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Ravena, Ikeh deliver in clutch as Ateneo escapes NU in 2OT

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Ever since Ateneo Head Hoach Bo Perasol has taken over the helm for the Blue Eagles, he has never beaten the National University Bulldogs in the first six games he’s faced them until now.

Perasol, Ravena, and the Blue Eagles needed 50 minutes of grinding action and the heroics of rookie Nigerian student-athlete, Chibueza Ikeh, in order to defeat the Eric Altamirano-mentored Bulldogs, as Ateneo defeated National U for the first time in double overtime, 74-70, early Wednesday evening at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

An energetic NU squad pulled down early offensive boards with Alfred Aroga manning the inside. However, they muffed several putback attempts that limited them to four points before the timeout at the 4:40 mark. Meanwhile, Ateneo shot three midrange jumpers to give them the early edge, with Von Pessumal finding the stroke early on.

Despite struggling with seven turnovers in the first, NU slowed the pace down with their defense and only ended the quarter down, 11-13. With majority of second unit players fielded in for both squads, good ball movement gave Ateneo’s Tolentino and Ikeh a chance to score the first field goals of the second quarter, which help maintain the lead for the Eagles.

The slow scoring pace was due to poor three-point shooting from the teams. NU then pushed the ball inside but had to bleed for points, due to good clogging by the Katipunan-based crew. In the last minutes of the first half, veteran duo of Kyle Neypes and Gelo Alolino managed to tie the game at 24 before Kiefer Ravena scored the last three points of the second quarter, as Ateneo took the minimal lead at the break.

The teams went back-and-forth with the scoring exchange they put up to start the quarter. Notwithstanding the number of errors they had, perimeter jumpers started finding the mark in favor of the Bulldogs, as Pao Javelona and Kyle Neypes made jump shots to give NU a 37-33 edge over halfway in the third. The Bulldogs played the passing lanes actively as they were able to maintain the slim advantage after 30 minutes of action.

Aroga was aggressive to start the last period, accounting for his team’s first six points of the period. On the other end, Ateneo was trading baskets, as they had a hard time barging into NU’s lead. Afterwards, Neypes and Alolino knocked down five-straight points to extend their school’s lead at its largest, 54-48.

Fast forward to the final minute, Ravena followed up his miss from downtown with a floater. Afterwards, Jerie Pingoy stole the ball en route to two free throws on their end to melt the lead down to 55-54, with 18.7 ticks left. After Alolino drained in two free throws, Pessumal committed an inbound violation. However, Alolino would then lose the ball to Hubert Cani that found Ravena for the cold-blooded stepback triple to tie the game at 57.

As NU held a slim solitary point lead nearing two minutes left in overtime, Tansingco was called for an unsportsmanlike foul that led to two free throws by Ravena. Alolino then scored on a layup to swing back the lead to the Bulldogs’ favor. After Tansingco made a free throw, Ravena drove and stretched for a clutch layup to tie things up at 62 with 5.7 seconds left. Afterwards, Alolino missed a potential game-winner at the buzzer

During the second overtime, NU took first blood, but Ikeh converted four straight free throws, in addition to a reverse by Pessumal. Alolino, then, answered with two drives at the rim in response to stable shooting by Ikeh from the foul stripe, as the Ateneo faithful serenaded him with chants of “Ikeh, Ikeh!” Despite Ateneo missing cruicial attemps from the foul stripe, they were able to hang on by making it two-possession, and with time on their side, as they defeated the NU Bulldogs for the first time, 74-70.

After the game, an exhausted Coach Bo Perasol quipped, “it was a grind.” Perasol credited the win to his Team Captain, Kiefer Ravena, who he said “made it all happen.” Moreover, he added that the team’s foreign student-athlete Ikeh stepped up for the team. Ikeh stepped up today. He doesn’t have to prove anything at all.” Ravena also added that “Ikeh will be the key in the drive for the championship.”

Ravena led all scorers with 21 markers, but shot just 27% from the field, 7/26, including 1/10 from downtown. He added 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals, while also committing 5 turnovers. Chibueza Ikeh had his best outing so far, with a huge double-double, 14 points, 17 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

For the defending champions, Gelo Alolino collected 19 points and grabbed 8 boards in 44 minutes of action. Alfred Aroga, who fouled out, had 14 points and 7 rebounds.

As a team the Bulldogs shot at a higher clip compared to their opponents, 40.50% to 30.12%. However, they were outrebounded 57-46 that resulted to a 21-10 advantage for the cagers from Katipunan in second chance points. Finally, Ateneo had 10 more free throw conversions compared to National U.

Ateneo are now winners of two straight and holds a 2-1 record while the defending champions drop to a 0-3 slate. The Blue Eagles will next face the UE Red Warriors (2-1) on Saturday, September 19 at 2:00pm, while the NU Bulldogs look to gain their first win on the same day against the UST Growling Tigers (3-0) at 4:00pm. Both games will be played at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Scores:

ADMU (74) – Ravena 21, Ikeh 14, Pingoy 9, Pessumal 8, Apacible 6, Tolentino A 6, Gotladera 4, Babilonia 2, Cani 2, Nieto Ma 2, Black 0, Nieto Mi 0, Tolentino M 0, Wong 0

NU (70) – Alolino 19, Aroga 14, Neypes 11, Celda 6, Abatayo 5, Javelona 5, Tansingco 4, Alejandro 2, Diputado 2, Salim 2, Javillonar 0, Lastimosa 0, Rangel 0

Quarters: 13-11, 27-24, 42-43, 57-57, 62-62, 74-70

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

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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 ever since entering in 2012, was all praises with the way the officiating has become this 43rd season, which is 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 Barangay Ginebra, Sunday night.

Like what had been told many times, physicality was something that was controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty of such as he had paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it can already be called a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he could 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

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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

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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

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It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have always 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 to stay as they are, it looks like it will be 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 an excuse.

“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,” expressed 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 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 though has a chance to end their slump against Kia 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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