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UP Lady Maroons enter Finals off explosive fifth inning

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UP 7-5 (PS: 2-1), 2nd00036982
UST 7-5 (PS: 2-2), 3rd01000131

 
And they are back.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons walloped the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigresses in the fourth and fifth innings to clinch the second Finals slot, 9-1, on Sunday, March 22 at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

Both teams stood their ground on defense early on, as seen throughout the season. The España-based batters dismissed the entire batting order in the first three innings. UST starting pitcher Ann Antolihao displayed her superb skills when she fanned UP co-captain Sella Mendoza in the second, and her opposite number Cochise Diolata in the third. The sophomore also held the Maroons to no hits in the same span.

The third seeds started well in the bottom of the second with lead-off single from rookie catcher Celestine Palma. UP then retired the next two batters. Leading Best Hitter candidate, CJ Roa, made a solid hit, but Maroon shortstop Lily Gonzales caught the fly for the first out. Diolata caught Mallows Garde’s line drive for the next out. Antolihao connected to the right-center, and MJ Abanes retrieved the ball. However, the newbie Maroon failed to throw it in time, which led Antolihao to advance.

Sophomore Shiela Perales had another single and Palma managed to score for UST, thus putting them into the scoreboard, 1-0. With two outs, UST was unable to add to their score, as Arlyn Areglado grounded to Gonzales in the ensuing play and the veteran UP standout threw to second to get Perales for the final out.

In the top of the third inning, UP did its work on defense. It began with Diolata, who dismissed Hannah De La Torre early on. Kristine Lacupa and Sharmaine Oria failed to reach base, as Abanes and Mendoza retired the batters.

The second-seeded Maroons, who sensed the need to pick up the pace, strengthened their own offense at top of the fourth inning. After veteran batter Gabin Paz tested the UST outfield but was dismissed, newbie Gelai Penales connected to the right foul line for UP’s first hit. DC Cruz hit the ball to the same area for a ground-rule double. With runners on scoring positions, Dennise Cruz stepped to the plate. Thomasian Antolihao worked her pitches, but the junior first baseman Cruz fought to put the pitch count to full. This led Cruz to advance bases on balls.

While bases were loaded, UP veteran Mendoza connected to deep center-right, which was handled well by Perales. However, in the ensuing play, Penales crossed the plate that led UP to tie the game at one apiece. Sophomore hard-hitter Chanty Bongat hit a solid drive to the center-right for a double to score the Cruz twins, and the Maroons took the lead, 3-1. UST ended the onslaught as they caught Bongat stealing second off a Diolata at bat.

At the bottom of the fourth inning, Tigresses’ lead-off batter Celestine Palma connected to the left foul line, but was caught by UP third baseman DC Cruz, which put Palma out off a throw to Dennise Cruz. Roa would not be denied, however, for she hit a single to the center. Maroons second baseman Abanes made another error as she was not able to get a grounder, thus advanced Garde to first base. Diolata took the second out when she struck out Antolihao swinging. Perales hit a grounder to Abanes, and the UP rookie bounced back from her previous miscue to get the ball and the final out.

In the next inning, UST retired Maroons lead-off batter Diolata off a grounder to the pitcher. Veteran shortstop Gonzales, however, connected to deep left-center to start of what would be UP’s explosive roll. Graduating captain Seiko Hashimoto, who is batting for Abanes, hit the ball to the same area. UST then caught Gonzales stealing third for the first out, while Hashimoto advanced on second.

A two-out rally ensued when Paz connected to the left field. UST leftfielder was able to catch the ball but did not throw it on time, thus enabled Paz to reach second base. Hashimoto scored on the play to add to UP’s lead, 4-1. UST coach Sandy Barredo tried to halt UP scoring spree by putting Ricky Mae Latican on the mound. The change was ineffective as Penales had a booming triple to the deep right to score Paz, 5-1.

Antolihao was called back to resume her stint as pitcher but UP continued their momentum. DC Cruz drove the ball to the right this time, and Penales reached home base. Dennise Cruz connected with a single to the right again to advance her twin DC to second. With Mendoza at bat, Antolihao threw a pitch, and Palma was not able to block the ball. The passed ball was costly, as the Cruz sisters moved to scoring position.

Mendoza, who has made known of her intentions on skipping her final year, made sure that it will not be her last UAAP game. The fourth-year centerfielder took the broken Antolihao’s first pitch and connected to the left. UST leftfielder and soon-Most HR-awardee Roa tried to catch the fly but instead, dislodged the fence. Mendoza was awarded a homerun to blow the game open, alongside the Cruz twins and Mendoza, who scored as well. UP mounted a 9-1 lead. Bongat hit to deep left for a double as the Maroons tried to keep the two-out rally going. UST changed pitcher and Garde took the mound. The veteran pitcher ended the agony when she struck out Diolata.

With the Finals ticket just three outs away, UP went all out on the defensive end in the fifth. The Maroons veteran infielders took the matter into their own hands. Arlyn Areglado grounded out to Gonzales off a throw to Dennise Cruz. DC Cruz caught a booming line drive by substitute Kristel Angeles. The third baseman DC got the final out off a throw to her sister Dennise when they retired Lacupa. The throw booked UP’s return trip to the Finals.

After placing fifth in last season’s tournament, the Lady Maroons are now headed to the Finals. When asked about the main difference between last year’s squad and its present roster, UP Head Coach Kiko Diaz told us that first and foremost the recruitment of Cochise Diolata was the turning point for the lady batters from Diliman. “We were fortunate have a prized recruit, yung pitcher namin [Diolata],” Coach Diaz told us. “Then came the hard work, the diligence, persistence of everyone in the team. It was a total team effort.”

The UP Lady Maroons ended the first round at fourth place with a 3-5 win loss record. Then the turnaround for the squad came when Dennise Cruz returned to the line-up to start the latter half of the elimination round. “Malaking bagay. What we gained was number one: she’s a good hitter, number two: she’s a great defender, and finally: she’s one of our seniors. Well, taking into account that the seniors were leading well in the start, but it’s a welcome addition to add one more leader in the team.” Moreover, with the arrival of sports psychologist Marcus Manalo, the team was able to cope with the grind of the season. “We learned from Marcus, how to cope with the ups-and-downs of the season. It helped in the development of the team.”

In facing a tough test in the last stage of the UAAP Softball Stepladder, Coach Diaz and the Lady Maroons know that they’re up against a different animal. “It’s different. We can’t be at par with them, we must play at a higher level to beat Adamson,” the humble coach concluded.

The UP Lady Maroons will face the 60-0 Adamson Lady Falcons on Tuesday, March 24 in Game 1 of the Stepladder Finals at 9:00am. Game will be played at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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3 Comments
  • Aeron Valderrama

    By the way, I just learned that Sella Mendoza played her last UAAP game earlier. She won’t be playing in the Finals because she will attend to her thesis.

    • Rjbarjay

      shucks!! wala na si Idol! 🙁 she’s not suiting up for the Maroons next year?

  • Big Zed

    THEY HAVE A COACH?!?! coaches need to be present at practice to motivate the team and actually consider them as coaches and not BUMS.

Basketball

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

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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 ever since entering in 2012, was all praises with the way the officiating has become this 43rd season, which is 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 Barangay Ginebra, Sunday night.

Like what had been told many times, physicality was something that was controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty of such as he had paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it can already be called a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he could 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

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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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Basketball

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

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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

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It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have always 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 to stay as they are, it looks like it will be 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 an excuse.

“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,” expressed 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 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 though has a chance to end their slump against Kia 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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