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It’s now or never for Ayo, Racal

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BY: Joaqui Flores and Matthew Li

In a highly physical, adrenaline-inducing, and fast-paced championship duel last Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena, the gritty Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knights again pulled off a massive stunner to come within a win of dethroning the defending five-time champions, the San Beda Red Lions, with a 94-90 win.

“We’re expecting this kind of game [and] knowing it will be a tough game,” Letran head coach Aldin Ayo told reporters after the game. “We know it will be a dog fight and sa amin naman, sabi ko sa mga players, we just have to be tough and we just have to grab this opportunity because not all players, not all coaches are given this kind of opportunity.”

As members of one of the toughest and hard-fighting teams in the NCAA, many of the Knights showcased great all-around games. Kevin Racal dropped a game-high 28 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals, while Mark Cruz chipped in 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 steals. In addition, Rey Nambatac followed up with 18 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals while Mcjour Luib had 16 points and 5 assists.

Beyond the statistics, it was obvious Letran wanted the game more than the opposition during the Finals opener. They would dive relentlessly for 50-50 balls, run at every opportunity, and defend their opponents as if their lives depended on it.

After all, the players, fans, and supporters of Letran had had enough heartbreaks by the Red Lions in the past few years, and they are hungry to bring back the title to Intramuros. They had their chances; they fought valiantly against San Beda during the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Basketball Championships, but they came up short in both attempts.

NCAA 91 Finals Game 1 CSJL vs. SBC-Mark CruzNow, another opportunity to remove the stings from the past, and deny San Beda’s pursuit of a sixth straight title, will prove an immense source of motivation and competitive fire. Surely they cannot afford to pass this up.

“Siguro, even Mark, K-Racs, Mcjour and the rest of the guys [and] ‘yung mga beterano, they have suffered enough [against San Beda],” Ayo commented. “Even kami naman, noong nasa Sorsogon ako pinapanood ko pa sila doon sa natalo nilang series, well lahat ng Letranista were heartbroken and we don’t want to feel that again.”

Senior Kevin Racal can attest to this in saying that the team’s effort on defense is what makes this batch of Letran different from the past. “Effort talaga namin sa defense yung nagiba,” he commented. “Sa practice kasi wala na kaming gustong ibang isipin kung hindi kung ano ang kelangan gawin.”

Beating the Red Lions will always be a tall order for any team, especially during the championship round. For the past years, many have tried; only the 2009 San Sebastian Golden Stags, led by Jimbo Aquino, have succeeded in doing so.

However, as they have proven all season long, Letran love defying the odds and they’ve never backed down from even the toughest of challenges. They don’t mind if they’re undermanned or undersized, they just rise to the challenge and play 40 minutes of hardnosed basketball.

But come Game Two, they know that San Beda will make adjustments, and Ayo expects that they won’t go down without a fight.

NCAA 91 Finals Game 1 CSJL vs. SBC - Aldin Ayo-4776Furthermore, the rookie coach also believes San Beda’s seniors Art Dela Cruz and Baser Amer will bounce back from their subpar performances during the opening game of the series. Dela Cruz only managed to put up 7 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes of action, while Amer only had 8 points but dished out 10 assists.

“Of course, they [San Beda] are going to adjust because they lost this game. Iyon din ang ginawa namin noong natalo kami noong playoff and noong second round: nag-adjust din kami,” Ayo added. “We’re going to expect that they’re going to come up big in Game Two. Alam natin na babawi ang dalawang iyon [Dela Cruz and Amer] so we’re going to prepare for them.”

Game Two will surely promise to be another classic. Will Ayo and the Knights finally exorcise their demons against San Beda to end a 10-year title drought? Or will Jamike Jarin and the Red Lions even the series and force a sudden-death Game Three? The fans must until this Tuesday to find out.

“We’re going to do our best. We’re going to do our very best para hindi mangyari ulit iyon,” Ayo declared.

For K-Racs though, the team should have a now-or-never mentality for Game Two. “Siyempre kelangan mag go-hard! Sabi nga ni coach, mawawala lahat ng pinaghirapan namin pag natalo kami sa Game Two.”

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ABL

Christian Standhardinger goes perfect from stripe in Hong Kong’s rout of Formosa

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After going a horrid 5-for-17 from the stripe during their first loss of the season last January 9, Christian Standhardinger made sure to make good on his free throws to power the Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Club to a dominant 99-79 rout of the Formosa Dreamers, Thursday evening in Southorn Stadium.

The 6-foot-8 Filipino-German, who tallied 37 points and 19 rebounds in the overtime loss to Saigon, went a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.

The contest itself was not close, as the defending champions were able to impose their will on the bottom-ranked squad, leading by as much as 23 points, 93-70, after two free throws by Standhardinger with 2:58 remaining.

If Standhardinger was having a good day with his free throws, the entire Formosa squad could not say the same, going 13-of-27 from the line.

Tyler Lamb had 25 markers as well for Hong Kong, while Marcus Elliott grabbed a triple-double with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Lenny Daniel paced Formosa with 25 points and 11 rebounds. World Import Ronnie Aguilar had 14 points and 16 rebounds but went just 5-for-14 from the field.

With the win, Hong Kong goes to 8-1, while the Dreamers fell to 1-8.

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

Chooks-to-Go President hopes 3×3 World Cup breaks Philippine Arena record

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Last October 27, 2017, Game Seven of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals between heated rivals Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco Bolts saw 54,083 people troop to the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The attendance broke all records for both the venue and the PBA.

