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Racal wills Letran past San Beda to take Game One



Kevin Racal wanted to win this one so bad.

The Colegio de San Juan de Letran Knight senior played the game of his life on both ends of the court to lead the Knights in Game One of the NCAA Seniors Basketball Finals in a 94-90 nailbiter against the defending champions, San Beda College Red Lions, Friday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

In the early-goings of the game, Letran junior McJour Luib was aggressive on the offensive end in driving strong to the hole. Luib had already tallied six points and two dimes halfway through the opening quarter. Moreover, that aggressiveness led to an 18-8 lead, the biggest in the game, with 3:22 to go. With the San Beda starters starting slow, coach Jamike Jarin’s shock troopers, led by Dan Sara and Donald Tankoua, provided the punch needed by the defending champions. Slowly, the second unit were able to spark a 13-1 run capped by a Joe Presbitero putback that gave San Beda a 21-20 lead. However, it was shortlived as Christian Balagasay closed the quarter with free throws that gave Letran a 22-21 lead.

Both squads hardened their defensive stance in the second quarter as the two teams struggled to put up points. Letran was able to gain a 31-26 lead with the struggles Beda was experiencing. When the starters returned to the floor, senior Ryusei Koga gave life to the stagnant Beda offense. Then back-to-back triples by Tarlac-native AC Soberano and a layup by Adeogun gave San Beda a 41-37 lead. However, a long jumper by Luib cut the lead to just two to enter halftime 41-39.

Kevin Racal came out of the locker room on fire as he exploded for ten points in the third quarter. Racal’s run was highlighted by an eye in the sky play with a pass from Jom Sollano to Racal that gave Letran a 58-52 lead with 4:55 to go. The Knights completely outhustled the champions during that span even on the boards. The Letran momentum was halted when Bong Quinto was called for an unsportsmanlike foul on Dan Sara. After a split by Sara on the stripe, Adeogun lived on the line as he scored four straight free throws to cut the lead to just a solitary point. A Racal triple was quickly answered by a Tongco bomb. Two more free throws by Adeogun capped the Beda third quarter run gave San Beda a 62-61 lead to enter the final frame.

The Letran troika of Racal, Cruz, and Nambatac blasted a 7-2 blast to start the quarter. After that run, the two teams then went on a classic shootout that saw triples by Racal, Nambatac, and Luib gunslinging for Letran while outside sniping by Soberano and Amer kept the Red Lions close. During that frame, eight total triples were unleashed by both squads in the first 5:36 of the final quarter. A Koga steal on Nambatac with 4:24 that led to a layup cut the lead to just one, 83-82, to the roar of the San Beda faithful. Ola Adeogun was then able to tie the game at 85-all after an Amer find.

Knowing the importance of this game, Racal became the steady presence for the Knights as his precision on the foul stripe led to an 89-85 Letran lead with 40.3 ticks to go. After two more free throws by Adeogun and a split at the stripe by Cruz, Adeogun grabbed the rebound and coasted through the halfcourt. However, Adeogun was trapped that led to a Racal steal. Free throws by Racal and a defensive lapse by Beda that led to a Nambatac layup sealed the game, 94-90, for the Knights.

“Sabi nga namin ni Mark (Cruz), last year na namin ito,” Racal said after the game. “Kelangan kaming tulungan ng mga teammates namin at yung isa’t isa.”

Coach Aldin Ayo added that the team expected this kind of game from San Beda. “We expected this type of game. We just have to tough it out,” he disclosed. “This was a classic kind of game. The shootout was good for the audience and we’ve been doing this for the entire season,” he added.

For Cruz, he still continues to preach that they need to follow system. “We focused on defense. Just stick to the gameplan at darating din opensa namin galing sa depensa.”

Racal had a game-high 28 points on an excellent 50% clip while also adding five boards, five assists, and two steals. Fellow senior Mark Cruz added 17 markers, including four triples. Cagayan de Oro-natives Rey Nambatac and McJour Luib combined for 34 points.

For the Red Lions, Ola Adeogun towered over the Letran frontline with 23 points and 16 boards. He was 7/9 from the field and perfect from the foul stripe. The backcourt tandem of Dan Sara and Ryusei Koga both had ten markers each.

The Knights shot 45% from the field while the Red Lions were just 41%. Even in getting outrebounded 50-37, the Knights forced their rivals to 29 turnovers that led to 25 turnover points.

The Letran Knights will look to close out the series on Tuesday, October 27 at 4:00pm. Game two will still be played at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:
CSJL (94) – Recal 28, Nambatac 18, Cruz 17, Luib 16, Sollano 9, Quinto 4, Balagasay 2, Apreku 0, Balanza 0, Calvo 0.
SBC (90) – Adeogun 23, Koga 10, Sara 10, Soberano 9, Amer 8, Tankoua 8, Dela Cruz 7, Tongco 5, Mocon 4, Solera 4, Prebitero 2, Cabanag 0, Reyes 0, Bonsubre 0, Sedillo 0.
Quarterscores: 22-21, 39-41, 61-62, 94-90.


