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At The Games Episode 4: On the board two days before Opening

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With just a few hours to the formal opening of the 28th Southeast Asian Games, Team Philippines notched four medals in the two days leading up to the inauguration. With the team sports struggling, the individual athletes stepped up to usher in the delegation’s full blown campaign on Saturday, June 6.

Siklab exits SEAG winless

Photo by Leanne Espina

Photo by Leanne Espina

Over at the OCBC Arena Hall 1, the Philippine women’s netball team could not recover from the stinging losses and dropped the last two matches on their first-ever international competition. Siklab lost to Asian champions and hosts Singapore, 12-84, Wednesday, June 3. And in the following day, Brunei sealed their place in the semifinals with a 56-32 thrashing of the Nationals.

In Wednesday’s action, Singapore scored 21 goals in each of the quarters while limiting Philippines to single digits. The top favorites had a great night on offense with 82% shooting clip led by Charmaine Soh’s 22 points. On the other hand, Siklab struggled, netting just 42% of their attempts. Thea Cenarosa scored 7 points for the Nationals.

It was a different story in the next day’s first few quarters. The Philippines fought hard in the first quarter against Brunei as the period ended with both teams tied at 9-apiece. The Bruneians outscored Siklab in the second, 13-8, to lead by 5 at the half. With semis berth on the line, Brunei pummelled the Filipinas in the next two quarters, 34-15, ending the game with the win.

Siklab Pilipinas ended the competition winless but gained experience that they will take to their next one.

U23 loses second

Cambodia vs Phil

In the Jalan Besar Stadium, the Philippine U23 men’s football team failed to follow up on their commendable showing in their opening as they lost their match, Wednesday, June 3, against Cambodia, 1-3.

The Young Azkals played sloppily in the first half allowing the Angkor Warriors to build up their attack and finish. Cambodia led 2-0 at the half courtesy of goals from captain Prak Mony Udom and playmaker Keo Seokpheng. At the second half, the Philippines played better and were finally able to get the ball in the midfield. The improved fluidity from the Nationals was rewarded with a goal from Paolo Salenga. The Cambodians, however, would not be denied with the victory as substitute Chan Vathanaka slotted the insurance goal off a defensive lapse from the Azkals’ Richard Talaroc. At the injury time, Filipino midfielder Arnel Amita was sent off for his second yellow card and will be missing the next match.

Cambodia takes on Indonesia on Saturday, June 6, while the Philippines battles with Myanmar sans Amita on Sunday, June 7. Both matches will be at the Jalan Besar Stadium.

Synchro swimmers sink in Games return

The duo of Allyssa Salvador and Jemimah Tiambeng could not recover from their low technical score and finished last at the end of the duet event of synchronized swimming at the OCBC Aquatic Center.

The Philippine pair scored 54.2667 in the free routine preliminary, Wednesday, June 3, but dropped to 53.0333 in the finals the next day. Despite Singapore getting the top spot at the finals, Malaysia still got the gold in this event. The hosts settled for the silver, while Indonesia rounded up the podium.

It might be the end of synchronized swimming, but the aquatics campaign of Team Philippines will resume with swimming starting on Sunday, June 6. Water polo matches will start on June 10.

Gonzales pulled through for the Paddlers; delivers silver

At Day 3 of the table tennis competitions at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, woes continued for the Team Philippines as they suffered defeat after defeat. It was again the veteran Richard Gonzales who rescued the day after clinching a playoff berth.
After their rousing win in the mixed doubles Round of 16, young upstarts Sendrina Balatbat and Ryan Jacolo fought hard in the quarterfinals, but the experience duo of Singapore’s Yu Mengyu and Yang Zi was just too strong. The hosts won the match, 11-5 11-1 11-5, ending the road for the Philippines in this event.

Balatbat could not bounce back from this loss, as the Filipina dropped her third women’s singles match of the pool phase against Malaysian Lee Rou You in four sets, 4-11 11-6 6-11 3-11. UAAP MVP Ian Lariba also failed to notch a win. Thailand’s Sawettabut Suthasini edged Lariba 11-6 12-0 11-7. Jacolo suffered the same fate as doubles partner Balatbat in his men’s singles pool match. 2013 silver medallist Le Tien Dat of Vietnam overpowered the Filipino rookie, 11-7 11-3 11-8.

As the lone man standing for the whole table tennis contingent, veteran Gonzales took back the hands of time in his penultimate match of the pool to secure a semifinals berth. Gonzales took the first two sets easily, 11-3 11-6. Vietnamese Tran Tuan Quynh kept the third frame close; nonetheless, the Filipino pulled through with a 15-13 win.

The next day at the same venue, the team played inspired table tennis with all the singles entries except Gonzales making their last hurrah for their respective events. Balatbat started the day with a straight sets win against Sannivad Thippalak of Laos, 17-15 11-5 11-5. Lariba alos ended her Games defeating Indonesia’s Novita Oktariyani, 11-5 11-8 11-7. The winning streak was halted when Jacolo lost his final men’s singles assignment in a gruelling five-set match, 11-2 5-11 11-9 10-12 10-12.

