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King’s Cup victory sweeter with captaincy for Immonen

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Team West skipper Mika Immonen was delighted to have steered his team to a thrilling win over Team Asia in the inaugural King’s Cup tournament held last week. For the Finnish pool sensation, the achievement of toppling Asia’s best tasted sweeter after serving as the four-man squad’s leader.

“It feels great. To win as a captain is always something to cherish. It’s like an additional title because I did a good job as a captain,”
Immonen said. The Westerners held a two-match advantage heading into the final day, and with their Asian counterparts storming to a dramatic comeback, Immonen’s crew held the fort to take the gruelling final match with a triples win. After bagging the victory, the Team West captain spoke highly of their opponents, the mighty Chinese Taipei brother tandem of Ko Pin Yi and Ko Pin Chung and the legendary billiards duo of the Philippines in Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante. “They are phenomenal players. I wasn’t surprised [of the comeback],” he shared.

Interestingly, Immonen had thought of shying away from assuming leadership as he did not feel the most confident among the pack. “At first I wanted to say no, but then I was like, “let’s do this.’ Maybe in the previous year or two, I haven’t been playing well,” the 37-year old cue artist recalled. Nevertheless, his experience and his willingness to achieve more in his career pushed him to take the role. “I thought the spotlight was appropriate. I’m making a comeback this year. It was amazing,” he added.

Along the way, Immonen admitted that he had felt a bit of pressure. The Ice Man, as he is known, mentioned something that had helped him adjust well to the nature of the competition: the venue. The man from Finland has been one of the most frequent foreign billiards players to play in the country, and his familiarity with the Filipino crowd helped ease the tension. “I’ve done well here. I felt comfortable coming here and taking such role,” Immonen told.

Like plenty of great captains, Immonen isn’t taking all the credit. He acknowledged the importance of everyone on the team, that included U.S. number one Shane van Boening, Briton Darren Appleton and Austrian Albin Ouschan. The talented group did not rely on skill alone, but also stayed calm and collected in the run-up to their triumph. “It was pretty much a great team. We had a good time. We got along well and we stayed positive,” said Immonen.

With Dragon Promotions chief Charlie Williams revealing interest in staging the King’s Cup again next year, it remains to be seen if this year’s cast will return to the tables. Involved or not, Immonen has cemented his name in this young tournament’s books as the first captain to ever win the King’s Cup

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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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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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