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Basketball

Newly-wed Cliff Hodge celebrates honeymoon with Meralco

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Ball is life indeed for Cliff Hodge

The 29-year-old had just gotten married with his long-time girlfriend Beatrice Yao this past Tuesday. Hodge could have taken the week off to go out and celebrate this new chapter of his life, but he simply decided not to.

Instead, he was with the Meralco Bolts at the Philippine Arena the day after his wedding, to help his team in Game Six of the 2017 Governors’ Cup Finals, where they forced a winner-take-all bout against the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

“With the PBA’s schedule, you never know what you’re gonna be on. We actually planned this (wedding) like six or seven months in advance, hoping that the season would be already over,” he explained of the unusual wedding date, “But it obviously fell the day before the game.

“Of course I’m not gonna leave my wife, so we got married,” added the Pensacola, Florida-born cager, who had proposed to his now-wife in Italy last February during their quick vacation.

Hodge’s ultimate sacrifice did not go into waste. The Bolts disappointed the 50,000-plus Ginebra faithful inside the massive arena as they came out victorious, 98-91, to extend the series to a deciding Game Seven on Friday.

“The team was inspired just to get to Game Seven,” shared the stretch forward, who finished with six points, four rebounds, and a steal.

“We kinda have, at least, a chance to win a championship. We’re all inspired.”

Now that the series goes to the edge, and with the Orangemen aiming to upend their tormentors and win their first-ever PBA title, the five-year pro is also keen on wearing a championship ring next to his wedding ring.

“Oh my God. That would be amazing.”

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Tireless J-Jay Alejandro heads from D-League game to Gilas training

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Former NU Bulldogs captain J-Jay Alejandro was at the Pasig Sports Center Monday afternoon, making his debut for the Go for Gold Scratchers. After their 75-68 win over Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers, he immediately packed his bags and headed for the exit.

Why was he in a rush? He did not want to be late for Gilas later on.

PHOTO by PBA Images

“Sayang, malapit na ako eh. Pasig lang. Walang showbiz-showbiz, malapit lang talaga,” shared Alejandro, who had five points, five rebounds, seven assists, and two steals for Go for Gold. “Wala rin akong gagawin kasi.

“Tsaka minsan lang magpa-tawag ng practice, every Monday lang, so sayang ‘yung chance makapag-practice.”

The 6-foot-2 combo guard was a much-needed body by the pool of Gilas as only eight players suited-up for Monday’s session. Besides helping out the seniors team, the 22-year-old is looking at the sessions as a way to not just improve but also get in touch with his former collegiate foes.

“Well, ganoon talaga eh. Player, mapapagod at mapapagod ka talaga,” said the All-UAAP team member.

“Pero nakakasama ko sila Arvin Tolentino, sila CJ Perez, tsaka ‘yung ibang mga PBA players, siyempre experience ‘yun eh, tsaka learning process din sa akin.”

Moreover, he knows that being under the tutelage of coach Chot Reyes will only do wonders for him, especially with the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft just months away.

“Mas pisikal talaga sa PBA. ‘Yun, kung paano mo gagamitin ang utak mo pati ‘yung katawan mo sa tamang posisyon sa laro, makukuha ko yun rito,” he said.

“Well sa akin kasi, ‘yung mapabilang ka sa Gilas, mapabilang lang ang pangalan mo sa Gilas, sobrang fortunate na ako, sobrang blessed na ako,” Alejandro added.

“And siguro sa akin, may opportunity na nag-open, so iga-grab ko na lang — either PBA or Gilas.”

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Loaded Wangs-Letran wallops AMA in debut

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Armed with new recruits, the Wangs Basketball-Letran Knights embarked on its new chapter with a rousing 93-75 rout of the AMA Online Education Titans, Tuesday afternoon at the Pasig Sports Center.

Everyone clicked for the Couriers with Bong Quinto spearheading the blowout with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

Newcomer Bonbon Batiller added 15 markers, five boards, and three dimes in his debut, while starting point guard JP Calvo chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, and two assists.

Christian Fajarito also registered 11 markers and nine boards, while Alex Mandreza had 10 points for Wangs-Letran.

Despite the promising showing, coach Jeff Napa said that he still wants to see more from his Couriers moving forward.

“Masaya kami syempre dahil nanalo. Pero marami pa rin kaming kailangang gawin,” he said as he wanted more from the Knights after outrebounding the Titans, 57-44.

Quinto and Calvo triggered Wangs-Letran’s second quarter pullaway to establish the 38-26, lead which grew to as high as 22 points, 81-59 in the payoff period.

Michael Cañete topscored AMA with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Kris Porter had 13 in the defeat.

Wangs-Letran will have vengeance on their minds on Monday, January 29 when it takes on NCAA tormentors Che’lu- San Sebastian Revellers. AMA, on the other hand, will have a tough assignment when it takes on the Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers on Thursday, January 25.

The Scores:

Wangs-Letran 93 — Quinto 19, Batiller 15, Calvo 12, Fajarito 11, Mandreza 10, Trinidad 8, Publico 6, Vacaro 4, Balagasay 3, Ambohot 3, Muyang 2.

AMA Online Education 75 — Cañete 20, Porter 13, Escalambre 11, Casiño 10, Antonares 6, Manalang 6, Garcia 4, Ng 3, Parcero 2, Bragais 0, Carpio 0, Paras 0, Raflores 0, Salonga 0.

