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Puto Queen’s Last Grind

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As the spike of her teammate, Bernadeth Pons, did not get over the net, her last service reception, turned out to be her final touch of the volleyball in a UAAP game. The career of arguably one of the league’s best Liberos had reached its end. She stood up, with her relatively small frame, and shook hands with her opponents for the last time. She, then, huddled with her squad in her green uniform amidst all the gold. It is with mixed feelings of disappointment, pride, and relief that Christine Agno will be leaving the Lady Tamaraws as of that moment.

Tin, as she is fondly called by many, has always dreamt of being in the UAAP. Like most in the recent volleyball generation, she watched her idols on TV playing for the Shakey’s V-League. “High school pa lang ako, nakita ko na sila ate Maica noon. Parang, kasi ang liit ko talaga, sabi ko, ‘Ay, baka pwede yung height ko, ganun.’” She referred to FEU’s star middle attacker, Micaela Irish Morada, who despite her lack of height, played effectively, and was able to help her school win a title.

However, Tin recalled that it was not on her mind to go to FEU. Not until a revamp occurred in the Lady Tamaraws’ volleyball team five years ago, which led to then head coach, Nestor Pamilar, off to scour for new recruits. There was no better venue to search for recruits than, at the country’s breeding ground for athletic talent, Palarong Pambansa. Agno shared, “Sakto nag-Palaro kami, at nakuha kami ni Coach Nes.” Right there, Tin weighed her options and thought, “Iba yung sa Manila, iba yung sa La Salle Lipa. So mas pinili ko yung [FEU].”

Thus, she ventured into the Big City. However, adjusting to the new environment was not the only thing she needed to do. She also had to take on a different position in the sport she had been playing for so long. During her high school days at La Salle Lipa she was an open spiker, so her transition to Libero was not easy. “Actually, nung una hirap talaga ako. Parang nung first year ko sa UAAP, ‘tas ako yung Libero, ako yung pinaka-useless na Libero nun kasi wala talaga … yung laro ko parang hindi pang-Libero. Hanggang sa naiinis na yung iba, ‘Ano ba yan, Libero ba yan?’”

Her initial performance in the court could have led to her replacement by another Libero. Thus, Agno persevered to do what she was required of her to stay in the team. “Hanggang second year, Unigames, dapat papalitan na ko pero tsinaga ako ni Coach Shaq.” Such help and motivation pushed Tin to work on her game, and the volleyball public witnessed her results. “Kung hindi ko gugustuhin ‘to, walang mangyayari sa ‘kin. So ginusto ko na yung pwestong yun, trinabaho ko, pinaghirapan ko yun. Tsinaga ko talaga. Tsaka sayang yung opportunity na kinuha ka ng school.”

Such improvement was seen in her game during the following years, as Tin’s name was part of the same discussion as other great defense specialists like Lizlee Ann Gata, Melissa Gohing, and Jen Reyes. During the end of  the first round and early in the second round of her last season, Agno was on the list of the Best Diggers and Best Receivers leaders, which is a testament to her dedication as a player.

There was one thing, however, that she was not able to achieve for her team – a stint in the Finals and a chance for the school’s 30th women’s volleyball plum. She regrets this fact. “Siyempre, nanghinayang.” Despite all this, she felt their team did well, especially this season. “Sa sobrang daming pinagdaanan ng team namin ngayon, siguro masaya na kami sa Final Four kasi ang dami nagdream; ilang beses kaming sumabak … ilang beses kaming nag do-or-die, mga tatlo, apat, ganun.” She added, “Kumbaga, yung character na nabuild namin yun yung importante sa min.” She hopes this character will be able to help the people she will leave behind on their pursuit for that championship in the future.

This diminutive talent was actually rumored not to return this season, as she is on her last year of eligibility. However, that desire to help, pushed her to try for another season. “Naisip ko na kailangan pa ako, kailangan pa ako ng mga bata. Alam kong meron pa akong maitutulong kaya ginamit ako.”

This return was fruitful as she was able to help FEU reach the semifinals this year as one of its leaders. “Syempre, masaya ako kasi may naiwan akong legacy sa team na ‘to. Siguro ‘yung nakatulong ako sa kanila bilang ate, ma-change yung attitudes nila, Kumbaga, maging model na bilang ate.”

As Agno bids farewell to the very same team she dreamt of being a part of, she has so much to take away from her stint in the UAAP. “Yung samahan na lang na nabuo sa team na ‘to, kasi iba talaga, sobrang iba talaga; hindi lang siya basta team, higit pa siya sa magkakapatid talaga.” She was also proud that this family of hers has managed to build a reputation. “Kasi ‘yung team namin from wala, hanggang sa ngayon na kahit papano may naiwan rin kaming pangalan.”

And as she moves on to greener pastures, Tin echoed the battle cry of Tamaraws this season as she will go on with life armed with a “brave heart.”

FEUvsUE Round 2-0484

Indeed, Agno will be remembered as the little girl with a big heart – as she does her very best to go against the strong serves and attacks of her opponents just to keep that ball afloat. It is now up for the others to deal with the ball, which Tin has accomplished during her playing years. It is up to the team she is leaving behind to carry on with the title aspirations. The 30th cannot be attained this year, but with Agno’s legacy it might not be long before they do.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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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 are carrying the Wang’s Basketball Couriers franchise.

And the 5-foot-11 guard showed 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 the 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 has him even more satisfied 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 on the back foot. Italian striker Massimo Maccarone handed the home side the lead in 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 had already made Philippine football proud at halftime. By this stage last year, Brisbane had accrued a 4-0 halftime cushion against Global Cebu en route to a 6-0 rout.

Today, though, Brisbane faced tougher resistance at Ceres’ hands. That resistance turned into a full-fledged revolt in 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 room in the 75th minute when Omid Nazari scored from close range to give Ceres a two-goal cushion over Brisbane.

Nazari’s goal not only sealed the win for Ceres, it also propelled Philippine football into the big leagues. Not even a late goal from French midfielder Éric Bauthéac could 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 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 their hype, as they clobbered the Batangas-EAC Generals to score a 37-point beatdown, 112-75 for their 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 would 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. 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 the 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 look to continue to roll when they face the AMA Online Education Titans on Thursday, January 25. EAC-Batangas, on the other hand, take 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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