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PSL Campfire AFC Finals: It’s Petron’s to lose

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Picture yourself playing one of those Free-to-Play smartphone games. Because you’re a practical human being with better things to spend your money on, you refuse to spend money or use your credit card to bypass some of the game’s paywall features (i.e. that timer in Candy Crush you can refresh instantly if you pay a dollar, premium currency like diamonds in Clash of Clans or Hay Day, or exclusive weapons, characters, or features that are paid for with real money). You enjoy the game just fine without having to dole out cash. But then your rich, impractical friend decides to get in on the gane with you. Before you know it, he’s beating the crap out of you with his over-leveled character that he got by literally paying for every advantage he could get. That friend is the Petron Blaze Spikers.

Petron

I’m not saying that what how Petron’s team was built is impractical. But it did create a giant chasm of talent level between them and the nest teams. It’s undeniable. From the moment the official lineups for each team was released in the PSL’s first press conference, one could tell that Petron was going to plow through the entire league, and to make their way with relative ease to the Finals. Once they got their legs under them in the second round, Petron was simply too good for everyone else.

Shopinas 2

Shopinas, on the other hand, experienced so much turnover from last season with most of their stars going on an exodus to more stable pastures. But, whatever their name may be, they have a core of La Sallians; coaches and players who aren’t used to losing and know how to win championships. The Lady Clickers persisted through a tough season; overcoming a severe lack of practice time and learning literally during games how to incorporate their new players. They now have a grizzled group of veterans and young players who just keep finding ways to win really close games. But make no doubt about it, this Shopinas team is totally different from the Generika squad that made the Finals in last season’s Grand Prix and they’re underdogs against Petron.

So, just how much of an advantage does Petron have over Shopinas? What does Shopinas need to overcome the Petron onslaught? Let’s run through the answers to those and more in the following.

Cooking with Gas

 
Based off my personal game notes from the entire season, here are the Top 5 sources of points for each team without counting opponent’s errors:

Petron:
Manabat Running Attack
Daquis Open Hit
Maraño Running Hit
Manabat Quick Hit
Morada Attacks

Shopinas:
Mercado Open Hit
Cruz Open Hit
Mandapat Opposite Hit
Dy Quick Attack
Angustia Quick Attack

Shopinas attacking

Shopinas is mainly powered by their two top options as Mercado and Cruz have produced most of the points off attacks from the left side of the net. It’s easier for teams to set for open hits as setters just need to keep the ball relatively high which is less complicated to do off digs and bad receptions. Other than those options, Shopinas didn’t show other go-to attacks aside from quick attacks from their middle blockers off good receptions which causes their offense to stagnate at times. Expect their offense to be miles better than where it was during their last game as the nearly two-week break they got should have given them a lot of opportunities to practice and to add plays.

Petron attacking

Petron had a much more nuanced offense. Dindin Santiago-Manabat is the second best offensive player in the country just behind Alyssa Valdez, and Dindin’s cornucopia of attacks have given Petron an undeniable edge. She attacks from everywhere with her patented running attack being featured as Petron’s main attack. Aside from her, Petron had a wealth of other options in their newly acquired stars, Aby Maraño, Rachel Anne Daquis and Frances Molina, and their holdovers from last season in Maica Morada, Fille Cainglet, and Mina Aganon. Four different players have led Petron in scoring this season and they settled in with Mary Grace Masangkay as their setter after fumbling with the idea of the enigmatic Ivy Perez in the starting six.

Petron out-attacked all of their opponents by double-digits this season. They have no weak rotation in their starting six, constantly having three or more attacking options with a few of their players able to fluently attack frok the back row. Defending against Petron’s offense is going to be an adventure for Shopinas. Manabat and Maraño’s running attack require perfect timing and placement of blockers and back row players to defend successfully. When you set your defense up for that, the Blaze Spikers have shifted their attack to other options with relative ease. So the trick is to not let Petron get anything setup which leads us to…

Service, Reception, or Something like it

 
Petron really only had their backs against the wall twice this season and one of those matches was their first round meeting against Shopinas. The Lady Clickers were able to go up two sets to love with focused floor defense and loaded services. The Lady Clickers’ blocking also showed in that match as they may not have tallied that many block points but they were able to intercept enough of Petron’s attacks, keep the ball in play, and get a counter attack going.

Serving will be key for Shopinas this series as reception is the one thing Petron has been frequently shaky at this season. The Lady Clickers have float servers who can target players on the other side of the court effortlessly. Shopinas will have their targets against Petron. As good a back row attackers Manabat has been, her reception often eludes her so sending serves in her area may not only produce aces but should make it difficult for Manabat to setup for a back row attack, eliminating an option for Petron.