Quarterscores: 16-13, 44-35, 67-52, 93-75.

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Matt Nieto looks forward to learning from Jio Jalalon, Jayson Castro

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When Matt Nieto made his way into the Meralco Gym on Monday evening, the 20-year-old quickly changed his clothes after receiving his Gilas jersey. And once he got dressed, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles’ floor general quickly went to work, as he wanted to absorb everything he can from the night’s session.

“Actually na-star struck ako. ‘Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ako eh,” expressed the six-foot point guard.

Playing and practicing with the players they idolized growing up has been a theme for almost all of the 23 for 2023 cadets. The same could be said about the wide-eyed Nieto, as he could not believe he was side-by-side with the present and the future of the game in Jayson Castro and Jiovani Jalalon.

“Nakita ko pa lang si idol Jiovani Jalalon, nakikita ko parang… di ako makapaniwala na sa isang practice magkasama kami.

“Sila Kiefer [Ravena], lalo na si Jalalon talaga at si Jayson Castro kasi talagang idol ko talaga sila eh. Napapasma nga ako nung una eh kasi parang baka akalain nila ‘sino ba to?’,” the one-time UAAP champion shared.

Nervous, Nieto tried to talk to Castro and Jalalon numerous times during the practice. The two did not turn, welcoming the young buck with open arms.

“Nung nakausap ko na sila medyo na ano na kasi hindi lang sila magaling, sobrang bait pa nila. Madali akong naka-adjust kaagad dito,” he beamed.

Coach Chot Reyes has high expectations with Nieto, as he is being groomed as one of the leaders for the 2023 team. Still, he knows that there is still a long way to go for him.

To become a better leader, the second-generation Blue Eagle knows who to reach out to.

“Gusto ko matuto kay Jayson pati kay Jiovani kasi same position kami. And of course yung leadership ni Kiefer, yung mentality na talagang laban kung laban.

“Gusto ko marami matutunan sa kanila kasi wala pa eh, wala pa ako sa peak ko. Sila andun na. So marami talaga akong matututunan sa kanila kasi sobrang galing nila at sobrang dami na nilang na-achieve sa kanilang basketball career,” Nieto gushed.

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SJ Belangel makes leap to top 3 of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ateneo Blue Eaglets towering teen Kai Sotto and La Salle Greenhills Junior Blazers court general Joel Cagulangan remained the top two high school players in the Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Center 24, but there was a lot of movement this week, including the rise of SJ Belangel.

Belangel, Ateneo’s graduating floor leader, had a sensational week, helping steer the Blue Eaglets to an unblemished 10-0 record. With his exploits, he was the consensus third-ranked player of the week, leapfrogging Mapua High School’s and NCAA MVP Will Gozum.

FEU-Diliman do-it-all guard L-Jay Gonzales and Katipunan swingman Dave Ildefonso also moved up the ladder, while UST Tiger Cub ace CJ Cansino dropped to eighth after finishing fourth last week.

Besides movement at the top, there were also a lot of debutatants in this week’s list.

Blue Eaglets double-double machine Joaqui Manuel’s workhorse type of game paid off, as he was ranked 21st this week.

After firing 51 markers last weekend, Bacolod Tay Tung High School’s Harold Alarcon was named as the 22nd top prospect.

Joshua Yerro of University of Visayas then rounded out the list.

Here is the complete Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 Week 2:

1. Kai Sotto, center, Ateneo (1)
2. Joel Cagulangan, guard, La Salle (2)
3. SJ Belangel, guard, Ateneo (5)
4. Will Gozum, center, Mapua (3)
5. L-Jay Gonzales, guard, FEU-Diliman (6)
6. Dave Ildefonso, forward, Ateneo (8)
7. Rhayyan Amsali, forward, NU (7)
8. CJ Cansino, forward, UST (4)
9. Clint Escamis, guard, Mapua (10)
10. Aaron Fermin, center, Arellano (9)
11. Terrence Fortea, guard, NU (16)
12. RJ Abarrientos, guard, FEU-Diliman (15)
13. Inand Fornilos, forward, La Salle (11)
14. Evan Nelle, guard, San Beda (12)
15. Warren Bonifacio, center, Mapua (13)
16. John Galinato, guard, Chiang Kai Shek (14)
17. Mac Guadaña, guard, Lyceum (18)
18. Raven Cortez, center, La Salle Zobel (19)
19. Harvey Pagsanjan, guard, Hope Christian (20)
20. Maui Cruz, guard, EAC (23)
21. Joaqui Manuel, forward, Ateneo (N/A)
22. Harold Alarcon, guard, Tay Tung-Bacolod (N/A)
23. Jancork Cabahug, forward, UV (17)
24. Joshua Yerro, guard, UV (N/A)

On Tuesday, January 23, the second episode of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 will air live at 7:00pm. Tonight’s special guest will be former Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas player and NBTC alumnus Jeron Teng.

The Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Centre 24 is the first-ever attempt to rank the top high school prospects in the country today.

The weekly ranking used the following criteria: league stats, impact in team, team record, leadership, defense, offense, and level of competition.

These rankings will be used to determine the 24 players who will take part in the annual SM-NBTC High School All-Star Game on March at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

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