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Nambatac’s late sniping propels Letran against Mapua



In a battle of two Intamuros-based squads, the top-seeded Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) Knights were able to hang on, despite squandering a huge lead, against the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) Cardinals, 80-77, on Friday at the San Juan Arena.

From the get-go, the Knights went with their patented fullcourt pressure defense that forced Mapua to three early turnovers in less than three minutes. The Knights were also crashing the offensive glass early, but Mapua managed to limit second chances by Letran as the two teams played on a slow pace scoring-wise. Points off turnovers started to pile up in favor of the Knights in their 13-7 start with Kevin Racal and McJour Luib making three-point plays midway in the opening quarter. Mapua then countered by inserting their second unit to replace a slow start done by their starters. The Cardinals managed to close the first ten minutes strong, as they were able to tie the game at 17 behind the hot shooting by Stephen Que, but trailed by four at the end of the quarter.

With basically the same theme in terms of locking down the entire court, Letran opened up the second quarter with an 8-0 spurt, including a Mark Cruz three and capped by a Jerrick Balanza fastbreak shot, to open up the first double-digit spread in the match. The Knights forced Mapua to contested attemps from the perimeter, as the latter only had a lone fieldgoal in nearly four minutes in the second. As the Cardinals failed to pile up the stops while also bleeding for good looks at the rim, Letran pounded on them with another mid-quarter run to increase their lead to 21 at 48-27. However, Mapua made a headway to start their run by outscoring Letran by six at the tail-end of the first half.

Maintaining momentum, Mapua roared back by giving Letran a dose of their own medicine and limiting good shot attempts by the Knights. Justin Serrado made two shots to spearhead their third quarter rampage and claw their way back down to five points at 53-48.

Looking lost, Letran was in a losing end of a furious second half rampage against the Cardinal’s impecable sniping from the perimeter. As Oraeme opened up the scoring in the last canto to give his squad the edge, Jay Aguirre and Exequiel Biteng drained in a triple each to extend their lead at 67-60. As the pace of the game went back-and-forth, the exciting exchange and hot streak went the way of Rey Nambatac, who came up huge down the stretch. The Letran sniper had a personal 14-point surge including four three-point bombs to help Letran regain a 77-73 cushion with a little over two minutes to play.

In the next plays, Mark Cruz delivered another clutch three, but Mapua’s free throws aided them to hang on with seconds left in the match. With half a minute left, Cruz then hoisted up a miss from downtown, but Mapua failed to capitalize, with Que committing a late traveling violation. Things got interesting with Nambatac muffing potential game-sealing free throws, but his squad had the last laugh as another interception in the passing lane broke a chance of Mapua to tie the game.

“Di ako nakatulog [the night before this game],” Coach Aldin Ayo disclosed after the game. “I knew this game was gonna be big.”

Moreover, he added that Rey Nambatac was not 100%. “Di ko nga alam bago nag start yung game kung maglalaro siya o hindi e. Medyo maga pa ang ankle niya. Pero si Rey Nambatac, Mark Cruz, at yung iba pa, alam namin maasahan namin sila,” he closed.

The league-leaders were led by Rey Nambatac’s 22 points. Nambatac was 7/21 from the field, but was 6/12 from downtown. He also grabbed ten rebounds and was able to steal the ball five times. Mark Cruz continued to sizzle as well with 16 points and six assists.

For the Cardinals, Allwell Oraeme played the entire game and top scored for his team with 23 points and grabbed a season-high 28 boards. Complimenting the effort once against is the tandem of Que and Biteng with 28 combined points. Smart Elite Ambassador, Andretti Stevens was just limited to five minutes of play.

Letran improves to an 8-1 slate and maintains their hold to the top spot of the standings while Mapua slides to below .500 with now a 4-5 record.

The Scores:

CSJL (80) – Nambatac 22, Cruz 16, Balanza 11, Luib 10, Racal 9, Quinto 8, Apreku 2, Sollano 2, Calvo 0, Bagasay 0

MIT (77) – Oraeme 23, Biteng 15, Que 13, Serrano 8, Nieles 7, Menina 6, Aguirre 3, Raflores 2, Stevens 0, Villasenor 0, Brana 0

Quarters: 25-21, 53-38, 60-59, 80-77.

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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 skills 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 fighters returned to their 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 the Phoenix Fuel Masters on 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 the Mahindra Floodbuster.

But his achievement won’t be too memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat at the hands of Paul Lee and the 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 were in contention all throughout the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But the Hotshots’ comeback skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” admitted 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 the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 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 the Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to their first win after a historic 16-game skid, at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

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

“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 them. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all onto 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 had been 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.

But Alab’s bench could not sustain the effort of the starters, which meant the team was clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

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

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