In spite of having a sure semifinals berth, Gonzales still went all out in his last preliminary outing. The 44-year old dismantled Muhamad Muhamad of Malaysia, 11-2 11-4 11-3, to officially top his group and went on the medal rounds. In the semifinals, the Filipino took World top 150 player Zhe Yu Clarence Chew of Singapore to an ardous seven-set battle. Gonzales took the first set comfortably, 11-4, before Chew took the next three sets, 12-10 11-8 11-9. Digging deep, the 2013 bronze medallist swept the last thee frames, 11-9 11-4 12-10, to punch his ticket to the finals.

In the finals, it was an excellent battle between two experienced players in Gonzales and hometown bet Gao Ning. Gao took the first two sets, 11-6 11-9, but not without resistance from the Filipino. Gonzales took the third frame off the reigning SEA Games champion, 11-9. The Singaporean finished the match, taking the last two games, 11-8 11-3, to clinch the gold. Gonzales ended with the silver to close out the day for the paddlers.

Gonzales, Jacolo, and Rodel Valle will still battle at the men’s team event, June 6, Sunday. They are grouped with Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The top two teams in each group will proceed to the semifinals.

Fencers string up wins and medals

Dax Lucas

Back at the OCBC Arena, the Philippine fencing team started strong and finished stronger to walk away with the country’s first medals of the Games.

In the men’s individual epee, UAAP standouts Gian Franco Rodriguez and Noelito Jose performed well in the pools, enough for them to advance to the Round of 16. The journey for both epeeists ended shortly, however, after suffering losses. Rodriguez lost a close 13-15 bout to Indonesian Muhammad Haerullah, while Jose succumbed to Mun Hou Samson Lee of Singapore, 6-15. In the other men’s event for Wednesday, veteran sabreur Eric Brando received a bye to the quarterfinals.
However, the former UE stalwart lost this bout, 6-15, and failed to reach the next phase.

In the women’s individual foil, only Justine Gail Tinio moved on as Wilhelmina Lozada failed to win a single bout in the pools. Tinio sent herself to the quarterfinals with a tight 15-13 victory over Myanmar’s Kyaw may Tinzar. The UAAP MVP battled the odds in the next two stages as she upset two Vietnamese top seeds in succession. The Filipina kicked number 1 Do Tin Anh out of contention, 15-11. The 2014 Philippine National Games champion scored 11 points in the first period to put the bout out of reach. In the semifinals, Tinio also pulled away in the first frame and did not look back to secure her shot at the gold.

In the finals, the SEAG rookie felt nerves due to long layoff to this match. In the end, Wenying Wang of Singapore overpowered the young Tinio, 7-15, to get her country’s first individual gold ever in the sport. Tinio clinched the silver to get the Philippines’ first medal of the biennial meet.

Justine-Tinio-Gold

Fueled by Tinio’s start, the fencers continued their good showing on Thursday. In the men’s individual foil, 2007 gold medallist Emerson Segui and two-time UAAP MVP Nathaniel Perez finished well after the pools to move on to direct elimination. Segui lost his Round of 16 match against Dennis Satriana of Indonesia, 13-15. Perez avenged this loss of Segui by edging Satriana with the same scoreline in the quarterfinals; and the UE standout moves to the semifinals. In the women’s sabre, Jylyn Nicanor’s campaign ended after losing to Thailand’s Ngernrungruangoj Pornsawan, 11-15.

Women’s epeeists Harlene Raguin and Hanniel Abella battled each other in the quarterfinals. In the end, it was the more senior Raguin who went to the next round, winning 15-12 over Abella. In the semifinals, the Philippine veteran pulled the rag off Rania Rahardja of Singapore, 15-10, to go for that gold. At the gold medal match, the long-time national campaigner led 5-3 after the first period. However, the Vietnamese opponent Tran Thi Len changed her gameplan to win, 11-7, and get her country another mint; whereby denying the Philippines its first gold before the Games formally open the morrow.

In separate interviews, Tinio and Raguin shared their frustration of not getting the gold. On her part, the foilist Tinio shared that her excitement and nervousness overwhelmed her in her bouts in the pools resulting to mixed results. However, the current UAAP women’s MVP restored her focus for the knockout bouts with the help of her coach. “Si coach kasi talagang mino-motivate niya ako; na lagi niya[ng] sinasabi, ‘Step by step, matatalo natin yan.’ Ta’s sinasabi niya na, ‘Puso; ‘wag kang bibitaw kaya mo yan.’” When asked about her reaction on his SEAG individual debut, “Masaya na malungkot po. Malungkot kasi nakakapaghinayang kasi isang opportunity na yun para maabot ko yung ginto. Masaya kasi nakuha ko silver tapos madami ako[ng] natutunan, pinagka loob sakin ‘to ng Panginoon.” The longtime national fencer, on the other hand, said she was confident that she will perform well in the Games because of his experience. Raguin expressed the disappointment that she and Abella battled each other in the quarterfinals, “Medyo nalungkot kasi ang aga namin magtapat. Usapan kasi namin sa finals kami magtatapat, pero ‘yon talaga naging destiny.” The former UST standout recalled what happened in the Finals. She told the author, “Nagchange kasi sya ng idea and actions, at hindi na ako nakapag-adjust agad.” In ending, both fencers vowed to bounce back in their respective team events. Raguin even stated that they are already planning for that event.


The action takes a backseat as the opening ceremony of the 28th SEA Games happen at the new Singapore National Stadium, 830 pm Philippine time, Friday, June 5. The organizers hope to outclass the 2008 Summer Olympics opener in Beijing, China, in a spectacle with 4000 performers.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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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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