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One down for the Tams: FEU survives heated second half to take game one against NU



The Far Eastern University Tamaraws need just one more win to take back the crown to Morayta. The cagers in green and gold survived four gruelling quarters of basketball that saw a trade of runs and hard fouls to win game one against the National University Bulldogs, 75-70, Saturday afternoon at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The first quarter would open to an exchange of baskets from both squads, with the defensive-minded NU managing to slow down the trigger-happy Tamaraws to set the pace for the quarter. A five-point salvo from Ron Dennison would put FEU in the lead, 14-13. NU big man Alfred Aroga would fire back with a basket at the other end of the court to take back the lead, 15-14, to close out the quarter.

The Bulldogs would enter the second quarter with all guns blazing. A seven-point explosion from Reden Celda would put NU up 30-18, halfway through the quarter. FEU’s Mac Belo, finally putting one in after a quiet first quarter, would signal the start of a massive FEU run. The Tamaraws would go on an 11-0 run in the next three minutes, with consecutive baskets from Raymar Jose cutting the deficit to a lone point, 29-30, with a little less than three minutes left on the clock. Troy Rosario would manage to fire back with a layup on the other end to put an end to the run and put the Bulldogs up by 32-29. At the end of the second quarter, the Bulldogs would hold on to the lead, 38-35. Leading the Bulldogs was Troy Rosario with 11 points in the half, and leading the Tamaraws was Mike Tolomia, also with 11.

The third quarter however would see another massive rally from the Tamaraws. Kicked off by a breakaway three from Mac Belo, a 10-0 rally by the cagers in green and gold would put FEU in the lead, 45-41 halfway through the third quarter. Unable to find a way to stop the fired-up Tams, the Bulldogs would find themselves in a 47-60 hole late in the quarter. A split free throw opportunity and a basket from Glenn Khobuntin would trim the deficit to 50-60 at the end of the third.

The Tamaraws would continue pacing the game, holding on to the lead despite a resurgent NU squad, who would lead on Gelo Alolino and Alfred Aroga to stay in the running. With two and a half left on the clock, the Tamaraws would hold on to the lead, 69-63. However, the Bulldogs would only prove to still have some bite left in them. A basket from Alolino and a trifecta from J-Jay Alejandro to counter an R.R Pogoy basket would trim the deficit to a manageable 68-71, with a minute left on the clock.

A layup on the fast break from Mac Belo would put the Tamaraws up by five, 73-68, with 44.3 left on the clock. However, the foul-plagued Tamaraws would give up two crucial fouls in the next few possessions, giving Alfred Aroga and Gelo Alolino the means to trim the lead, after being awarded the free throw opportunities. Both players would split their respective charities, but would trim the lead to a manageable 73-30, with 38.5 left on the clock.

Up by three, 73-70, with the clock ticking down, the Tamaraws would have the chance to sink one more to seal the victory, but would lose the ball while running down to their end of the court. For the next few seconds, the court would be covered in green and gold and blue and gold, with players from both sides diving for the ball. It was NU’s Gelo Alolino who would manage to get hold of the loose ball, but with the clock just just about to expire, had little time to get into position for the hail mary. He would however find Glenn Khobuntin waiting behind the three-point, but Khobuntin’s would fall short of the hoop. Shortly after the buzzer sounded, it was ruled that Alolino had fouled FEU’s Achie Inigo during the chaos of the last few seconds. With .07 left on the clock, Inigo would go on to sink both free throws to put the icing on the cake for the Tamaraws and bring home the victory for game one.

Mike Tolomia led the Tamaraws with 15 points, 11 in the first half, along with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. R.R Pogoy had 14, while Achie Inigo had 12 markers, all in the second half. Mac Belo, the hero of FEU’s semi-final series against the De La Salle Green Archers, was held to 8 points.

Alfred Aroga led the Bulldogs with 17 points and 8 rebounds. Gelo Alolino had 14 points, while Troy Rosario had 12 points.

“Same approach as the semis. The most important game is the first game. We will treat the next match as a do-or-die game,” said FEU head coach Nash Racela at the post-game huddle.

