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Goma, Rocky discuss Champion Infinity and beyond

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The Champion Infinity Active Smashers were eliminated in the first stage of the inaugural Spikers Turf tournament last May 12, 2015 [aired on PTV 4 last May 15, 2015].

Even in defeat, it can’t be denied that the Active Smashers were one of the most exciting teams to watch in the tournament as they went toe-to-toe with the league’s top teams. The team had a “never say die” mindset best exemplified by their games against the Philippine Army Troopers, a fifth set classic against the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, and a game of the year candidate against PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters. The team eventually bowed out of the tournament, due to the quotient system, against the Cignal HD Spikers.

It was a memorable run for the team formerly known as the Systema Active Smashers. Tiebreaker Times caught up with team captain Sylvester “Rocky” Honrade and Richard “Goma” Gomez to reflect on the team’s first outing this year and what the future holds for Champion Infinity and men’s volleyball.

“We had a difficult time with the first two games and then we made some adjustments with our offense but nabitin lang talaga during the last game,” Gomez told us about the teams early struggles that eventually recurred in the most pivotal time of the tournament.

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Former San Beda Red Lion Honrade then added that they lacked the time needed to prepare for their final game since they only had a day to prepare for Cignal. “We fell short with the preparation kasi sa schedule din naman ng mga players mahirap itugma. We are a team composed of professionals, pero hindi namin puwede sabihin na yun ang dahilan. Through all that, the mindset of the team pa rin is never say die. The outcome of the last game was a result of Cignal being more prepared than us at naaral nila yung kilos nila against us.”

Unlike the majority of the teams competing in the tournament, Champion Infinity is a team composed of professionals that only joined the tournament because of their love for the game. While everyone knows that Richard Gomez is an actor, both he and Honrade are also entrepreneurs. “It’s kind of difficult in a way to balance our work and practice schedule but we made the necessary adjustments for our time for training. That’s why all our training happens at night. We start at eight in the evening and end at 11,” the 49-year old actor-athlete said about the team’s daily grind. Honrade then added that, “sobrang hirap to schedule, but that is where maturity comes in. It proves our commitment to something that we love. Kung ako na lang, as an example, kung tutuusin dapat tinututukan ko na lang ang mga negosyo na-deploy ko pero siyempre nag-commit ako dito so I need to make time. I learned to be strict with time management.” It should also serve as a lesson to the team’s young guns, “Sana yung mga players namin na bata-bata pa, like sila Joven [Camaganakan] and Myco [Antonio], will learn from us.”

But through all the team’s ups and downs, the Active Smashers are more than just a team, they are a family. “We set the team not only for playing. It’s really a brotherhood, diyan nag start. Iba talaga ang bonding namin with each other. With the guidance of the Gomez and Torres family, we’re really blessed to be part of a team that treated us as a family. Sabi nga sa Fast and the Furious, we don’t have friends, we got family. Yun yung naging motto ng team namin. Wala talagang iwanan tulad nila AJ [Pareja], mga Systema boys na Champion boys na ngayon, Bench boys, still brothers pa rin hanggang ngayon and still connected pa rin kami,” the 6’5 captain said about how close-knit Champion is on and off the court. “We’re very close. We try to bring the team together all the time. Kasi we come from different places, different backgrounds, and different teams. Bringing them together is a way to build comradery, let them bond and know each other.” Goma added about the team’s bright future.

But the recently inducted Philippine Super Liga Hall of Famer, Richard Gomez, has worries about the plan of bringing in imports for the next conference of the men’s volleyball tournament. “Hopefully, the second conference of the SVL won’t include imports since di pa hinog ang men’s volleyball unlike the women’s. It also changes everything. The budget becomes bigger. Hopefully it stays all-Filipino.”

Nonetheless, both Gomez and Honrade are already looking forward to the next conference with much optimism. “Ang team ng Champion, kahit nag-iba ang pangalan, we’re still the same team. I mean now we have time to rest but what we plan is to stay strong, stay healthy and continue our training. This is just the first quarter of the year so marami pang papasok. Hopefully ma-improve namin yung lapses namin in the next tournament we play,” Honrade said with a smile. Goma closed the interview with what Champion Infinity needs to do during the off-season, “we have to start training earlier and we need to recruit bigger players. We have to be a more defensive team since a lot of our players are great on offense.”

