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‘MVP connection’ prevails over the Twin Towers as San Miguel outlasts Ginebra for solo second



Getting quality minutes from the two MVPs on their roster, the San Miguel Beermen marched to the solo second spot in the standings, after outlasting rivals and sister team Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in a thrilling 79-77 duel, Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Reigning Most Valubale Player June Mar Fajardo won Player of the Game honors with 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks. 2013 MVP Arwind Santos had 22 points along with 9 rebounds. The two MVPs would score all of San Miguel’s points in the crucial final minute, capping off dominating performances throughout the game.

An intense and highly physical first quarter saw suffocating defense, blocks, and dunks coming from both squads, who would trade the lead for the entire opening twelve minutes. At 14-all and 4.2 seconds left on the clock for the final possession, the game would look to be headed to the second quarter deadlocked. Ginebra’s Josh Urbiztondo however would shock the crowd at the arena, sinking a hail mary trey from halfcourt to beat the buzzer put Ginebra up by the three, 17-14.

Ginebra would continue to pace the game early in the second quarter, leading by as many as seven points, but momentum would turn in favor of the Beermen in the final two minutes. After finding themselves trailing 31-32, San Miguel would embark on a 7-1 rally in the final minutes to overtake Ginebra and exit the quarter with a 38-33 edge.

The Beermen would return to the court still fired up from last quarter’s salvo, dismantling Ginebra’s defensive clampdown while continuing to deny Ginebra the easy look to extend their lead. Following a couple of big baskets from former MVP Arwind Santos, San Miguel found themselves leading by double digits, 49-39, with four minutes left on the clock. The Beermen would continue to find success attacking the basket in the final minutes, closing out the quarter with a 61-49 edge.

Tempers flared at the start of the fourth quarter, after San Miguel gunner and former Ginebra favorite Ronald Tubid figured in a shouting match with former teammate Billy Mamaril, who had accidentally knocked down Beerman Rico Maierhoffer during a battle for a rebound. Fortunately, cooler heads would prevail before punches could be thrown and penalties be slapped. Finally finding their touch with the ball and getting the right defensive stops, Ginebra would slowly trim the deficit, coming within striking distance at 67-69 entering the final two minutes following back-to-back treys from Ginebra old-timer Jay-jay Helterbrand. Ronald Pascual however would fire back on the other end with a triple of his own to extend the lead to 72-67 for San Miguel. Five straight points from last year’s Greg Slaughter in the following minute would come in handy for Ginebra, forcing a 72-all deadlock with less than a minute on the clock. Slaughter’s rival and fellow behemoth June Mar Fajardo however would respond with a lay-in of his own to give San Miguel the lead with 24.1 left on the clock.

Slaughter would connect with frontcourt partner Japeth Aguilar, who had the chance to force another deadlock, but was unable to complete the game-saving alley-oop. After drawing the foul from the rebound, San Miguel’s Arwind Santos would sink two free throws to put the Beerman up by two possessions, 76-72. Slaughter would sink another basket to come within two once more, but Santos would sink another two free throws to give San Miguel a 78-74 lead with 7.9 seconds left on the clock. Jay-jay Helterbrand gave Ginebra a spark of hope, draining a quick three on the inbound pass to come within one, 78-77. Reigning MVP would split two free throw opportunities, to put San Miguel up by one. After Fajardo bricked the second shot, Ginebra would manage to grab the missed ball, but would be unable to race down their end of the court to put up their hail mary in time.

Greg Slaughter led Ginebra with 16 points and 17 rebounds. Japeth Aguilar added 15. With the win, San Miguel improve to 5-1 at solo second. Ginebra meanwhile slide to third at 5-2.

featured image by Nuki Sabio

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win



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 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 bout returned to the 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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Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots



Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for Phoenix Fuel Masters 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 Mahindra Floodbuster.

But that achievement of his won’t be that memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat they had absorbed into the hands of Paul Lee and 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 was there in contention all through out the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But then, the Hotshots’ comebacking skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” expressed 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 Barangay Ginebra 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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Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics



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 Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to its’ first win after a historic 16-game skid at the expense of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover the six-foot-four forward made.

“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 it. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all by 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 got 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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Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win



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.

Alab’s bench however could not sustain the effort of the starters that led to them clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a sparkplug, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided the spark 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 with 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 that resulted to the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan to slice the lead to as low as four points. 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 they take on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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