The second match in the finals series between FEU and NU will be held on October 8, Wednesday, at the Araneta Coliseum. A victory for the Tamaraws on Wednesday will give them the title. The Tamaraws last won the finals in 2005 against La Salle.

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



When Matt Nieto made his way inside the Meralco Gym Monday evening, the 20-year-old quickly changed his clothes after receiving his Gilas jersey. And once he got dressed, the Ateneo 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 evident in almost all of the 23 for 2023 cadets. Same could be said about the wide-eyed Nieto as he can’t 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




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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Joyce Sta. Rita slams 28 as Lady Stags avert Cardinal upset



Erasing a disappointing third set, the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Lady Stags upended the upset-conscious Mapua University Lady Cardinals, 25-20, 25-7, 29-31, 25-14, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The win revived the Lady Stags’ campaign after back-to-back losses to the Jose Rizal University and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA. San Sebastian are now at 3-2.

“Andun pa rin naman, apat pa naman laro,” said Stags’ head coach Roger Gorayeb on their chances for the Final Four. “Sana umabot.”

Team captain Joyce Sta. Rita produced a career-high 28 points off 22 attacks, four blocks, and two serves. The senior middle hitter paced her squad’s 58 spikes, who outscored Mapua’s 33.

The Lady Cards capitalized on the rotation wherein Sta. Rita was in the backline in that third set turnaround. Nonetheless, Vira Guillema and the rest of the Lady Stags just turned to their experience to ultimately finish the match.

Gorayeb, nonetheless, hopes his team will toughen up mentally for the home stretch of the eliminations. “Kasi ‘yung laro, nawawala na ‘yan sa physical side, napupunta na sa psychological part ng game.”

Angelie Magundayao lead the Cardinals with 10 markers.

San Sebastian will take on the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (2-3) on Thursday. Mapua (0-5) will take on the Emilio Aguinaldo College (0-5) in a battle of the winless earlier that day.

The Scores:

SSC-R 3 – Sta. Rita 28, Dalisay 17, Santos 11, Encarnacion 10, Guillema 4, Tiangco 2, Eroa L.

MU 1 – Mangundayao 10, Racelis 9, Pena 9, Latayan 5, Morano 4, Frando 2, Mercado 1, Barias 0, Hermano 0, Ramilo L.

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Cardinals blast Golden Stags for third win



After absorbing a sorry defeat to the San Beda College Red Spikers in their last outing, the Mapua University Cardinals subdued the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Golden Stags, 26-24, 25-16, 26-24, to take their third victory of the season, Tuesday morning at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Mark Jason Egan paced the Intramuros-based squad with 14 points on eight attacks and three each of blocks and serves. Team captain Anjo Pertierra finished with 13 markers, while Alfred Pagulong had 10.

Despite a miserable reception output, Cardinals setter Raven Evangelista still had a field day, as he produced 32 excellent sets on the 41 attack points of his squad.

It did not go unnoticed, as Pertierra lauded his playmaker’s production that led to the win. He said, “Sobrang ganda kung performance ni Raven. Nakapag-adjust siya sa bad reception. Kino-commend ko siya today.”

Having lost the second set by a large margin, the Stags threatened to steal the third as they led 21-18 off back-to-back hits from James Eugenio, and even forced a deuce. Nonetheless, a quick attack from Pertierra and an ace off Pagulong sealed the win for the Cards.

Pertierra admitted their lack of intensity almost cost them the first and third sets, and hopes the team addresses it in the next game against the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals.

“Kilala naman EAC na maganda floor defense, sobrang makapit. Sasabayan namin sila, we’ll give our best,” he shared.

Former skipper Jahir Ebrahim led the Stags with 16 markers.

The critical tussle between the Cards (3-2) and the EAC Generals (2-3) will happen on Thursday. San Sebastian (1-4) will try to get back on track when they face the winless Letran (0-5) later that day.

The Scores:

MU 3 – Egan 14, Pertierra 13, Pagulong 10, Damian 8, Navera 8, Evangelista 1, Bondoc L.

SSC-R 0 – Ebrahim 16, Lana 9, Eugenio 8, Ronato 6, Ongque A 3, Campuspos 1, Eusebio 1, Lazaro 0, Toledo 0, Ongque AC L, Enano L.

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