will enter Game 1 as the home team (bottom innings) and, if necessary, also Game 3. The DLSU Green Batters and the ADMU Blue Batters will have a rematch reminiscent of the UAAP Season 76 finals this Thursday, March 5 at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

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Basketball

Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates

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Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting

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Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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Jake Vicen performs under pressure as Blazers end eight-year title drought

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For the second straight match, the championship showdown between the College of Saint Benilde Blazers and the Arellano University Chiefs reached kicks from the penalty spot. And once more, goalkeeper Jake Vicen came up big.

The third-year custodian denied one of Arellano’s prolific scorers Roberto Corsame in the shootout and sealed the title after eight long years, 3-2, penalties, Wednesday evening at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Blazers made its intentions clear from the get-go as they repeatedly pierced through the defense of the Chiefs.

Nonetheless, at the 38th minute, the white-shirts clinched the goal they much deserved. The Blazers pushed forward, and almost got a call in their favor. The referees, however, played advantage, and fortunately Benilde held on to the play.

Miguel Artillera found himself unmarked on the right flank and easily blasted the ball past opposing keeper Jericho Desalisa.

The Marlon Maro—mentored side continued to play aggressive in the following period and almost plucked a second one. This time, the Chiefs’ backline led by eventual Best Defender Patrick Bernarte held on.

Such stand was rewarded by their attacking force minutes later, and, as expected, the equalizer came from the counterattack.

Corsame received a pass from the middle and defeated two defenders, and seeing Vicen off his line, sent the ball into the onion bag at the 49th minute.

Both sides tried to break the deadlock, but fatigue slowly crept in the dying minutes of the second period and the whole of extra time, setting up another thrilling finish in the shootout.

Much like in Game 2, the two keepers came up big as Desalisa and Vicen denied their second kickers a clear shot. Arellano went to miss another shot, and it was then up to the Blazers to seal the deal.

Dean Ebarle stepped up and calmly and slotted the ball into the goal for the lead at 3-2. Afterwards, Corsame faced Vicen, but this time, the Cebuano keeper would not be denied. The latter went to his strong side, and, fortunately, guessed right for the huge save as pandemonium erupted from the Benilde crowd and squad.

The Finals series hero and season Best Goalkeeper Vicen was pleased that the new champions carved out the historic win despite early adversity. “Big loss ‘yun, si Val [Calvo], kasi may magagawa talaga siya kung nakalaro namin,” he said of losing their former captain.

Nonetheless, the squad stayed focused on getting it done this year.

“Binuhos lang namin every minute sa training. Luckily, hard work paid off,” closed Vicen.

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Kelly Williams rides Angkas to make it to TNT game

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The TNT Katropa almost played shorthanded when they took on the Blackwater Elite Wednesday evening at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Early in the afternoon, a fire broke out in C5 that caused major traffic in the area. One of the people that was stuck was TNT’s 12-year veteran Kelly Williams.

“Coming from the South, I got to Taguig in about two and a half hours and I heard there was a fire on C5 and I was like, ‘Oh my god what am I going to do?’,” recalled Williams.

“I considered running, I considered jogging. Whatever you got to do, crawl, walk or run.”

Panicking, the 6-foot-6 Filipino-American was adviced by his driver to download Philippine-based mobile app Angkas — a motorcycle service provider. And it was one heck of a ride for the big man.

“My driver said check Angkas, an Uber for motorcycles. Okay. Quickly got out of the car in the middle of the C5, the middle of traffic, found this guy under the overpass, he was surprised to see me,” narrated animatedly by Williams.

“I got my helmet on, jumped on the bicycle and we got here for about 40 minutes,” he furthered. “Every stoplight, the other motorcycles pull up, double take, ‘Oh, what are you doing here?’, ‘Hi guys!’ It was fun, it was actually pretty fun but never again, make sure you plan ahead guys if you possibly get stuck in traffic.

“But it was a good experience for me. You get to see Manila in a different light.”

Around midway through the first quarter of the game, Williams finally arrived. Though relieved to see him, coach Nash Racela and the rest of the Katropa made sure to let him know that he was late.

“Good experience, I apologized to the team, I owe them a team lunch or something and I told coach I won’t do it again,” the 35-year-old expressed.

“Let’s pray that it doesn’t happen again.”

Williams compensated for it by giving TNT quality minutes. During their 92-83 win against the Elite, he tallied six points, six rebounds, and four blocks in just 17 minutes of action.

“You got to come out there with extra effort after coming in late like that. But it’s always my intention to come out and do whatever I have to do,” he expressed.

“Luckily, I was in a good position to get some blocks and it worked out that way.”

And he owes a lot to his driver Richard, who got him to the venue just in time.

“It was a good experience though, thank you to the cyclist, I think his name is Richard or something like that, he’s a lifesaver.

“I tipped him very handsomely. It was about a hundred but I’m sure I paid with whatever was in my pocket because I was very grateful,” he quipped.

Still, he knows that he also owes a lot to his team. He plans on making it up by treating everyone to lunch during their next practice.

Lesson learned for Kelly.

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