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Joshua Munzon, Westsports snap Saigon’s streak in highly emotional contest



Photo by ASEAN Basketball League

Entering Wednesday night’s game, Mikey Williams and the Saigon Heat were on a high, slaying the winning streaks of Hong Kong Eastern and Nanhai Kung Fu. However, Joshua Munzon and the Westsports Malaysia Dragons had other things in mind, keeping the Heat winless at the MABA Stadium, 91-87.

In his fourth game since returning to the Dragons, Munzon filled up the stat sheet, tallying 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks.

Besides putting up the numbers, the athletic swingman from California helped limit reigning Heritage Player of the Week Williams to his worst game so far in the ABL. Averaging 27.33 points, 6.67 assists, and 6.0 rebounds prior to this game, Williams went field goal-less against the Dragons, missing all 11 of his attempts. The Filipino-American floor general was able to dish out eight assists and grab five caroms.

Westsports led by as much as 11 points in the final frame, 82-71, after Munzon found Marcus Marshall for a triple with 4:59 remaining. Behind World Imports Akeem Scott and Maxie Esho, the Heat stormed right back but was answered by a long bomb by Munzon to keep them at bay.

Marshall and Scott figured in a shootout to close out the game but in the end, the hosts were still able to etch out their second straight victory.

Marshall finished the game with 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Dragons while Scott’s 44-point game went for naught.

After the emotionally charged contest though, few unkind words were exchanged by the officials of both squads that almost resulted into a brawl. Fortunately, things did not escalate beyond that.

In the video, Munzon was also seen shoving a Saigon player to try and pacify the situation. The league is currently investigating the post-game incident.

With the win, Westsports Malaysia raised its record to 3-4 while dropping Saigon to 4-3.

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Mixed Martial Arts

Edward Kelly honored to fight alongside brother Eric



Eric and Edward Kelly lived under the same roof for years in their hometown of Baguio City when they were young and shared the same burning passion in martial arts.

Growing up in the small town community of San Tomas Central, located within the city limits of Baguio, Eric and Edward did not always get along with one another as the two fought all the time, sometimes even resulting in injury.

“We were not that close before. We always fought. In short, Eric and I were headaches to our parents,” Edward recalled in jest.

“But of course, things change when you grow up and mature. We now appreciate each other’s company.”

Fortunately, when the brothers entered high school, Eric discovered martial arts, and everything would change for both of them.

Edward paid attention to the growing accolades of his older brother and was heavily motivated by it.

“I noticed after he started martial arts that it taught him the discipline not to fight me as a brother. Instead, he started giving me advice through what he had learned,” he bared. “I also joined martial arts because it teaches you discipline, and a lot of other positives, too.”

Years later, both men have made remarkable runs as outstanding martial artists in their respective professional careers.

Eric is widely regarded as one of the best homegrown martial arts athletes to come out of the Philippines.

A Wushu practitioner who combines solid striking techniques with high-level grappling skills, Eric owns nine scintillating submissions and one knockout out of 12 total career victories.

Eric’s most impressive showing to date came in a submission win over Rob Lisita in July 2014, a performance that earned him the USD 50,000 ONE Warrior Bonus.

Meanwhile, Edward is considered as one of the best and brightest featherweight prospects to emerge from the well-established martial arts scene in the Philippines.

With a complete striking and grappling skill set, Edward brings Team Lakay’s world-renowned Wushu to center stage as he showcases his impeccable skillset inside the ONE Championship cage.

In addition, the younger Kelly has won three of his last four bouts under the ONE Championship banner, all by spectacular finish.

The Kelly brothers get a rare chance on Friday, January 26 as the siblings will compete side-by-side when ONE Championship holds its first of the four scheduled events in the country for 2018.

Eric squares off with Brazilian standout Rafael Nunes on the undercard of ONE: Global Superheroes, while Edward crosses paths with Cambodia’s Meas Meul in a three-round featherweight clash.

It is the first time both of them will be featured at a ONE Championship event together, and Edward plans to make it a night they will never forget.

“I am so excited because finally, it’s going to happen. It marks the first time that I will compete alongside my older brother. Surely, it’s going to be a memorable night for the both of us,” he said.

“We have the same aim of winning. So making it two for two on this card will make this extra special.”

As Eric seeks to get back on the winning track at the expense of Nunes, Edward is likewise looking to move forward in his career after getting his three-bout winning streak snapped by American stalwart Emilio Urrutia in August 2017.

In his next cage outing, Edward goes up against Meul, a undefeated promotional newcomer with six wins to his credit.

“My coaches has prepared me well for this. I am not going to disappoint my team and my country when I enter that cage on 26th of January,” Edward assured. “I don’t want to let my countrymen down this time. I am here to give them a great bout.

“And of course, win the bout in impressive fashion for them.”

Edward has no qualms if he has to go full three rounds with Meul, but he admitted that his sights are always set on securing the finish.

“I am looking to dominate him for three rounds. But hopefully, I can get the finish,” he vowed.

“A finish will be the perfect way to tell the world that I am back.”

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Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates



Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting



Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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