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Petron Blaze Spikers remain undefeated, blast Cignal HD Spikers

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A shaky start did not hinder the Petron Blaze Spikers, who lived up to their monicker by smashing the Cignal HD Spikers, 23-25, 25-16, 25-13, 25-11 to capture their fourth win in as many games of the first round of eliminations of the Philippine Super Liga earlier tonight at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan City, Laguna.

The superstar triumvirate of Dindin Santiago-Manabat, Abigail Maraño, and Rachel Anne Daquis piled up 45 points in the decimation of Cignal, who actually began the game brightly. Carmela Tunay led the HD Spikers with 11 markers and was supported by Jeannete Panaga who added 10 markers in the losing effort.

The opening set was tightly-contested as each team wanted to start the match on a bright note. The Blaze Spikers went ahead 8-3 in the game’s first technical timeout courtesy of Maraño’s rewarded aggressiveness. Several errors cost Petron for it allowed Cignal to get back in the game. Given the opportunity, Tunay, Kai Nepomuceno, and Jannine Navarro pushed their squad in front, 16-13 in the succeeding technical timeout. It prompted an exchange of points between the two teams that saw the lead swing quickly. In the end, Tunay masterfully found ways to score three straight points to give Cignal a one-set lead.

Upset with dropping the first set, Petron ran riot in the second frame. Santiago-Manabat fired two early points alongside careless errors made by the HD Spikers. Soon, Maraño, Daquis, and Maica Morada, and Frances Molina got on board as well with their nifty contributions that caused problems for Cignal, who relied much on Tomasina aces Cherry May Vivas and Tunay to give them hope of keeping in touch with Petron. Even with Petron unable to convert all their attacks, they established a lead huge enough to take the third set with ease, 25-16.

If the second set was easy for Petron, what followed looked like a walk in the park. Four of Cignal’s 13 points came from errors and the dominance was even reflected in the intervals. Petron held 8-4, and 16-9 leads in technical timeouts on the back of scattered scoring from the usual suspects. They ended the set by scoring seven of the last 10 points of the set courtesy of the titanic trio of Santiago-Manabat, Maraño, and Daquis. Alexa Micek punctuated the set with a clinical service ace.

Things just got better for Petron in what turned out to be the last set of the match. Petron’s Santiago-Manabat displayed her aptitude of serving the ball as she delivered six aces in the first ten sequences of the match to put her team ahead, 9-1. The scoring spree continued when Molina scored back-to-back points after a short Cignal run to put them up, 11-4. Further showing how Cignal was deflated with the margin, a seemingly harmless free ball from Jen Reyes found its way to the canvas, giving the Libero her only point in the match—a rare occasion as Liberos have restricted capabilities on offense. Michelle Segodine, Vivas, and Tunay tried to save their team from losing a set with just single-digit points, in which they succeeded but only just as they managed 11 against a rampant Petron team. Eventually the victory was delivered by a Fille Saint Cainglet-Cayetano’s spike that sneaked its way past the Cignal defense, perhaps reflecting the tone of the match.

Petron mentor George Pascua credited the girls for their determination to fight back after things have not gone their way at the start. “Kahit papaano natututo sila sa nangyayaring natatalo sila ng sets kasi mahirap sa bandang huli doon na lumabas yung laro nilang ganoon (slow),” he said. With the win, Petron keeps hold of the top spot with a clean 4-0 record. They also sent Cignal in a three-way tie for fourth with Philips Gold and Mane ‘n Tail, all of whom have identical league-worst 1-3 win-loss records.

The Scores:

Cignal (1) – Tunay 11, Panaga 10, Vivas 5, Nepomuceno 4, Navarro 3, Mangui 3, Segodine 2, Clemente 2, Ancheta 1, Bravo 1, Dionela (L) 1,

Petron (3) – Manabat 20, Maraño 15, Daquis 10, Morada 7, Molina 5, Aganon 3, Masangkay 2, Cayetano 2, Micek 1, Reyes (L)

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James Yap breaks out of personal shooting slump

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James Yap came out of Rain or Shine’s locker room at the SMART Araneta Coliseum with a sigh of relief Wednesday night. Two slumps have finally been put to rest.

First, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ two-game skid saw its end with a 120-99 victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters — a one-sided affair nobody ever thought due to the fact that Phoenix is coming off two straight victories.

More importantly, Yap’s personal slump had also come to an end. After shooting just a combined 4-of-26 in the last three games, the two-time league MVP shot 8-of-10 from the floor en route to a conference-high 20 markers.

“Well ako keep working hard lang,” said the 35-year-old of his performance. “Kung pangit yung last two games ko, last three games ata, huwag ka mawalan ng pag asa. Pag-aralan mo yung pagkukulang mo… I’m not 100 percent sa kundisyon.

“Yun ang winowork out ko lagi.”

“I think everybody expects James to play well but tao lang din naman siya. Pero you know, what we want from James is to basically play his best. Whether he’s in a slump, we still want him taking shots,” added Rain or Shine head coach Caloy Garcia.

Aside from Yap, six more Elasto Painters scored in double figures in the victory. According to the 14-year league veteran, it was mostly because of the advice he gave his teammates: pull the trigger when given the chance.

“Lagi kong sinasabi sa kanila wala nang isip-isip pa, pag open, tira. Ganun. Yun yung usap-usapan namin sa loob. Pag nasa loob na kami ng court, wala nang isip-isip pa. Tira! So at least yung kumpyansa nandoon,” he said.

“Sana tuloy-tuloy na, madala namin for next game.”

Wednesday’s victory truly means a lot for Yap and the Elasto Painters, who are now 2-2 in the team standings. Now, all that the seven-time champion aims to do is to sustain this rhythm of his as the 2018 Philippine Cup rolls on.

“Malaking bagay ‘to. Sa lahat ng kumbaga, pinaghirapan mo sa papakundisyon, at least nagbubunga,” said Yap.

“So pagpatuloy ko pa rin ginagawa ko or higitan ko pa para kahit papano masustain or tuloy tuloy na.”

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Caloy Garcia downplays misunderstanding with Raymond Almazan

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The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters were already missing the services of Jericho Cruz, Jay Washington, and Jireh Ibanes Wednesday evening. Adding to their woes was that their ace big man Raymond Almazan did not suit up in their game against the Phoenix Fuel Masters.

But the 6-foot-8 big man, who missed the last two Gilas practices, was not injured. He figured in a soft confrontation with head coach Caloy Garcia during their game against Globalport last January 12.

“Hindi kasi nakapag-practice the last two days so sabi namin pahinga na lang muna. Actually, after the loss against Global, medyo nagka-anuhan lang kami but I think everything is good right now,” said Garcia after Rain or Shine’s 120-99 against Phoenix.

“Well siyempre, frustration.”

During their 70-78 loss against Globalport, Almazan shot just 1-for-5 from the field, finishing with just two points, four rebounds, and three turnovers.

“We know that he can perform better than the way he did against Global,” furthered the second-year head coach. “Actually I told Raymond before the start of this season that one of my goals was to basically make him a double-double player. Yun yung target ko nung simula.

“But the way he played against Global, I felt that it wasn’t Raymond.”

The rest of the Elasto Painters are confident that the two will get a chance to settle things out.

“I’m positive that would be resolved and we just have to hold the fort. I think we’ll be okay,” said Tiu, who is one of Rain or Shine’s leaders.

“Hopefully, the guys can step up and when Raymond’s back we’ll be even stronger.”

Garcia hopes that Almazan understands that this is just part of the game. Moreover, he just wants what’s best for the five-year veteran.

“So ayun, medyo napagalitan, nagkatampuhan but that’s it. I think kasama naman sa trabaho namin yun eh.”

