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Barangay Ginebra: Identity Crisis

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pba12When you have a seven-foot big man playing in your squad, two players standing 6-foot-9 and two other frontliners standing no less than 6-foot-5, it’s only ideal to anchor your offensive game on your big men.

Greg Slaughter is the team’s premier center, and undisputed man at the position for the Gin Kings. Import Michael Dunigan could easily slide playing at the No. 4 spot and Japeth Aguilar can play both forward spots. Off the bench, you still have Jay-R Reyes and veteran Billy Mamaril to do the dirty work down low.

You have a very solid, tall frontline and the only thing the coach should do is maximize it.

But when you have a coach that wants to establish a fast-paced game, these solid frontliners could become the starters for Ginebra’s fastbreak game. These bigs will just control the boards and let the guards do their thing to finish it.

Yes, they have the talented guards and wingmen to finish the fast breaks – Joseph Yeo, Mark Caguioa, Jayjay Helterbrand, LA Tenorio, and Chris Ellis to name a few.

So how do the Gin Kings want to be identified?

They want to be known as an inside-out team as their offense would go to the big men first – particularly Slaughter and Dunigan – similar to the system being run by their sister team San Miguel Beer. Looking at the frontline, it seems the Gin Kings have an even better chance if they could get the ball down low. They have not just one, but two options inside.

If you were to ask import Dunigan, he believes the Gin Kings should utilize their size advantage to the hilt.pba15

We need to utilize our bigs. We need to find a way to make them more effective and put them in a good position to score. We’re taller than most teams. In my opinion we should go inside-out,” said Dunigan.

“Fastbreak is a nice thing, of course, but we have bigs.”

A Slaughter-Dunigan combination looks formidable…

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But what about Japeth Aguilar?

For all his athleticism and size, Aguilar should start doing weak side rebounding and make full use of his gifted leaping ability. Think about a Harvey Carey, a Kelly Williams or a Marc Pingris who are excellent weak side rebounders. Aguilar should start doing that.

In the Gin Kings’ first game last Tuesday, Aguilar was at a loss. He was a big disappointment as he couldn’t get a single rebound despite his size and athleticism.

Talking about the things he learned at Western Kentucky, Japeth should bring all of that to the PBA.

Dunigan’s observation, however, is a stark contrast from the philosophy envisioned by comebacking coach Ato Agustin. He wants the Gin Kings to run, but he wants his team to do it the more efficient way. Less talk. More action.

“Yun nga ang gusto ko, yung takbuhan. Yun rin naman ang gusto nila. Pero sabi ko nga after the game, gusto natin running team pero hindi lang basta sinasabi yun, kailangan ng action,” he said.

But in the team’s first match, their guards couldn’t get their game going, scoring only three points from the fastbreaks, while Yeo even had a scoreless game. They got three points from Tenorio and six and three points respectively from the (not so) Fast and Furious tandem of Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand.

Perhaps, before developing their running game, the Gin Kings will have to borrow aggressiveness from the Meralco Bolts, who outplayed them in almost all departments, including rebounding where the smaller team outrebounded the tallest frontline in the league, 55-48.

The Gin Kings should also realize that winning games varies not during tune up games and practices, but in real tournaments- something Agustin wants to instill in his players.

“Kulang pa sa aggressiveness yung game namin. Actually, I was surprised talaga na ganito yung performance namin itong game namin kasi sa practice talagang everyday nakikita ko yung aggressive andun. Even our tune up games. Sabi ko nga this is the real game. Not yung mga practices, not yung mga tune up games. But kung ano yung ginagawa natin sa practices natin, which are all good, dito natin gawin,” he added.

So if you were the Gin Kings, what would you do? Would you play half court offense and put your big men in better position to score with a high-percentage shot or would you like to run and anchor your game on the transition?

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the bout returned to the feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for Phoenix Fuel Masters Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to Mahindra Floodbuster.

But that achievement of his won’t be that memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat they had absorbed into the hands of Paul Lee and Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix was there in contention all through out the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But then, the Hotshots’ comebacking skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” expressed the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face Barangay Ginebra next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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Basketball

Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics

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FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to its’ first win after a historic 16-game skid at the expense of Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover the six-foot-four forward made.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made it. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all by himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he got frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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ABL

Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win

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Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

Alab’s bench however could not sustain the effort of the starters that led to them clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a sparkplug, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided the spark for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. were on-point with the former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards that resulted to the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan to slice the lead to as low as four points. Free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28 when they take on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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