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History-seeking SMB goes back to basics in attempt to complete ‘Beeracle’ run

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Having once been on the brink of getting swept embarrassingly in a best-of-7 for the first time in franchise history, the San Miguel Beermen have clawed back remarkably and are a win away from pulling off a highly-improbable feat.

Having dropped their first three assignments in the series, the Beermen took home Games 4 to 6 to tie the exciting series at 3-3. With a four-day break in between Games 6 and 7, both sides will be able to recuperate and be fresh heading into the final war.

And it comes down to that. Both sides know winning to go up three games to none mean nothing, same as winning three games after falling down to a 0-3 hole. It makes Game 7 the single most important match of the conference for Alaska and San Miguel, after taking long roads towards the championship round.

Another ‘Beeracle run’


Arwind Santos
The term ‘Beeracle’ — an amalgamation of the words “beer”, from the franchise’s product, and “miracle” — first came into popularity during the 2007 PBA Fiesta Conference when the sixth-seeded San Miguel side had overwhelmed pundits.

That Beermen squad, led by import Galen Young, finished sixth in the elimination round and in the format, they had to go through a two-round single-elimination playoff against the seventh, eighth, and ninth teams.

They first trounced the ninth-seeded Sta. Lucia Realtors, before moving on to beat the Coca-cola Tigers by a hairline, 102-101. The odds were still stacked against them when they faced third-seeded Barangay Ginebra in the best-of-3 quarter-finals. Not many were high on how the team could last in the playoffs.

San Miguel dropped the first game, but went on to win Games 2 and 3 (Game 3 went to overtime) to shock then-favorites Ginebra and advance to the semi-finals, where eventual champions Alaska Aces finally ended their run, 4-2.

It was a ‘miracle’ in a sense that the Beermen were huge underdogs against the rest of the competition. Nine years later, the Beermen faithful are using the term again. And how the Beermen were able to stay in the hunt for a second straight Philippine Cup crown, despite all the adversity, should not be taken away from them.

They have handled the first four games minus their superstar center June Mar Fajardo, and picked up an emotional Game 4 victory which set the stage for a potential history-changing comeback.

Players are still shocked over how they were able to arrive at this point, and it was a product of sticking together and playing an approach that perhaps not many teams would have been able to do.

“Hindi ko akalain. Noong na 0-3 kami, ang iniisip lang namin makaisa lang, okay na kami,” Arwind Santos said. “Ngayon nagulat kami. Ngayon nasa pintuan na kami, kakatok na lang kami ng maayos para makapasok.”

Perhaps the most polarizing figure in a San Miguel uniform, Santos showed the leadership in crucial stretches to help his team gain momentum.

He singled out “decision-making in the end (of games)” as the main difference between the first three games and the last three of the series, and it was evident that the Beermen showed more composure.

“Noong 0-3, parang yung hinga namin tama lang eh,” he said. “Tapos noong nanalo kami ng una, pangalawa, pangatlo, nakakahinga na kami ng maluwag. Parang mas komportable kami pero (syempre) hindi natin masasabing kayang-kaya namin sila. Itong Game 7, kung anong meron kaming natatago, ilabas na namin.”

Togetherness, completeness


JuneMar Fajardo
Fajardo’s absence also paved the way for San Miguel to utilize their support group. In the past, the franchise had kept its stars but always made a few moves in order to get even more reliable pieces. And those decisions made by the front office have paid dividends in a finals series not many expected to last, given the case of Fajardo.

“Yan ang isang magandang nangyari noong wala si June Mar. Yancy (de Ocampo), Gabby (Espinas), even Jay-R (Reyes), may mga games yang pinapakita. Nagkaroon sila ng kumpiyansa at hindi lang sila parang reliever eh. Kasama na talaga sila sa rotation,” head coach Leo Austria said of his other bigs.

It was a two-fold move, giving San Miguel assurance they would still have enough depth if something goes wrong to their stars, and giving the same stars enough rest in even the most exhausting games.