Jen Reyes

Shopinas will have to be on-point, not only with serving, but also with blocking to be able to build leads or to erase deficits off their side-outs. But that’s easier said than done against Petron who are anchored by one of the country’s best liberos in Jen Reyes. She is probably the league’s best digger and receiver and has saved hundreds of points for her team. Aside from her, Morada and Maraño have been steady in the back row. Maraño, specifically, has taken her defensive game to a whole new level with her blocking still being incredibly threatening.

shopinas block

The Lady Clickers need to stay steady the entire series and coax their foes into errors as they did against Foton in their match to get into the Finals. Shopinas has won multiple big games by just buckling down, defending and letting their opponents make errors in crucial situations.

Overall, this is going to be quite an uphill battle for Coach Ramil’s Lady Clickers. Coach Pascua has his uber-talented Blaze Spikers peeking at the right time when they made the Finals. If there’s any chance for an upset, it will be critical for the Lady Clickers to be aggressive right from Game One in Cavite to take advantage of a predicted lackadaisical effort from the favorites. If this were like last season’s single game Final, this would really be anyone’s game. But, in a series, the better team always comes out on top and it’s hard to argue that any team has been better than undefeated Petron.

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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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Basketball

After getting first D-League experience, Zark’s-Lyceum ready to get loose

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After a hesitant performance in their PBA D-League debut last Thursday that resulted in a loss to the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers, the Zark’s Burger-Lyceum Jawbreakers seemingly caught up with the league’s style of play on Tuesday.

Zark’s-Lyceum displayed their true form and stamped their class all over the Batangas-EAC Generals with a 37-point destruction, 112-75 — so far the biggest winning margin the franchise has ever had in its D-League history.

“Medyo adjusted na kami on everything — the calls and the teams we’re playing against with,” said Zark’s-Lyceum head coach Topex Robinson after the match at Pasig Sports Center. “But the things we want to mind are those things we control.

“We just have to keep on doing what we are doing. It’s more on replenishing na lang on our old ways.”

Robinson’s claim was strongly backed up by the numbers that the Jawbreakers produced.

CJ Perez had 21 points and 10 rebounds. MJ Ayaay produced 15 points and 10 boards, and Mike Nzeusseu delivered 14 markers and 11 boards.

Even the bench made their presence felt in the victory. With guard Jaycee Marcelino spearheading the supporting cast’s charge with 12 markers, the bench contributed a remarkable 56 points to their total output.

Photo by PBA Images

“Ano lang, cinontrol lang namin yung pace kasi yun naman talaga yung laro namin, yung mabilisan,” said the 24-year-old do-it-all forward, who also collected three steals.

“Kailangan talaga mabilisan para ma-execute namin yung mga ginagawa namin.”

This week will be a rough one for the Pirates, as they will play right away this Thursday against the AMA Online Education. And for Perez, he strongly believes that they will be able to carry over their momentum.

“Oo. Nandun pa. Energy talaga yung puhunan namin para makalaro ng maayos.”

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Basketball

Bonbon Batiller shows what he can bring to Letran in D-League debut

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Photo by PBA Images

Tuesday proved to be a double debut for Bonbon Batiller. Aside from beginning his first foray in the PBA D-League, it also marked his debut for the Letran Knights, who is carrying the Wang’s Basketball Couriers franchise.

And the 5-foot-11 guard unleashed what he can bring to the table. Batiller collected 15 points, five rebounds, and three assists to help the Knights raise the curtains of their campaign with a 93-75 rout of Batangas-EAC Generals.

“Nagworkout yung pinagpraktisan namin,” said Batiller. “Nagbunga rin yung tinuro samin ni Coach Jeff (Napa) lalo sa depensa. Tsaka siguro sa rebounds — laking lamang namin sa rebound. Nagsipag mga bigs namin.”

But what makes him beam even more is the warm reception and trust he’s had from the Knights, even if he has spent barely a year with them after transferring from University of the East last 2017.

“Masaya po kasi tinanggap nila ako sa Letran ng buong-buo,” said Batiller, who normed 10.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.6 steals with UE in two years. “Tsaka yung tiwala nila na makakatulong ako sa team nandoon.

“Kaya masaya ako sa pinakita nila sa akin.”

That is why the General Santos-native is hard-pressed to prove himself to Letran, saying that he’s all about giving back to the school that gave him another opportunity to resume his young, up-and-coming basketball career.

“Kailangan kong may mapatunayan na deserving ako sa binigay na second chance sa akin ni Letran,” said Batiller, who decided to switch schools partly due to academic reasons.

“Malaki ang utang ko sa Letran.”

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Football

Bienvenido Maranon scores brace as Ceres-Negros eliminates Brisbane Roar

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Photo from the-AFC.com

Philippine club football just achieved its biggest continental result yet

The inaugural Philippines Football League champions Ceres-Negros Football Club eliminated three-time Australian champions Brisbane Roar in the 2018 AFC Champions League’s second preliminary round with a 3-2 stunner away at the QSAC Stadium in Brisbane.