Come June this year, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and Chooks-to-Go are hoping that the upcoming 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup will surpass that record.

“We look at 3×3 as our best hope, really, to get a medal in the Olympics. Kami naman sa Chooks, we are behind SBP realizing that dream. Kanina pinag-uusapan na, if we’re going to break the record in attendance,” said Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas on Thursday afternoon during a press conference held at BGC High Street in Taguig.

“I think the question there is not if we’re going to break, but how many more times. Because FIBA should see how passionate the Filipinos are about basketball. That’s a given,” one of the patrons of Gilas Pilipinas added.

Besides the event itself, the local government of Bulacan has pledged to make the week of the tournament filled with activities to celebrate the Philippines’ 120th year of Independence.

For their part, Chooks-to-Go vowed to help out the SBP in organizing the event and in building the team.

“We are throwing our support not to improve on our finish, but we want to help SBP organize, to win the championship — not just to improve our ranking,” Mascariñas shared.

And the experience he and his company gained after backing the Pilipinas 3×3 team during last year’s tournament will only help.

“In past tournaments, we’ve lost some games na maninipis lang talaga,” he recalled about the team composed of Kobe Paras, Kiefer Ravena, Jeron Teng, and JR Quinahan that competed in Nantes, France.

“This time around, with five months to go, we need to organize and put in the best t

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Football

Ilocos United takes leave from PFL

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Another one bites the dust

After months of speculation, Ilocos United has formally announced their absence from the Philippines Football League for the 2018 season.

A statement signed by Ilocos Chief Executive Officer Tony Lazaro and posted on the club’s Facebook page broke the big news.

“Unfortunately, after months of negotiation, efforts to attract a new naming sponsor for the Team were unsuccessful,” the statement opened. “Consequently, it has become financially prohibitive to continue participation in the PFL.

“Primarily, the lack of broadcasting exposure in 2017 created an apprehension in the corporate community, cascading into a series of afflictions that has ultimately led to our withdrawal from the competition.”

Ilocos finished last during the inaugural season, tallying 1 win, 6 draws, and 21 losses with a -49 goal differential.

Still, Ilocos gave their thanks to those who supported the club during the inaugural PFL season.

“We are cautiously optimistic of a potential return to the PFL for the 2019 season, whereby secured broadcasting exposure will hopefully lead to higher confidence from potential sponsorship partners.”

While their PFL operations will fold for the time being, Ilocos will continue the grassroots programs they have started within the area. ¨In the meantime, the foundation of football development we helped to build in Ilocos will continue, including grassroots initiatives at local schools, women’s futsal, Special Olympics, and, of course, the IUFC Academy.¨

The latest development will be another big blow for the young league. Meralco Manila pulled out of the competition beforehand, and now Ilocos´ absence leaves only six teams in the competition.

Now more than ever, something needs to be done by the PFL or even the Philippine Football Federation to ensure the feasibility of the clubs and the league itself for years to come.

Football is a hard sport to build in the Philippines despite its resurgence since 2010. There are limited corporate boosters for the sport which is in dire need of a financial push to sustain its growth.

Ilocos´ leave and Meralco´s folding now forces local football´s stakeholders to take a step back and examine the next moves to build the sport.

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Basketball

CJ Perez, Jaycee Marcelino in unison: D-League is a whole other level

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After falling just two games short of copping Lyceum’s first-ever NCAA crown, the Pirates went to the PBA D-League to gain experience. However, in their first foray in the second league, the Lyceans realized that it was a whole different beast.

Going up against the veteran-laden Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burgers-backed squad suffered a slow start as they adjusted to the tougher calls of the league. The Jawbreakers were down by as much as 17 points early in the third frame, 37-54.

“Yung physicality hindi naman ako masyadong nagulat pero sa mental toughness, yung pagod ka na, tapos may babanggga pa sa ‘yo, ang iniisip ko kailangan mas maging tough,” admitted reigning NCAA Most Valuable Player CJ Perez.

“Nangangapa kami nung una lahat kasi first game namin ito, pati dito sa court na ‘to first game din namin,” added Jaycee Marcelino.

It served as a wake-up call. Adjusting on the fly, Perez and Marcelino rallied the Jawbreakers back — even fashioning multiple attempts to take over the contest late in the game. However, they fell short, 92-94.

“Binalik lang namin yung laro namin dati, pass the ball, hindi yung puro dribble, i-run lang namin yung plays,” shared Marcelino, as he and Perez combined to score 16 points in the final frame.

The 21-year-old Marcelino finished with a game-high 20 points on an efficient 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block. The 24-year-old Perez added 19 points, five assists, two steals, and a block.

With their first game in the bag, the duo — and the rest of the Jawbreakers — now have the experience under their belts. And they plan to put in the work to prove that they belong.

“Sa NC naman kasi puro ka-level namin kalaro namin, dito puro beterano ang naglalaro,” said Marcelino. “Hindi talaga namin masabi na yung ginawa namin sa NC magagawa din namin dito.

“Mageextra work pa kami para masustain namin kung ano kami sa Lyceum.”

“It’s a good experience. Ibang iba pala talaga yung laro ng D-League sa NCAA,” expressed Perez, who is a consensus top three pick for the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft.

“Sobrang grateful kami na nakalaro na rin kami sa D-League.”

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