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La Salle escapes State U, keeps Final Four chase alive



The De La Salle University Green Archers needed to take this game. On the other end, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons had nothing to lose.

With an inexperienced UP squad up six points with 7:02 remaining, La Salle relied on their end game experience to make the necessary stops to keep their Final Four hopes alive in a 72-68 win Wednesday afternoon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The La Salle Green Archers, playing with a sense of urgency was excellent defensively in the opening minutes of the game as they limited the hosts to just four points in the first nine minutes of the game. The huge starting five of Larry Muyang, Prince Rivero, Jeron Teng, and Joshua Torralba utilized their size and length to impose their will on UP in a 19-4 start. A Dave Moralde jumper closed the quarter with La Salle up 19-6. However, Teng hurt his back after a bad fall in the first quarter but returned to the game.

The Fighting Maroons, with nothing to lose in the game, intensified their defense in the second quarter. They were able to limit the Green Archers to just eight points in the second stanza whiel Moralde gained his shooting touch to lead the UP comeback. The former Red Lion scored eight points in the quarter while Paul Desiderio had four to slowly chop the La Salle lead. With a minute to go before entering the break, Cebuano rookie Pio Longa was able to knockdown a three that cut the once 15 point lead to just a solitary point entering the second half, 27-26.

Senior Agu Amar converted on a jumper to start the third canto that gave UP their first taste of the lead. Missed free throws by Rivero then paved the way for a quick layup by Jett Manuel. After a split by Teng on the stripe, Muyang made the rookie mistake on fouling Moralde on a three-pointer that extended the UP lead to four, 32-28. However, after making the free throws, the officials halted the game due to a technicality. After a ten minute delibration, it was deemed that Longa’s shorts was different from what the other UP players were wearing – the oblation logo was on the right side of his shorts rather than the left. This resulted to a technical foul being assessed on the UP bench.

After the mishap, the two teams then fought back and forth with UP holding a four point lead midway through the third after a Desiderio rainbow. The Green Archers then switched their defense from a 2-3 zone to a full court press. The press led to a quick 8-0 run in just a minute and six seconds that gave La Salle a four point lead. With 1:37 left in the quarter, Longa was able to punch in his second three-pointer of the game that tied the game. Conversions by Manuel and Diego Dario closed out the quarter with UP holding a 52-49 lead to enter the final quarter.

The Fighting Maroons were able to extend their lead to six with 7:02 left in the game. Just as it was looking that the hosts were gaining the momentum, Prince Rivero led a game-breaking rally that altered the game. The Green Archers went on a 12-0 spurt capped by a Teng find to the trigger to the rally Rivero. Turnovers and one-on-one plays also led to the three minute drought. However, at the 3:18 mark of the quarter, Torres hurt his right ankle and had to be taken out. He eventually returned to the game a minute later. Free throws by Vito ended the La Salle run while an and-one play by spitfire guard Diego Dario cut the lead to just four, 69-65, with 1:24 left. After a string of turnovers by the Taft cagers and a split by Manuel on the stripe, Amar forced Caracut to a turnover with 31.6 remaining with the La Salle lead just three, 69-66. However, lack of end game composure by the Maroons led to turnovers for UP that included two inbound violations. Free throws by Teng sealed the game 72-68.

“It’s the sense of urgency of the players that showed in this game,” La Salle head coach Juno Sauler said after the game. “Even with Jeron and Thomas hurt they still played. Great heart showed not just by the two but by all the boys,” he added.

Teng, who led the Archers in scoring with 20 points on 7/18 shooting, recalled that he told his teammates that everything is not yet over for their season. “I told my teammates to take these last two games one game at a time.”

Thomas Torres was able to grab a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds while Smart Elite ambassador Prince Rivero had a monster double-double with 18 points and 16 boards. “Prince has been very solid for us,” Sauler said. “He’s the most consistent big man we have.”

For the Maroons, Jett Manuel scored 15 points on 7/16 shooting from the field and 7/11 shooting from the stripe. Dave Moralde had 14 points while Paul Desiderio added 10.

The Fighting Maroons shot just 32% from the field compared to 39% from the Green and White. Even when the Archers committed more turnovers than the Maroons, 19-16, the Taft cagers were able to convert off of it more in scoring 18 turnover points compared to just nine by UP.

Both teams will play their final game of the season on Wednesday, November 18 with La Salle (6-7) facing the FEU Tamaraws at 4:00pm while the UP Fighting Maroons (3-10) face-off against the UE Red Warriors at 2:00pm. Games will be played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:
DLSU (72) – Teng 20, Rivero 18, Torres 11, Torralba 8, Caracut 7, Perkins 4, Langston 2, Muyang 2, Go 0.
UP (68) – Manuel 15, Moralde 14, Desiderio 10, Dario 9, Longa 8, Amar 6, Gallarza 2, Kone 2, Vito 2, Harris 0, Jaboneta 0, Juruena 0, Lim 0.
Quarterscores: 19-6, 27-26, 49-52, 71-68.

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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