And Austria has done a tremendous job incorporating Fajardo back into the rotation while not messing up the finals rotation they had gotten used to. It could have been a tricky problem for the mentor at a win-or-go-home stage, but he did just enough to give Fajardo back his rhythm, while also sustaining the good play of the likes of Espinas and De Ocampo who have all given positive impact in the series.

“Nagco-contribute sila offensively and defensively and that is good for June Mar and Arwind now nagkakaroon sila ng enough time magpahinga para may lakas pa sila for fourth quarter or crucial situation,” Austria added.

And with Fajardo back, the Beermen looked even more inspired to continue going and knocking on the door.

“Noong first three games ng finals, nafrustrate talaga ako. Kasi pinaghirapan namin yung offseason tapos makaabot sa finals tapos na-injure ako. Syempre nakakafrustrate yun na wala kang maitulong sa team mo kundi magdasal. Nasa harap ka lang ng TV, nanggigil ako, sana nasa loob ako ng court. Ngayon nakasama ko na sila, sobrang saya makapaglaro sa finals,” Fajardo shared Friday.

“Last game na yung Game 7. Lahat ng players, lahat ng teams pinangarap makalaro sa finals. Kailangan namin manalo sa Game 7, kaya kailangan ready kami.”

Back to basics


Marcio Lassiter
What stood out throughout the three-game winning run for which San Miguel has worked hard in the finals, is the approach.

They entered each game not minding what the series standing is; they only played to win, which is every athlete’s competitive nature. They did not think that “we need to win because we’re down in the series”, but instead approached each game thinking “we need to win because we can and that’s what athletes do anyway”.

For three straight games they performed just the same way they have done in tune-ups, elimination games, or playoff games. Good, solid, efficient basketball coupled with fundamental habits, minus overthinking, and only focusing on the task at hand.

“I’ve been telling my players, in the playoffs, it’s all basics. Talagang kung anong knowledge mo sa basketball, ilabas mo na. No fancy. Talent is just a bonus. Yung skills, dyan mo makikita ano ginawa niyo sa offseason,” Austria shared, hoping the group gives it a hundred percent for one last time.

“I think they will exert all the effort sa Game 7 at maging all-out sila. And they have time to recharge.”

“Yung talent minsan nandyan pero natatalo ng talino ang talent. Kasi natatalo kami minsan ng turnover, o yung in the end, konting-konti na lang hindi pa namin sinagad,” Santos added.

And now the Beermen are on the verge of overcoming a 0-3 hole and winning a best-of-7 title series, because of those basics.

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ABL

Christian Standhardinger goes perfect from stripe in Hong Kong’s rout of Formosa

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After going a horrid 5-for-17 from the stripe during their first loss of the season last January 9, Christian Standhardinger made sure to make good on his free throws to power the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club to a dominant 99-79 rout of the Formosa Dreamers, Thursday evening in Southorn Stadium.

The 6-foot-8 Filipino-German, who tallied 37 points and 19 rebounds in the overtime loss to Saigon, went a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

The contest itself was not close, as the defending champions were able to impose their will on the bottom-ranked squad, leading by as much as 23 points, 93-70, after two free throws by Standhardinger with 2:58 remaining.

If Standhardinger was having a good day with his free throws, the entire Formosa squad could not say the same, going 13-of-27 from the line.

Tyler Lamb had 25 markers as well for Hong Kong, while Marcus Elliott grabbed a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Lenny Daniel paced Formosa with 25 points and 11 rebounds. World Import Ronnie Aguilar had 14 points and 16 rebounds but went just 5-for-14 from the field.

With the win, Hong Kong goes to 8-1, while the Dreamers fell to 1-8.

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Chooks-to-Go President hopes 3×3 World Cup breaks Philippine Arena record

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Last October 27, 2017, Game Seven of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals between heated rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco Bolts saw 54,083 people troop to the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The attendance broke all records for both the venue and the PBA.

Come June this year, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and Chooks-to-Go are hoping that the upcoming 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup will surpass that record.

“We look at 3×3 as our best hope, really, to get a medal in the Olympics. Kami naman sa Chooks, we are behind SBP realizing that dream. Kanina pinag-uusapan na, if we’re going to break the record in attendance,” said Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas on Thursday afternoon during a press conference held at BGC High Street in Taguig.

