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Lady Troopers grab first SVL semis win; outlast Power Spikers

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The Philippine Army Lady Troopers opened the first semifinal round-robin of the 12th Season of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference with a hard-earned, 25-21, 21-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-9, victory at the expense of the Meralco Power Spikers, Tuesday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.

Army’s Jovelyn Gonzaga scored a team-high 15 points, while four other teammates racked up double-digit outputs. On the other side, former DLSU standouts, Cha Cruz and Abigail Maraño, tallied 17 and 16, respectively, but the duo’s hefty contribution fell short, failing to give Meralco a win despite getting two of the first three sets.

Army started the game as the better team, leading mostly throughout the first set. A deep roster saw several Lady Troopers taking turns in scoring, which was a concern for Meralco in the encounter. Gonzaga, Honey Royse Tubino, Mary Jean Balse, Dindin Santiago-Manabat, and Rachel Ann Daquis showcased a total team effort that enabled them to take the first set, 25-21. It was not a walk in the park though for the Lady Troopers, who had to make sure that momentum stayed with them in the whole of the opening set.

Defeated in the first set, Meralco powered their way back courtesy of Arianna Angustia, who scored four of her team’s first 11 points to give Meralco a comfortable 11-6 lead. Army were also struggling to hit the mark as inefficency in spiking allowed their opponents to pull away. Down by as huge as seven, Army tried to crawl their way back into the set. The Lady Troopers trimmed the deficit to three at 17-20, but Meralco’s experienced bunch of Maica Morada, Stephanie Mercado, Cruz, and Maraño poured in enough points to keep their foes at bay. Like the first set, the second ended at 25-21, but in favor of the Power Spikers.

At that moment, both teams knew that winning the third set is a must in order to move closer in grabbing the win. Army looked like they were recovering from the second set loss by outscoring Meralco, 9-5, with substitute Nerissa Bautista coming up big off the bench by scoring five points in that stretch. Determined not to lose ground, Meralco took full advantage of Army’s errors to go ahead by three, 14-11. Army got back on their feet and knotted the set once more at 16-all, but it was all they can do in the third frame. Meralco strengthened their net defense to gain set point with an 8-1 run. Bautista, who was leading the way for the Lady Troopers, did her best to keep Army alive, but Mercado ended the period after two failed tries with a kill. Just like that, Meralco only needed a set to close out the match.

With their backs against the wall, Army showed resilience their unit is known for. Rested in the previous set, Santiago-Manabat scored four points to build a 7-1 lead for the Lady Troopers. Trailed by 10 at the maximum, the Power Spikers failed in all of their attempts to level the score although they managed to draw closer at 21-20 after Carmina Aganon’s spike sailed wide. Aware that a mishap may well result in a loss, Army strung up four straight points, two off Meralco’s errors to force a gripping fifth set.

In the payoff set, Meralco built a 9-6 lead. Getting there, Angelica Legacion scored two early service aces while veteran teammates Morada, Cruz, and Maraño also made their spikes count. Again on the brink of defeat, the Lady Troopers mightily rallied their way to get a win. Cristina Salak’s drop ball ignited Army, who kept on scoring via Balse, Tubino, and Santiago-Manabat. Ahead 14-12, the Lady Troopers did not permit Meralco to make things interesting as Tubino easily spiked the ball into an open space on the left side to seal the win for Rico De Guzman’s team.

“Semifinals na ito eh. Matalo ka ng isang beses dito medyo kritikal na tapos kapag dalawa na talo out ka na sa finals. Gagawin mo lahat ng paraan sa game na ito. Kung kailangan balasahin kung sino yung nagpeapeak at bunutin, gagawin ko,” shared Army coach De Guzman. Not bothered by a few of his players chasing another volleyball game, the staff sergeant who is at the helm for Army wisely rotated his deep squad towards guiding them to an important win. With one win down, he turns his sights on the still-undefeated PLDT Ultra Fast Hitters. “Yes, babawi kami sa PLDT. Yung nilaro namin dito napakababa. Hindi kami pwedeng ganoon ang nilalaro sa PLDT,” De Guzman said. He also noted that the girls are hungry to play better against the only team that handed them a loss.

The said encounter of PLDT and Army will be held on Sunday, still at the Filoil Flying V Arena, at 12:45 PM. Meanwhile, the Meralco Power Spikers will aim to get themselves back on track when they face the Cagayan Valley Lady Rising Suns right after.

The Scores:

Philippine Army (3) – Gonzaga 15, Satiago-Manabat 13, Daquis 12, Tubino 11, Balse 10, Aganon 6, Bautista 6, Salak 5, Bunag 2, Sabas 1, Agno (L), Siatan-Torres (L)

Meralco (2) – Cruz 17, Maraño 16, Morada 11, Mercado 8, Angustia 8, Legacion 4, Guevara 1, Hingpit 1, Reyes(L)

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao called Chris Ross the “N” word that caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also against Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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Jason Brickman flirts with triple-double as Mono holds off Singapore

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After playing his worst game of the season last Sunday against Tanduay Alab Pilipinas, Jason Brickman bounced back, steering the Mono Vampire to a 91-88 road victory over the Singapore Slingers, Friday evening at the OCBC Arena.

The 26-year-old, who finished with just seven points and three assists in their 71-104 loss to Alab, tallied 10 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. The league-leader in assists did not take a break, playing all 40 minutes.

But it was not a walk in the park for the Thailand-based squad.

Mono led by as much as 22 points, 60-48, with 7:46 left, 16 points entering the final frame. A furious fourth quarter rally by Singapore sliced the lead, turning the game into a single-possession contest with a minute left. The steady hands of Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary from the stripe fended off Singapore.

Brickman’s compatriot Paul Zamar chipped in 13 markers for Mono.

Since torching Alab last January 3, Filipino-Canadian AJ Mandani has been on a slump, going just 3-for-11 from the field for nine points.

Mono’s World Imports Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary both finished with 26 points with the former hauling down 18 rebounds. For Singapore, Xavier Alexander paced the Slingers with 29 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

With the win, the Vampire kept solo third with a 7-4 slate. On the other hand, the Slingers dropped its second straight game since winning against Alab, falling to 5-6.

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