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Gilas Pilipinas opens FIBA Asia with unexpected loss to Palestine



Gilas Pilipinas suffered an upset at the hands of a young Palestinian team, 73-75 to open their FIBA Asia Championship campaign at the CSWC Dayun in Changsha, China.

The tournament will serve as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Unranked Palestine only had four players who scored to trounce a balance attack of the Philippine national squad.

Jamal Shamla poured 26 points to go with 15 boards and three dimes to lead the charge for Palestine.

Gilas Pilipinas was caught flat in the early goings of the first quarter. The Palestinians got the first bucket of the game as they tried to match the intensity of the Filipinos as the first timers of the tournament held an early two-point cushion, 7-5. Gilas rallied through filling the lanes properly and connecting some long bombs for a 13 to nothing run to put Palestine down by 11 as early as the opening canto.

In a mini run, Palestine managed to squeeze in to trim the deficit to six but another lull allowed Philippines to score nine unanswered points to end the first period up, 27-12. Andray Blatche, who promised he’ll be in shape in time for the tournament, led his squad with early an early nine-point blast.

Despite the Philippines’ naturalized center’s continued dominance in the 2nd quarter, the Palestinians were able to get back through Jamal Abu Shamala’s prolific scoring. After only making one field goal in the opening quarter, Shamala poured in 12 more points in the second quarter. The 6’5 forward also had eight boards under his name in the first half.

As Blatche was subbed out with seven minutes left in the second period, the Palestinians were able to trim the deficit to just five, 40-45, before the half ended. Blatche led Gilas with a 14 markers and eight boards in the opening half of their #RoadtoRio campaign.

After going cold in the later part of the second quarter, Gilas blasted with a seven to none rally. However, the Palestine nationals unloaded an 11-4 run to inch back to a five-point hole.

With all the scoring only coming from four people namely Shamala, Imad Qahwash, and Sani Sakakini, Palestine managed to pull a 55-59 count at the end of the third. Blatche also went scoreless the entire third period for the Philippines.

After some anxious moments right after the Palestinians scored the first basket of the payoff period to trim the lead to two, Gilas Pilipinas returned the favor with a 9-2 run to give themselves a nine point cushion with six more minutes left in the final frame. Gilas maintained their nine-point margin until the final three minutes of the match. But the young Palestine squad were determined to turn the pregame reports around.

With 15 seconds remaining, Gilas, being down by two, tried to map out a play to score a win or force an overtime. Blatche was able to heave a corner three that was blocked as the final buzzer sounded, and the Palestinians completed a 13-2 run in the final three minutes to stun the Filipinos.

Gilas Pilipinas was led by Blatche’s 21 points and 12 boards. He went 7/18 from the field but shot just 1/7 from downtown. The backcourt tandem of Castro and Romeo combined for 21 points but Romeo shot a horrendous 4/13 from the field while Castro was just 3/8.

As a team, the Philippines shot just 33.8% from the field compared to 32.5% from Palestine. However, Gilas was outrebounded 58-53.

Gilas Pilipinas will play Hong Kong tomorrow at 9:30am (Philippine time).

The Scores:
Palestine (75) – Shamala 26, Sakanini 22, Qahwash 17, Sakanini 10, Yousef 0, Younis 0, Haroon 0.
Philippines (73) – Blatche 21, Romeo 11, Castro 10, Intal 6, De Ocampo 6 Abueva 5, Thoss 4, Norwood 3, Hontiveros 3, Pingris 2, Ganuelas 2, Taulava 0.

Being the favorites of the group, Gilas (0-1) needs to win their next two games versus Hong Kong and Kuwait to be able to have a chance to advance to the next round with a decent standing. Palestine now joins Hong Kong on top of the standings with the win.

Hong Kong1 win0 losses
Palestine1 win0 losses
Philippines0 wins1 loss
Kuwait0 wins1 loss

Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win



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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Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots



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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Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics



FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for the Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to their first win after a historic 16-game skid, at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover by the six-foot-four forward.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far, not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made them. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all onto himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he had been frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win



Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

But Alab’s bench could not sustain the effort of the starters, which meant the team was clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a spark, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. were on point. The former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards, but they let the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan slice the lead to as low as four points. Then free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28, when it takes on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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