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Happy Thursday! Benilde takes home first volleyball championship

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The College of Saint Benilde Lady Blazers will be lighting up Taft Avenue tonight.

After coming up short in the past two seasons, the Lady Blazers finally got the job done, clinching the university’s first NCAA indoor volleyball championship in a classic winner-take-all clash with the San Sebastian College of Recoletos Lady Stags 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22 at the FilOil Flying V Centre, earlier today.

Both teams heavily utilized their strengths early in the match, with San Sebastian getting contributions from the entire team, and Benilde taking advantage of their size in the middle and open hitter positions.

CSB broke the exchange in the first set, scoring four straight points that gave them a 19-16 advantage. After a timeout, the Lady Stags slowly crept back, trimming the deficit down to one, 22-23. But CSB’s middle blockers closed the set, as Jeanette Panaga banged a spike off two blockers, setting up a Ranya Musa quick play in the following point.

Unable to score off their attacks, the Lady Stags allowed Benilde to surge ahead in the second frame, 14-8. The Lady Blazers continued to get free points off San Sebastian’s miscues and grabbed a huge lead, 22-15, after a Janine Navarro cross-court stab. San Sebastian then mounted another late rally following a timeout, scoring four straight points, but Benilde quickly countered with back-to-back scores from Musa to reach set point, 24-20. Struggling to control the first ball, Benilde looked helpless as the Lady Stags dropped a 3-0 blitz, nearly forcing a deuce. Panaga, however, came to the rescue, making the best out of low set to power tip the set-clinching point.

Benilde were en route to a straight set sweep, fighting off another comeback attempt late in the third set for a 22-20 lead. But the Lady Stags foiled their championship celebration through late contributions from graduating middle blocker, Jonah Corpuz, who sparked the late 5-0 run to steal the third set.

With Benilde’s blocking and defense wearing her down, Grethcel Soltones had to be subbed out, as the Blazers took early control of the fourth frame. But, instead of laying down and giving up, the unlikely lineup of Lady Stags fought hard and even took a late lead, 20-18. But CSB immediately replied with 3-0 run. After a Soltones roll shot that kept San Sebastian in the running, 22-23, Corpuz served a wayward ball that hit the right atenna, giving CSB championship point. After a long rally, Ranya Musa found an over-dug ball and swiped it to an open area, sparking the championship celebration.

Jeanette Panaga was named Finals MVP after capping her magnificent post-season run with 16 points, including 6 blocks. Janine Navarro and Ranya Musa had 18 and 17 points apiece.

“Hindi naman talaga ‘to inexpect. Mula noong nag-semis at nasa pinakababa kami, ang nasa amin lang, one game at a time. Noong pagdating namin sa Finals saka lang namin naisip na kaya namin. Hinding-hindi namin to ibibigay,” said head coach Michael Cariño who entered Benilde two seasons ago and led then to Final Four appearances.

“Noong first season ko 8-1 kami, sunod 7-2. Kung kailan 6-3 kami saka kami nag-champion? Siguro it’s our time talaga,” Carino expressed adding that the changes to the Final Four format favored his squad.

Soltones managed 19 points, while last year’s Rookie of the Year Nikka Dalisay had 10.

This is the second time in local collegiate sport where a team with a thrice-to-beat incentive has lost in the Finals. La Salle was the first school to lose with that advantage in UAAP Season 76.

Navarro, setter Djanel Cheng, and backup setter Jane Borrero played their final match for CSB, while Jolina Labiano, Corpuz and Trisha Crisostomo exhausted their playing years for the Lady Stags.

The Scores:

CSB (3) – Navarro 18, Musa 17, Panaga 16, Cheng 6, Daguil 4, Ventura 3, Borrero 0, Santillan 0, Lim 0, Torres (L)

SSC (1) – Soltones 19, Dalisay 10, Lim 9, Corpuz 7, Sta. Rita 6, Villegas 3, Encarnacion 2, Eroa (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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Basketball

Loaded Wangs-Letran wallops AMA in debut

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Armed with new recruits, the Wangs Basketball-Letran Knights embarked on its new chapter with a rousing 93-75 rout of the AMA Online Education Titans, Tuesday afternoon at the Pasig Sports Center.

