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PLDT overpowers Army; sends Finals to deciding Game Three

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Powered by an explosive effort from the MVP, and the Second Best Middle Blocker, the PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters avenged their Game One loss and forced a do-or-die Game Three with a four set triumph over the Army Lady Troopers 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 25-18 in Game Two Shakey’s V-League Open Conference Finals at the FilOil Flying-V Arena.

Crowned MVP and First Best Outside Spiker before the match started, Alyssa Valdez again topped PLDT with a 26-point effort: which includes 20 attacks, four aces, and two blocks. Valdez’s National Team sidekick and this conference’s Second Best Middle Blocker, Jaja Santiago also had a marvelous outing for PLDT, scoring 20 points off 13 attacks, five blocks, and two aces. After sitting out PLDT’s last two matches due to a high right ankle sprain, Charo Soriano started for PLDT and contributed eight markers.

The Ultra Fast Hitters started the match off strong, utilizing an 8-0 run littered with Alyssa Valdez aces and Jaja Santiago blocks to forge an early 17-6 lead. PLDT preserved their hefty lead and subbed Alyssa Valdez out for Laurence Latigay when their lead grew to 22-9. Army went on a late run 7-1 run to cut the misfiring PLDT’s lead down to 23-16. PLDT Coach Roger Gorayeb then reinserted Alyssa Valdez in the lineup but she would not be involved in the last two points as a Daquis attack error and a Sasa Devanadera ace capped PLDT’s first set win.

Army worked out their reception problems in the following frame with a Tina Salak service ace that gave them a 13-7 lead. PLDT responded as Alyssa Valdez’s serves dumbfounded the Army receivers, trimming the Army lead down to two, 13-11. Army scored consecutive points to respond but PLDT rattled off another run capped by back-to-back Alyssa Valdez back row kills that gave PLDT the lead heading into the second technical timeout, 16-15. Ging Balse, Jovelyn Gonzaga, and Nene Bautista kept Army at pace momentarily until PLDT broke through and rattled off four consecutive attacks to arrive at set point relatively early at 24-20. Army wouldn’t go away quietly as Nene Bautista scored the next two points, forcing PLDT into a timeout. Jaja Santiago ended the set with a drop ball that the referees called dead, even if it appeared that Army Libero Tin Agno had pancaked the attack.

The Ultra Fast Hitters looked to have controlled the third set when they nibbled down another Army lead to tie at 14. The Lady Troopers, however, pushed through as Ging Balse scored thrice on a 5-0 run that gave Army a decisive 19-14 lead. Army held on and won their only set off steady floor defense and Ging Balse’s scoring.

Army’s reception became their downfall in the final set, as Rubie De Leon scored two aces on a 3-0 run that gave PLDT an 11-8 lead. Heavily contested calls that didn’t go their way greatly bogged down the Lady Troopers, allowing PLDT to get all the momentum down the stretch and close out the match. Valdez scored on three straight attacks followed by another Rubie De Leon ace that gave PLDT a sizable 21-13 lead that sealed that match for PLDT.

“Malaking bagay na nakuha namin ‘yung breaks ng laban, malaki naitulong noon sa morale ng mga bata. Wala naman din kaming ginawang mga adjustments sa game, nakakuha lang kami ng breaks saka maganda nilaro ng lahat ng players,” said Coach Gorayeb.

Ging Balse led all Lady Troopers with 17 points while the conference’s Best Opposite Hitter, Jovelyn Gonzaga pitched in 12 markers. The league’s Second Best Outside Hitter, Rachel Daquis had her second game subpar outing, notching only four points as she is still nursing a few nagging injuries according to Army Head Coach, Rico De Guzman.

Game Three will happen next Sunday, May 31 with the venue to be announced.

The Scores

PLDT (3) -Valdez 26, Santiago 20, Soriano 8, Roces 6, Soltones 4, De Leon 3, Devanadera 1, Kasilag 0, Ferrer 0, Latigay 0 Villanueva 0, Pantone (L), Lazaro (L)

Army (1) – Balse 17, Gonzaga 12, Manabat 9, Bautista 6, Salak 6, Daquis 4, Tubino 1, Gonzales 0, Agno (L), Torres (L)

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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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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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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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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Basketball

Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics

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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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ABL

Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win

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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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