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Hoop Nut One-on-One: Is Meralco For Real?

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With the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Playoffs just around the corner, the Hoop Nut tag team began to ponder whether the team of their alma mater’s former head coach is for real.

Rolly Mendoza 8:31am
Hey Sir Hoopnut! How are you? It’s been a while since we last shared our thoughts about the PBA. Isn’t it about time we talked about this conference?!

Anyway, the elimination round for the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup is about to end, and only the top 8 out of the 12 teams will have a chance to move on to the next round. Not surprisingly, Purefoods, Rain or Shine, and Talk ‘N Text are among 3 of the top 4 teams. Guess who else is near the top. The Meralco Bolts. Is this team for real?

Enzo Flojo 8:41pm
This is not the Meralco Bolts we know. They probably switched places with their sister team Talk ‘N Text or sucked all the Texters’ powers, ala Space Jam. space jamNo way the Bolts should be playing this well… right?!

Rolly Mendoza 9:09am
Oh, love that Space Jam reference, which kinda gives away our age! Haha! Anyway, the Bolts are playing well because their primary scorer, Gary David, is scoring in bunches again. El Granada is armed and ready to explode!

Enzo Flojo 9:12am
They just lost though, so there, haha.
pba5
Josh Davis galing din! Kawhi of the PBA would you agree? Also, Reynel Hugnatan is an All-Star!

Rolly Mendoza 9:17am
Well, Josh Davis resembles Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs, and I can see some similarities in their game. Davis appears to be a perfect fit for the Bolts, and his 20 and 15 averages do not hurt at all.pba2As for Reynel Hugnatan, I’m not quite sure 7 points and 4 boards per game make an All-Star, but he has been effective and a positive influence when he plays. By the way, when it comes to sneakers , Hugnatan is definitely an All-Star!

Enzo Flojo 12:42pm
My sneaker MVP is a toss-up among Hugnatan, Ryan Araña, and Chris Ross.

Back on-topic, though, I think the one of the biggest differences has been Coach Norman Black. I think the Bolts look a bit more disciplined this conference, and they seem to be better defensively.

Davis, though, has made a huge impact. He is big enough to guard opposing centers, but is agile enough to play as a wingman. Just a matchup nightmare. These guys are making the most of what they have, which is more than what I can say for the likes of San Miguel or Ginebra. #CheapShot

Rolly Mendoza 1:22pm
Oh, an early shot versus the Kangkong Kings? Well, Josh Davis seems to be the perfect import for the Bolts. He does not need the ball a lot to be effective, and he is happy doing the dirty work.

I also think that Coach Norman has been able to utilize his players like Mike Cortez, Sean Anthony, Rey Hugnatan, and John Wilson. Now, can they sustain this run past the elimination round?

Enzo Flojo 1:37pm
Meralco sustaining a run past the elims? Of course not. Historically, they’ve never really been able to go very deep in the KO rounds of a conference. They’ve never won a title, never played in the Finals, and have only gotten as far as the semifinals (twice) since entering the league in 2010. They’re the PBA’s version of… the Memphis Grizzlies?

Rolly Mendoza 2:03pm
Well, there’s always a first time right?! They have a great coach, an above average import, an energized former All-Star, a Gilas player, and a new All-Star. To me, these pieces give the Bolts an excellent chance of doing well in the playoffs.

Regarding the Grizzlies reference, even the Grizz upset the Spurs a few seasons ago, and they reached the Western Finals, too. I’m sure the Bolts would be happy if they can have similar success like the Griz.

Enzo Flojo 2:52pmpba15
First of all I wouldn’t say Josh Davis is above average. Pound for pound, I think he has been the MOST VALUABLE IMPORT so far! I mean, he is maybe the biggest reason, apart from Coach Norman, that these Bolts are doing so well! I think they have a strong chance in the next round, but they’ve yet to prove they have the mental toughness and consistency to be a legitimate threat.

Re: The Griz. Exactly. Memphis has always been great, just never great enough to be an actual champion. Same thing with Meralco, I think. Until proven otherwise, they will always be the kid in class who always nearly gets first honors, but always, somehow, falls short.

Rolly Mendoza 3:04pm
Hmmm the debate for best import or most valuble import will be done at another time… That being said, I think Josh Davis will get a lot of consideration for that award.

Since you think Meralco is not a legitimate contender, when will they get bounced? I think they have enough firepower to at least reach the finals especially with Alaska and San Miguel sputtering this conference.

Enzo Flojo 3:06pm
I think Meralco can be legit, but they have to prove it on the floor first. Till they get a title, I don’t think they will ever relinquish that mantle of mediocrity. Even without Alaska and/or SMB, teams like Purefoods, ROS, and TNT can all spoil Meralco’s playoff run.

BTW, if the conference ended today, Best Import would go to Davis hands down. No way it goes to someone else.

Rolly Mendoza 3:15pm
Whoa! I don’t know about Josh Davis winning Best Import hands down! You probably forgot about PJ Ramos, Al Thornton and Ivan Johnson. These guys are no slouches either.