Everyone clicked for the Couriers with Bong Quinto spearheading the blowout with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

Newcomer Bonbon Batiller added 15 markers, five boards, and three dimes in his debut, while starting point guard JP Calvo chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, and two assists.

Christian Fajarito also registered 11 markers and nine boards, while Alex Mandreza had 10 points for Wangs-Letran.

Despite the promising showing, coach Jeff Napa said that he still wants to see more from his Couriers moving forward.

“Masaya kami syempre dahil nanalo. Pero marami pa rin kaming kailangang gawin,” he said as he wanted more from the Knights after outrebounding the Titans, 57-44.

Quinto and Calvo triggered Wangs-Letran’s second quarter pullaway to establish the 38-26, lead which grew to as high as 22 points, 81-59 in the payoff period.

Michael Cañete topscored AMA with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Kris Porter had 13 in the defeat.

Wangs-Letran will have vengeance on their minds on Monday, January 29 when it takes on NCAA tormentors Che’lu- San Sebastian Revellers. AMA, on the other hand, will have a tough assignment when it takes on the Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers on Thursday, January 25.

The Scores:

Wangs-Letran 93 — Quinto 19, Batiller 15, Calvo 12, Fajarito 11, Mandreza 10, Trinidad 8, Publico 6, Vacaro 4, Balagasay 3, Ambohot 3, Muyang 2.

AMA Online Education 75 — Cañete 20, Porter 13, Escalambre 11, Casiño 10, Antonares 6, Manalang 6, Garcia 4, Ng 3, Parcero 2, Bragais 0, Carpio 0, Paras 0, Raflores 0, Salonga 0.

Quarterscores: 16-13, 44-35, 67-52, 93-75.

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AU

Jovie Prado, Arellano make epic comeback against Perpetual to remain unscathed

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The defending NCAA Women’s Volleyball champions Arellano University Lady Chiefs would just not give up.

Down two sets, the Lady Chiefs turned back the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas in five thrilling sets, 22-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-5, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Outside hitter Jovielyn Prado and middle attacker Andrea Marzan showed up and produced their expected numbers in this crucial tussle at 20 and 16 points, respectively.

Head coach Obet Javier was still optimistic that his players can pull it off after the 0-2 hole. “Siyempre, kailangan mong magtiwala sa players mo,” he said.

The long-time coach added, “Nung first two sets, ang pangit ng laro namin. Siguro sa game, lumabas lang ‘yung maturity ng players ko at ‘yung pusong champion.”

It was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout the day, but the deciding set was all Arellano as setter Sarah Verutiao fired off vicious serves after another and virtually bag the win with a 10-1 lead.

The reigning queens at 6-0 will try to extend their longest winning run in the league to 19 when they face fellow unscathed San Beda College (5-0) on Friday.

Bianca Tripoli registered 20 markers to pace the Lady Altas.

Perpetual (4-2) will take on Mapua University (0-5) on Tuesday, January 30.

The Scores:

AU 3 – Prado 20, Marzan 16, Arocha 14, Ebuen 7, Esguerra 4, Ramirez 1, Bello 1, Balanoba 0, Donato 0, Flores L, Buema L.

UPHSD 2 – Tripoli 20, Imbo 19, Clements 12, Verzosa 6, Llorente 5, Gual 3, Sangalang 3, Estanislao 0, Rosal 0, Umandal 0, Medalla L.

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Basketball

Matt Nieto looks forward to learning from Jio Jalalon, Jayson Castro

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When Matt Nieto made his way into the Meralco Gym on Monday evening, the 20-year-old quickly changed his clothes after receiving his Gilas jersey. And once he got dressed, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles’ floor general quickly went to work, as he wanted to absorb everything he can from the night’s session.

“Actually na-star struck ako. ‘Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ako eh,” expressed the six-foot point guard.

Playing and practicing with the players they idolized growing up has been a theme for almost all of the 23 for 2023 cadets. The same could be said about the wide-eyed Nieto, as he could not believe he was side-by-side with the present and the future of the game in Jayson Castro and Jiovani Jalalon.

“Nakita ko pa lang si idol Jiovani Jalalon, nakikita ko parang… di ako makapaniwala na sa isang practice magkasama kami.