“I think the question there is not if we’re going to break, but how many more times. Because FIBA should see how passionate the Filipinos are about basketball. That’s a given,” one of the patrons of Gilas Pilipinas added.

Besides the event itself, the local government of Bulacan has pledged to make the week of the tournament filled with activities to celebrate the Philippines’ 120th year of Independence.

For their part, Chooks-to-Go vowed to help out the SBP in organizing the event and in building the team.

“We are throwing our support not to improve on our finish, but we want to help SBP organize, to win the championship — not just to improve our ranking,” Mascariñas shared.

And the experience he and his company gained after backing the Pilipinas 3×3 team during last year’s tournament will only help.

“In past tournaments, we’ve lost some games na maninipis lang talaga,” he recalled about the team composed of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, and JR Quinahan that competed in Nantes, France.

“This time around, with five months to go, we need to organize and put in the best t

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Football

Ilocos United takes leave from PFL

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Another one bites the dust

After months of speculation, Ilocos United has formally announced their absence from the Philippines Football League for the 2018 season.

A statement signed by Ilocos Chief Executive Officer Tony Lazaro and posted on the club’s Facebook page broke the big news.

“Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful,” the statement opened. “Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL.

“Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.”

Ilocos finished last during the inaugural season, tallying 1 win, 6 draws, and 21 losses with a -49 goal differential.

Still, Ilocos gave their thanks to those who supported the club during the inaugural PFL season.

“We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.”

While their PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs they have started within the area. ¨In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.¨

The latest development will be another big blow for the young league. Meralco Manila pulled out of the competition beforehand, and now Ilocos´ absence leaves only six teams in the competition.

Now more than ever, something needs to be done by the PFL or even the Philippine Football Federation to ensure the feasibility of the clubs and the league itself for years to come.

Football is a hard sport to build in the Philippines despite its resurgence since 2010. There are limited corporate boosters for the sport which is in dire need of a financial push to sustain its growth.

Ilocos´ leave and Meralco´s folding now forces local football´s stakeholders to take a step back and examine the next moves to build the sport.

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Basketball

CJ Perez, Jaycee Marcelino in unison: D-League is a whole other level

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After falling just two games short of copping Lyceum’s first-ever NCAA crown, the Pirates went to the PBA D-League to gain experience. However, in their first foray in the second league, the Lyceans realized that it was a whole different beast.

Going up against the veteran-laden Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burgers-backed squad suffered a slow start as they adjusted to the tougher calls of the league. The Jawbreakers were down by as much as 17 points early in the third frame, 37-54.

“Yung physicality hindi naman ako masyadong nagulat pero sa mental toughness, yung pagod ka na, tapos may babanggga pa sa ‘yo, ang iniisip ko kailangan mas maging tough,” admitted reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez.

“Nangangapa kami nung una lahat kasi first game namin ito, pati dito sa court na ‘to first game din namin,” added Jaycee Marcelino.

It served as a wake-up call. Adjusting on the fly, Perez and Marcelino rallied the Jawbreakers back — even fashioning multiple attempts to take over the contest late in the game. However, they fell short, 92-94.

“Binalik lang namin yung laro namin dati, pass the ball, hindi yung puro dribble, i-run lang namin yung plays,” shared Marcelino, as he and Perez combined to score 16 points in the final frame.

The 21-year-old Marcelino finished with a game-high 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. The 24-year-old Perez added 19 points, five assists, two steals, and a block.

With their first game in the bag, the duo — and the rest of the Jawbreakers — now have the experience under their belts. And they plan to put in the work to prove that they belong.

“Sa NC naman kasi puro ka-level namin kalaro namin, dito puro beterano ang naglalaro,” said Marcelino. “Hindi talaga namin masabi na yung ginawa namin sa NC magagawa din namin dito.

“Mageextra work pa kami para masustain namin kung ano kami sa Lyceum.”

“It’s a good experience. Ibang iba pala talaga yung laro ng D-League sa NCAA,” expressed Perez, who is a consensus top three pick for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.

“Sobrang grateful kami na nakalaro na rin kami sa D-League.”

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