With a combination of youth and experience, the Champion Infinity is a franchise that is set on competing in the men’s local volleyball scene for the long haul. But as Honrade said, the Active Smashers are more than just a team, they are family.

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ABL

Joshua Munzon, Westsports snap Saigon’s streak in highly emotional contest

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Photo by ASEAN Basketball League

Entering Wednesday night’s game, Mikey Williams and the Saigon Heat were on a high, slaying the winning streaks of Hong Kong Eastern and Nanhai Kung Fu. However, Joshua Munzon and the Westsports Malaysia Dragons had other things in mind, keeping the Heat winless at the MABA Stadium, 91-87.

In his fourth game since returning to the Dragons, Munzon filled up the stat sheet, tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Besides putting up the numbers, the athletic swingman from California helped limit reigning Heritage Player of the Week Williams to his worst game so far in the ABL. Averaging 27.33 points, 6.67 assists, and 6.0 rebounds prior to this game, Williams went field goal-less against the Dragons, missing all 11 of his attempts. The Filipino-American floor general was able to dish out eight assists and grab five caroms.

Westsports led by as much as 11 points in the final frame, 82-71, after Munzon found Marcus Marshall for a triple with 4:59 remaining. Behind World Imports Akeem Scott and Maxie Esho, the Heat stormed right back but was answered by a long bomb by Munzon to keep them at bay.

Marshall and Scott figured in a shootout to close out the game but in the end, the hosts were still able to etch out their second straight victory.

Marshall finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Dragons while Scott’s 44-point game went for naught.

After the emotionally charged contest though, few unkind words were exchanged by the officials of both squads that almost resulted into a brawl. Fortunately, things did not escalate beyond that.

In the video, Munzon was also seen shoving a Saigon player to try and pacify the situation. The league is currently investigating the post-game incident.

With the win, Westsports Malaysia raised its record to 3-4 while dropping Saigon to 4-3.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Edward Kelly honored to fight with brother Eric

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Eric and Edward Kelly lived under the same roof for years in their hometown of Baguio City when they were young and shared the same burning passion in martial arts.

Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Eric and Edward did not always get along with one another as the two fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.

“We were not that close before. We always fought. In short, Eric and I were headaches to our parents,” Edward recalled in jest.

“But of course, things change when you grow up and mature. We now appreciate each other’s company.”

Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them.

Edward paid attention to the growing accolades of his older brother and was heavily motivated by it.

“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he bared. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”

Years later, both men have made remarkable runs as outstanding martial artists in their respective professional careers.

Eric is widely regarded as one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines.

A Wushu practitioner who combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, Eric owns nine scintillating submissions and one knockout out of 12 total career victories.

Eric’s most impressive showing to date came in a submission win over Rob Lisita in July 2014, a performance that earned him the USD 50,000 ONE Warrior Bonus.

Meanwhile, Edward is considered as one of the best and brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the well-established martial arts scene in the Philippines.

With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Edward brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned Wushu to center stage as he showcases his impeccable skillset inside the ONE Championship cage.

In addition, the younger Kelly has won three of his last four bouts under the ONE Championship banner, all by spectacular finish.

The Kelly brothers get a rare chance on Friday, January 26 as the siblings will compete side-by-side when ONE Championship holds its first of the four scheduled events in the country for 2018.

Eric squares off with Brazilian standout Rafael Nunes on the undercard of ONE: Global Superheroes, while Edward crosses paths with Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a three-round featherweight clash.

It is the first time both of them will be featured at a ONE Championship event together, and Edward plans to make it a night they will never forget.

“I am so excited because finally, it’s going to happen. It marks the first time that I will compete alongside my older brother. Surely, it’s going to be a memorable night for the both of us,” he said.

“We have the same aim of winning. So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”

As Eric seeks to get back on the winning track at the expense of Nunes, Edward is likewise looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout winning streak snapped by American stalwart Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.

In his next cage outing, Edward goes up against Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six wins to his credit.

“My coaches has prepared me well for this. I am not going to disappoint my team and my country when I enter that cage on 26th of January,” Edward assured. “I don’t want to let my countrymen down this time. I am here to give them a great bout.

“And of course, win the bout in impressive fashion for them.”

Edward has no qualms if he has to go full three rounds with Meul, but he admitted that his sights are always set on securing the finish.

“I am looking to dominate him for three rounds. But hopefully, I can get the finish,” he vowed.

“A finish will be the perfect way to tell the world that I am back.”

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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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Basketball

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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