With the win, the 2017 AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Champions are set to face Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian next January 30, 2018 at the Haihe Educational Football Stadium in Tianjin, China to book a seat in the group stages.

Brisbane were the favorites for this tie and it showed as Ceres started the contest at the backfoot. Italian striker Massimo Maccarone handed the home side the lead at the 35th minute when he turned in Brett Holman’s pass.

Maccarone’s goal could have lowered the Busmen’s moral, but Risto Vidakovic’s men took it as a motivation rather than a downer. In fact, Ceres replied in the best way possible when Bienvenido Maranon scored his first goal of the match two minutes from halftime thanks to a scramble in the Brisbane box.

By all accounts, Ceres already made Philippine football proud at halftime. By this stage last year, Brisbane accrued a 4-0 halftime cushion against Global Cebu en route to a 6-0 rout.

Today, though, Brisbane faced tougher resistance at the hands of Ceres. This resistance turned into a full-fledged revolt at the 65th minute when Maranon directed the ball past a helpless Jamie Young to give the Busmen their first taste of the lead.

Maranon’s goal well and truly turned the tide in Ceres’ favor. Brisbane were stunned. The home side are the defending A-League champions, but are currently eighth in the table this season and would soon face elimination from Asia’s premier club competition.

Already up 2-1, the Busmen finally achieved some breathing space at the 75th minute when Omid Nazari scored from close range to give Ceres a two-goal cushion from Brisbane.

Nazari’s goal not only sealed the win for Ceres as it also propelled Philippine football into the big leagues. Not even a late goal from French midfielder Éric Bauthéac can prevent the Busmen’s victory.

After five minutes of stoppage time, Ceres emerged 3-2 winners against Brisbane Roar. Come what may against Tianjin seven days from now, the Busmen have already achieved Philippine football’s biggest result ever since their own achievement in last season’s AFC Cup.

Who knows? Maybe Ceres can pull off another upset?

Ceres-Negros XI: Doblas (GK), Super, Mike Ott, Ingreso, Maranon, Porteria, Schrock, De Murga (C), Munoz, Nazari, Christaens.

Brisbane Roar XI: Ingham, Bowles, Papadopoulos, Maccarone, Holman, Khalfallah, Oxborrow, McKay (C), Hingert, Young (GK), Franjic.

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EAC

CJ Perez, Zark’s-Lyceum vent ire on Batangas-EAC with 37-point romp

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Photo by PBA Images

CJ Perez and the Zark’s Burger-Lyceum Jawbreakers finally lived up to its hype as it clobbered the Batangas-EAC Generals to score a 37-point beatdown, 112-75 for its first win, Tuesday at the Pasig Sports Center.

It was an all-out attack from the Jawbreakers as they beat the Generals to the bite and took control of the game early with Mike Nzeusseu and Jaycee Marcelino guiding their side to the 48-33 lead at halftime which they will never surrender.

Perez paced Zark’s Burger-Lyceum with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while MJ Ayaay tallied a double-double with his 15 markers, 10 boards, and three assists.

Cameroonian student-athlete Nzeusseu also delivered 14 points, 11 rebounds, and two assists, while Marcelino had eight first half points and wound up with 12 off the bench as the reserves chipped in 56 huge points in the tussle.

Coach Topex Robinson lauded the Jawbreakers for quickly adjusting to the style of the PBA D-League just days after falling to Marinerong Pilipino, 92-94 back in opening day.

“Medyo adjusted na kami on everything — the calls and the teams were playing against with. But the things we want to mind are those things we control. We just have to keep on doing what we are doing. It’s more on replenishing na lang on our old ways,” he said.

Earvin Mendoza and Cedric de Joya both had 16 points for the Generals in the losing effort.

Zark’s-Lyceum looks to continue to roll when it faces the AMA Online Education Titans on Thursday, January 25. EAC-Batangas, on the other hand, takes on the Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers on Monday, January 29.

The Scores:

Zark’s-Lyceum 112 — Perez 21, Ayaay 15, Nzeusseu 14, Jc. Marcelino 12, Serrano 10, Baltazar 8, Santos 8, Jv. Marcelino 6, Tansingco 6, Marata 4, Liwag 4, Ibañez 2, Cinco 2, Pretta 0.

Batangas-EAC 75 — E. Mendoza 16, De Joya 16, Tampoc 12, Laude 9, Pate 8, Maguliano 6, Altamirano 5, Diego 3, Garcia 0, Dela Peña 0, Martin 0, J. Mendoza 0, Neri 0.

Quarterscores: 19-14, 48-33, 84-47, 112-75.

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