As for the Bolts and their chances, I’m willing to bet on their excellent play a little longer. I think they will go as far as the Final Four… Maybe even the Finals.

Enzo Flojo 3:18pm
Final Four talaga dapat. Anything less would be another missed opportunity for Meralco. Yes, Davis gets my vote ahead of any of the other guys if the conference ended today. In reality, though, it’ll depend on who’s left standing when the Finals begin.

Rolly Mendoza 3:20pm
Since we talked about Best Import ever so slightly, I felt that a short mention of BPC was also needed… how about Gary David for BPC?

Enzo Flojo 3:24pmpba3
Nope. Just… nope. Paul Lee > Gary David.

Rolly Mendoza 3:28pm
Jeez, are you hating on El Granada? Hahapba20
Okay fine, Paul Lee ain’t a bad choice but how about Terrence Romeo, Greg Slaughter and Jayson Castro??? Oh nevermind. This will just be another topic for next time.

Enzo Flojo 3:31pm
Not hating just reppin’. I can say that because I look like a black guy. And on that note…

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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 inside the Meralco Gym Monday evening, the 20-year-old quickly changed his clothes after receiving his Gilas jersey. And once he got dressed, the Ateneo 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 evident in almost all of the 23 for 2023 cadets. Same could be said about the wide-eyed Nieto as he can’t 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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MIT

Joyce Sta. Rita slams 28 as Lady Stags avert Cardinal upset

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Erasing a disappointing third set, the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Lady Stags upended the upset-conscious Mapua University Lady Cardinals, 25-20, 25-7, 29-31, 25-14, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The win revived the Lady Stags’ campaign after back-to-back losses to the Jose Rizal University and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA. San Sebastian are now at 3-2.

“Andun pa rin naman, apat pa naman laro,” said Stags’ head coach Roger Gorayeb on their chances for the Final Four. “Sana umabot.”

Team captain Joyce Sta. Rita produced a career-high 28 points off 22 attacks, four blocks, and two serves. The senior middle hitter paced her squad’s 58 spikes, who outscored Mapua’s 33.

The Lady Cards capitalized on the rotation wherein Sta. Rita was in the backline in that third set turnaround. Nonetheless, Vira Guillema and the rest of the Lady Stags just turned to their experience to ultimately finish the match.

Gorayeb, nonetheless, hopes his team will toughen up mentally for the home stretch of the eliminations. “Kasi ‘yung laro, nawawala na ‘yan sa physical side, napupunta na sa psychological part ng game.”

Angelie Magundayao lead the Cardinals with 10 markers.

San Sebastian will take on the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (2-3) on Thursday. Mapua (0-5) will take on the Emilio Aguinaldo College (0-5) in a battle of the winless earlier that day.

The Scores:

SSC-R 3 – Sta. Rita 28, Dalisay 17, Santos 11, Encarnacion 10, Guillema 4, Tiangco 2, Eroa L.

MU 1 – Mangundayao 10, Racelis 9, Pena 9, Latayan 5, Morano 4, Frando 2, Mercado 1, Barias 0, Hermano 0, Ramilo L.

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MIT

Cardinals blast Golden Stags for third win

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After absorbing a sorry defeat from the San Beda College Red Spikers in their last outing, the Mapua University Cardinals subdued the San Sebastian College-Recolletos Golden Stags, 26-24, 25-16, 26-24, to take their third victory of the season, Tuesday morning at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Mark Jason Egan paced the Intramuros-based squad with 14 points on eight attacks and three each of blocks and serves. Team captain Anjo Pertierra finished with 13 markers, while Alfred Pagulong had 10.

Despite a miserable reception output, Cardinals setter Raven Evangelista still had a field day as he produced 32 excellent sets on the 41 attack points of his squad.

Such would not go unnoticed as Pertierra lauded his playmaker’s production that led to the win. He said, “Sobrang ganda kung performance ni Raven. Nakapag-adjust siya sa bad reception. Kino-commend ko siya today.”

Losing that second set big, the Stags threatened to steal the third as they led 21-18 off back-to-back hits from James Eugenio and even forced a deuce. Nonetheless, a quick attack from Pertierra and an ace off Pagulong sealed the win for the Cards.

Pertierra admitted their lack of intensity almost cost them the first and third sets, and hopes the team address it as soon as the next game against the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals.

“Kilala naman EAC na maganda floor defense, sobrang makapit. Sasabayan namin sila, we’ll give our best,” he shared.

That important tussle between the Cards (3-2) and the Generals (2-3) will happen on Thursday.

Former skipper Jahir Ebrahim led the Stags with 16 markers.

San Sebastian (1-4) will try to get back on winning track when they face winless Letran (0-5) later that day.

The Scores:

MU 3 – Egan 14, Pertierra 13, Pagulong 10, Damian 8, Navera 8, Evangelista 1, Bondoc L.

SSC-R 0 – Ebrahim 16, Lana 9, Eugenio 8, Ronato 6, Ongque A 3, Campuspos 1, Eusebio 1, Lazaro 0, Toledo 0, Ongque AC L, Enano L.

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