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Pontejos bombards San Sebastian; Jose Rizal clinches playoff spot



“Sabi ko sa kanila kanina, we always have to ready. When we started the winning streak, every game was a do-or-die game.” – JRU head coach Vergel Meneses

In the first game of the crucial triple header to determine playoff positioning in the last day of eliminations, the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers went all out to destroy the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Stags, 91-69 and more importantly keep their post-season hopes very much alive held at the Filoil Flying V Arena on Friday afternoon.

It was a fiery start for JRU’s Darius Estrella, who piled up his team’s first 11 points of the match in four minutes as he propelled the Bombers surge early on. Looking quicker to the ball were the Bombers who had more attempts from the field and they built a 13-7 lead with 4:53 left in the first period. However, San Sebastian countered with Michael Calisaan doing damage of his own as the guard scored nine points in the opening frame to cut the lead down to one.

As spitfire guard Paolo Pontejos made his entry to the game, he immediately punched in two triples to spark a 8-2 spurt to end the first and help JRU win the first quarter, 23-17. In the next quarter, JRU ran in transition and another Pontejos triple extended their lead to double digits for the first time at 30-19. San Sebastian responded with six quick points from Bradwyn Guinto and Jam Ortuestre.

The exchange of baskets ensued in the next possessions as a balanced contribution from the Stags enabled them to be within striking distance. In the last 3:12 of the period, Pontejos cemented his 18-point first half with a contested layup and another booming three-point shot to end the first half. JRU maintained its five point advantage at the break despite San Sebastian making more assists after two periods, 13-11.

Fortifying their momentum were the Bombers who were still hot from the field as Mark Cruz, Teytey Teodoro and Dave Sanchez combined for a 12-4 start to extend their lead to a baker’s dozen. From that point on, JRU maintained its double-digit advantage against the Stags until the final buzzer. Despite struggling from the field, Guinto scored in the points to help trim the lead, but too much firepower from the Heavy Bombers proved too much for the upset-seeking Stags.

After sitting down the entire third period, Pontejos’ reinsertion paid instant dividends offensively as he scored five straight points capped by a stepback three off-the-glass that seemingly put the nail in the coffin. On the other hand, San Sebastian had a tough time making stops on the defensive end as they were trading baskets in favor of the cruising Heavy Bombers squad.

“Nakita ko yung effort on defense especially starting nung second half,” JRU head coach Vergel Meneses remarked about the win after the game. “More effort, big chances of winning but less effort, matatalo kami.”

After not admitting that he did not feel the pressure earlier on, Meneses disclosed that there was pressure for them as the winning streak extended. “Magiging hipokrito ako pag sinabi kong hindi. Nung first two games [ng win streak] di ko pa nafeefeel yung pressure, pero nung nananalo na pumasok na,” he said. “Sabi ko sa mga players ko, tayo lang ang nakagawa ng sixth place to the final four. Remember nung second season ko, nanalo kami ng five straight and umabot pa sa Final Four.”

Paolo Pontejos led all scorers with 23 markers. He knocked down five triples and added three boards and four dimes. Seldomly used Darius Estrella made the most of his 11 minutes of game time with 11 points. Smart Elite ambassador Tey Teodoro was limited to just 20 minutes of playand scored 6 points on 3/12 shooting.

Playing his final collegiate game, Bradwyn Guinto notched a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards. He was however limited by the JRU big men in shooting just 5/18 from the field. Michael Calissan added 13 points.

As a team, the Heavy Bombers were excellent from the field in shooting at a 46% clip. They also outrebounded their opponents by a wide margin, 53-37.

With their sixth straight win, Jose Rizal U (12-6) clinched a playoff berth and will await the results of the next two games today while the San Sebastian Stags will finish the season at 7th place with a 6-12 slate.

The Scores:
JRU (91) – Pontejos 23, Estrella 11, Balagtas 8, Lasquety 6, Cruz 6, Teodoro 6, Grospe 6, Sanchez 5, Poutouochhi 5, Abdulwahab 4, Dela Paz 3, Dela Virgen 3, David 3, Astilla 2, Aurin 0.
SSC-R (69) – Guinto 14, Calisaan 13, Ortuoste 10, Bulanadi 7, Pretta 6, Sibal 5, Santos 4, Fabian 4, Costelo 3, Capobres 3, Bragais 0, Alvarez 0.
Quarterscores: 23-17, 43-38, 68-58, 91-69.



Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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