“Sila Kiefer [Ravena], lalo na si Jalalon talaga at si Jayson Castro kasi talagang idol ko talaga sila eh. Napapasma nga ako nung una eh kasi parang baka akalain nila ‘sino ba to?’,” the one-time UAAP champion shared.

Nervous, Nieto tried to talk to Castro and Jalalon numerous times during the practice. The two did not turn, welcoming the young buck with open arms.

“Nung nakausap ko na sila medyo na ano na kasi hindi lang sila magaling, sobrang bait pa nila. Madali akong naka-adjust kaagad dito,” he beamed.

Coach Chot Reyes has high expectations with Nieto, as he is being groomed as one of the leaders for the 2023 team. Still, he knows that there is still a long way to go for him.

To become a better leader, the second-generation Blue Eagle knows who to reach out to.

“Gusto ko matuto kay Jayson pati kay Jiovani kasi same position kami. And of course yung leadership ni Kiefer, yung mentality na talagang laban kung laban.

“Gusto ko marami matutunan sa kanila kasi wala pa eh, wala pa ako sa peak ko. Sila andun na. So marami talaga akong matututunan sa kanila kasi sobrang galing nila at sobrang dami na nilang na-achieve sa kanilang basketball career,” Nieto gushed.

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Basketball

SJ Belangel makes leap to top 3 of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ateneo Blue Eaglets towering teen Kai Sotto and La Salle Greenhills Junior Blazers court general Joel Cagulangan remained the top two high school players in the Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Center 24, but there was a lot of movement this week, including the rise of SJ Belangel.

Belangel, Ateneo’s graduating floor leader, had a sensational week, helping steer the Blue Eaglets to an unblemished 10-0 record. With his exploits, he was the consensus third-ranked player of the week, leapfrogging Mapua High School’s and NCAA MVP Will Gozum.

FEU-Diliman do-it-all guard L-Jay Gonzales and Katipunan swingman Dave Ildefonso also moved up the ladder, while UST Tiger Cub ace CJ Cansino dropped to eighth after finishing fourth last week.

Besides movement at the top, there were also a lot of debutatants in this week’s list.

Blue Eaglets double-double machine Joaqui Manuel’s workhorse type of game paid off, as he was ranked 21st this week.

After firing 51 markers last weekend, Bacolod Tay Tung High School’s Harold Alarcon was named as the 22nd top prospect.

Joshua Yerro of University of Visayas then rounded out the list.

Here is the complete Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 Week 2:

1. Kai Sotto, center, Ateneo (1)
2. Joel Cagulangan, guard, La Salle (2)
3. SJ Belangel, guard, Ateneo (5)
4. Will Gozum, center, Mapua (3)
5. L-Jay Gonzales, guard, FEU-Diliman (6)
6. Dave Ildefonso, forward, Ateneo (8)
7. Rhayyan Amsali, forward, NU (7)
8. CJ Cansino, forward, UST (4)
9. Clint Escamis, guard, Mapua (10)
10. Aaron Fermin, center, Arellano (9)
11. Terrence Fortea, guard, NU (16)
12. RJ Abarrientos, guard, FEU-Diliman (15)
13. Inand Fornilos, forward, La Salle (11)
14. Evan Nelle, guard, San Beda (12)
15. Warren Bonifacio, center, Mapua (13)
16. John Galinato, guard, Chiang Kai Shek (14)
17. Mac Guadaña, guard, Lyceum (18)
18. Raven Cortez, center, La Salle Zobel (19)
19. Harvey Pagsanjan, guard, Hope Christian (20)
20. Maui Cruz, guard, EAC (23)
21. Joaqui Manuel, forward, Ateneo (N/A)
22. Harold Alarcon, guard, Tay Tung-Bacolod (N/A)
23. Jancork Cabahug, forward, UV (17)
24. Joshua Yerro, guard, UV (N/A)

On Tuesday, January 23, the second episode of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 will air live at 7:00pm. Tonight’s special guest will be former Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas player and NBTC alumnus Jeron Teng.

The Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Centre 24 is the first-ever attempt to rank the top high school prospects in the country today.

The weekly ranking used the following criteria: league stats, impact in team, team record, leadership, defense, offense, and level of competition.

These rankings will be used to determine the 24 players who will take part in the annual SM-NBTC High School All-Star Game on March at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

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