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With Rain or Shine ailing, Ed Daquioag seizes opportunity

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For Ed Daquioag, his big outing Wednesday night was just a result of him grabbing opportunities, with some of his teammates still recovering from injuries.

The sophomore guard was instrumental in the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ 120-99 drubbing of the Phoenix Fuel Masters, top-billing with 21 points on top of five rebounds and five assists — his best outing for the franchise so far.

“Yung mga guards like Jericho [Cruz] ‘di pa siya nakakalaro, so yung sa puwesto niya kailangan ko mag-step up,” said Daquioag. “At dalawang sunod kaming talo. Ang sama ng game namin nung nakaraan.

“Kailangan namin manalo.”

The Elasto Painters still have Cruz, Jay Washington, and Jireh Ibañes on the injured list, and it is feared that Daquioag may add up to it as he left the game for good with 7:33 remaining in the third canto after hurting his hip.

But the former UST Growling Tiger quickly allayed fears regarding his injury.

“‘Di naman siya malala. Baka nabigla lang. ‘Di ko kasi mailakad ng maayos eh,” said Daquioag.

“Pinahinga ko na lang kasi sunud-sunod yung games. E kung pilitin ko baka may maanong ugat or ano, kaya ‘di ko na lang pinilit.”

“Tinanong ko, sabi niya mukhang okay naman,” said Rain or Shine head coach Caloy Garcia of Daquioag’s condition. “Masakit lang daw talaga.”

It was still a huge night for the six-foot-one cager from Ilocos Norte despite being hurt and not being able to finish the match. But Daquiaog deflected credit to the Elasto Painters’ defense, which he said played a major factor in the win.

“Maganda lang yung defense namin,” said Daquioag, who averaged 5.8 points last season. “Nagkataon lang na yung points eh napupunta sakin. And yung mga opportunity sa transition, ginagrab ko kasi yun yung alam kong strength ko.

“Pero nanalo kami dahil sa team defense namin.”

But Daquioag hopes that he can sustain this kind of outing in their next games to help Rain or Shine rake more wins, as they aim for a strong push for the playoffs. “Hopefully madala kahit maglaro na si Jericho,” said the Gilas Pilipinas cager.

“Depende pa rin naman sa performance mo yan every game eh.”

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Jeff Chan still can’t get one over Rain or Shine

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It’s been 163 days since Jeff Chan was shockingly traded by the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters to the Phoenix Fuel Masters. Even if the 6-foot-2 sniper from Bacolod has already faced his former team twice, the sight of Chan wearing a jersey outside of the Elasto Painters’ blue and yellow is still something to behold.

Chan, on the other hand, has already moved on.

“Wala na. Medyo matagal na yun,” said the 33-year-old when asked whether he still feels odd whenever he faces Rain or Shine.

“Habol ko na lang is sana makaisa na ko sa kanila.”

After losing to his former team last September 13, 116-111, Chan — who won two championships with Rain or Shine — was eyeing payback. However, it was not meant to be, as Phoenix wound up on the wrong side of a blowout, 120-99, Wednesday evening.

It was a disappointing outing for the Fuel Masters, especially as they were coming off two straight impressive wins. Phoenix were already down by 26 points entering the second frame and fell behind by as much as 39 points in the third canto.

“Medyo masama yung gising namin today. Rain or Shine shot just better good today and we were not able to stop them,” rued Chan, who scored all 11 of his points during the third quarter.

“Yung first quarter pa lang, natambakan na kami at hindi na kami naka-recover.”

Though his team had suffered their second setback in four games, the 10-year pro was relieved that it happened early in the season instead in the crucial stages of the tournament.

“Mas maganda na nagkakamali ka ng maaga para makita namin saan kami magkamali at hindi maulit ito,” added Chan, who averaged 18.0 points prior to this game.

And Chan hopes that they can regain their bearings by Saturday when they face the formidable Magnolia Hotshots.

“Siyempre lahat masama yung loob kasi talo. Again, we have a game on Saturday. We’ll go hard and hopefully we get the win.”

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