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FULL TIME: Top Stories in the UAAP Season 77 Men’s Football Semifinals

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Two action-packed matches featuring the four best teams in the men’s division of UAAP Season 77 took place last Sunday. It was a marvelous double header that did not disappoint the crowd, which nearly filled the grandstand section of the iconic Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. In case you missed it, La Salle and FEU forged a showdown for the crown as they score a late breakthrough goal each to eliminate their rivals, Ateneo and UP respectively.

While everyone who has watched the matches knew what went down from kick off up to the final whistle, the stories as told by the players and the coaches have not been fully known. That’s why we allocate this week’s round up to make sense of what they have stated after their games. Instead of the usual five, we offer you one each from the four semifinalist teams.

Paredes and Marcelino bid “up and down” UAAP stints goodbye

Emman Paredes

Emmanuel Paredes

Winger Emmanuel Paredes and defender Wilson Marcelino played their last game for Ateneo in the 1-0 loss to La Salle this Sunday. The two players came to the hill in Season 73 as rookies of the rebuilding Ateneo squad. Throughout their stay in Loyola Heights, the duo experienced the best and the worst of UAAP football.

In their first year, Marcelino was sidelined after tearing his ACL, while Paredes described the debut year as the worst, record-wise. After a fifth place finish in their second year, they lifted the UAAP trophy in the first year the Final Four format was utilized. “That team was actually built for the future, but I guess it was built for the present at that time because we won,” revealed Paredes of the 2013 championship team. Unfortunately, academic issues kept out some of the key players in the following year. The difficulty of coping with the losses resulted in the team finishing in last place again. Nonetheless, Ateneo worked hard to get themselves into the semifinals picture again, where they have ended the season at fourth. “More rookies, more individual talent, and gelled better than last year,” thought Marcelino of the glaring differences.

Wilson Marcelino

Wilson Marcelino

For 87 minutes, the young Ateneo XI challenged the league’s oldest team, and with that they can’t ask for more. “I told the boys before the game na anything can happen. Win or lose, dapat pagkatapos ng game [we’ll have] no regrets,” recalled Paredes, who had the opportunity of serving his team as captain in place of the suspended Mikko Mabanag. Center back Marcelino added, “We gave it our all. Everyone gave their best efforts.” Indeed, the Ateneans fought hard, but La Salle emerged as the better team when the referee’s final whistle sounded.

Change in mindset bears fruit for hungry La Salle squad

At the time Gelo Diamante started playing for La Salle, UAAP football applied the Final Four format as it was the year when the men’s division expanded to seven teams, thanks to NU’s participation. A regular in the league’s top four since 2009, La Salle’s chances of winning a championship improved as the new format sets up the best four teams duking it out for a spot in the Finals, compared to only the top two heading straight to the championship game in years prior. Since then, DLSU got stuck at fourth place with tough semis losses to eventual champions Ateneo and FEU.

Gelo

The difference maker in La Salle’s semifinal win over Ateneo attributes their stellar performance this season to a change in perspective, putting football as the players’ main priority aside from academics. It required a lot of sacrifice, which rewarded them a place in the final. “We gave our everything. Tama lang na nanalo kami. We played well talaga,” he claimed as his team dominated but had a tough time in making the most out of their chances prior to the winning goal. In addition, he expressed the fulfillment he felt to have defeated archrivals Ateneo in an intense rivalry match, especially as he thought that his team’s opponents gave them a good fight.

Now in the championship game, for the first time since the semis format was applied, La Salle will aim to dethrone champions FEU, the other team that dealt heartache in recent times. Last year, DLSU got eliminated in the semis with a late Dexter Chio goal that made the score 2-1 in favor of the Tamaraws. Last season’s sad memories may well be replaced with happy ones should they score more than FEU this Sunday.

FEU goalkeeping shuffle pays off against UP

Menzi

The FEU Tamaraws decided to summon Michael Menzi in between the posts with the hopes of muting the ferocious UP front line that composed of Jinggoy Valmayor, Daniel Gadia, and Michael Simms among others. It was an unforeseen event, but not a surprising one, as M. Menzi was the number one keeper of FEU’s 2013-14 championship team

During the elimination round, RJ Joyel and Patrick Rallos split the goalkeeping chore. In the two games they played the Maroons, the Tams went with the two keepers. Joyel marshalled the net in the 3-1 loss, while Rallos played the goalkeeping role slightly more in the following encounter. An injury meant that Joyel continued his teammate’s spell as the team’s last man. Despite making good saves, he was outdone by a Valmayor free kick that prevented FEU from taking all three points. In their third meeting with UP, the Tams decided to bring back the elder Menzi brothers in the position he was stationed at a season ago. He was effective as his timing and positioning often deterred UP’s charges.

FEU Assistant Coach, Dexter Chio revealed that the decision to bring M. Menzi back in goal emanated from the immense desire to win. With a clean sheet in his lone game as a goalkeeper, M. Menzi may be the favorite to play ahead of Joyel and Tallow this coming Sunday, but in football nothing is certain. Regardless of whom among them will play, everyone in gold and green needs to be prepared for the title-deciding match.

Valmayor weighs in on UP football journey

Jinggoy Valmayor ended his UAAP career in the 1-0 extra time loss to FEU last Sunday. Unlike in the other games against the Tamaraws this season, Valmayor was not able to find the back of the net, but his dedication was evident in the match, where he led the team on the attack. Realizing the conclusion of his college football career, the graduating striker gave his take on the only season his team did not reach the finals throughout his stay in Diliman.

Valmayor

“Sobrang proud ako na nag-iba ako,” said the former LSGH striker as he pointed out the fact that he never got any cards this season. It is one of the signs that he has become more mature after learning from last year’s costly mistake of missing the finals due to a two-game suspension he got in the semis match against UST. His improved demeanor did not curtail his aggressiveness in scoring goals, as he netted 15 goals in the same number of games he played in Season 77. Most of those even came against fellow contenders. Without that sizeable chunk of goals, UP may even find themselves out of the semis picture. The vitality of his presence, awareness, and skill up front may be overstated, but his contributions are simply valuable. “I can say that I’m one of the best strikers sa [history of] UP,” he proclaims. Looking at this season alone, it’s hard to disagree with that.

Now that he’s done representing UP on the pitch, the Maroons’ renowned scorer will don the similar color tone with Pachanga Diliman FC in the United Football League (UFL). Nonetheless, he’d still be around the team, open to helping them as much as possible. “Sinabi ko sa kanila na hindi ko sila iiwan. Kahit hindi na ako part ng team, tutulong pa rin ako,” the proficient striker promised.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily scrutinized on Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena during a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started when they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running body.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed the incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate on what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena — with whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal — the 24-year-old shared that he had approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he has scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded, as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao called Chris Ross the “N” word that caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also against Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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