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Howard Mojica: putting EAC and the NCAA on his back

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It’s a shame that barely anyone watched the Spikers’ Turf Collegiate Conference live.  It’s a shame that the games are tape-delayed, and, even more depressing, the games are shown past most people’s bedtimes.

It’s a shame mostly because people had very few chances to watch EAC’s Howard Mojica, one of the best men’s volleyball players in college today.

Most of the time, people need to watch for themselves to believe such conclusions but a quick look at the numbers Mojica posted last month should be convincing enough.

Facing their NCAA rivals, Mojica dropped 35 points on CSB in a losing effort. The following week, against the UAAP champs, Ateneo, Mojica exploded for a tournament-record 41 points but EAC still lost. Needing wins to keep his team’s championship hopes alive, Mojica led his team past UP with a measly, non-30-point performance, then restored order by waltzing to 35 points in a win against DLSU.

His heroics merited the Generals a third seed in the tournament and a date with the NU Bulldogs. Unphased by the long-armed wunderkinds from Sampaloc, Howard valiantly put up 35 and 31 points in their two matches. Still EAC failed to advanced to the tournament finals.

ST-NU-vs-EAC-Mojica-attack-2

Talking to Tiebreaker Times, Mojica revealed that he wanted to do more than just win in the tournament. “Siyempre, masakit talaga matalo. Masakit lalo kasi may mga gusto kasi talaga ako patunayan, hindi lang para sa akin, pati na rin sa team ko at sa mga nanunuod. Dati kasi, ang dating, pag sinabing NCAA tapos UAAP ‘yung kalaban, ang iisipin ng tao ‘madudurog lang ‘yung taga-NCAA.’ Gusto ko mapatunayan na hindi porque hindi ganoong kakilala ‘yung liga namin saka ‘yung mga player sa amin, e dudurugin lang kami ng taga-UAAP. Hindi totoo ‘yun,” the NCAA MVP expressed. EAC defeated four UAAP teams in the tournament – La Salle, UP, UE, and FEU.

He then continued by saying that there are more great players in the NCAA -like CSB’s John Vic De Guzman, Mapua’s Philip Bagalay and so on – that like him, barely get any recognition because they don’t get as much coverage.

Mojica, however, admitted that the most heartbreaking loss of the tournament was to the CSB Blazers. “Akala namin panalo na kami noon. Lamang na kami ng dulo kaso natalo pa,” said Mojica referring to his team leading 2-1 in sets then blowing a lead jn the fourth set. They again led in the fifth set but let go in the end. “Sayang kasi malaking tulong sana ‘yoon sa kumpiyansa namin sa NCAA. Hindi rin sana nadagdagan ‘yung kumpiyansa nila [CSB]. Kaso tapos na, tatrabahuhin na lang namin pagdating ng liga,” Mojica added.

When asked how it felt to score so many points and still lose, an emotional Mojica replied, “Basta ako, binibigay ko lahat ko para sa team. Kung ano na ‘yung nakita niyo sa laro. ‘Yun na ‘yun – wala na akong iniwan o itinabi.”

It turns out that Mojica habitually puts up 40 point performances in the NCAA – there just aren’t too many people that watch him – but it doesn’t bother Mojica. “Basta ako volleyball lang. Sapat na sa akin na may nagagawa ako para sa team ko.”

There are loads of stars in the local men’s volleyball game – the game just hasn’t caught on like the women’s version. Hopefully, the Spikers’ Turf can grease the wheels on the men’s volleyball train.

ST-EAC-vs-NCBA-Mojica-happy

Just a few months ago, Mojica was a part of a star-studded PLDT team that took home the inaugural Spikers’ Turf Open Conference Title. As mentioned, their games are replayed on PTV, but Tiebreaker Times is always up-to-date with the latest in men’s volleyball.

EAC recently won Game One of their best-of-three series for third place against the NCBA Wildcats. Mojica dominated anew with 21 points with a tournament-high nine aces.

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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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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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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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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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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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Basketball

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

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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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ABL

Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win

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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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