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Salenga goal in injury time pushes NU past UST

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An injury time goal from Paolo Salenga gave the National University Bulldogs three much needed points, as the football tournament’s dark horses reaffirmed their drive for a spot in the Final Four with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over the University of Santo Tomas Golden Booters Wednesday afternoon at the FEU Diliman Football Field.

The Golden Booters established their presence in the wing and at the top of the field right at the opening whistle, and were rewarded early for their spirited display. Three minutes into the first half, Jean Mari Clarino managed to keep his composure and smoothly collect a pass from Jopridale Molino, and before anyone from NU could arrive to compromise his position, a strike from the center of the box sent the ball flying past Bulldog goalie Chris Perocho and into the net. The Tigers promptly celebrated the early lead.

The early goal served as a wake-up call for NU, who fought to take control of the flow of the game and dominate possession of the ball. Paolo Salenga had a couple of good tries in the first half, establishing himself as a threat, but all his shots were wide or stopped in their tracks by UST goalie John Rey Catalino.

Though no longer in control of the ball, the UST defenders managed to block off the Bulldogs’ passing routes, and true enough, the NU forwards struggled to find a way to cut into the penalty box and strike from their usual comfort spots. At the 34th minute, Salenga almost equalized for the Bulldogs, collecting the ball amidst the clutter in front of the goal, but the shot was immediately redirected by a Tiger defender.

With only ten minutes left in the half, both teams’ midfields figured in a struggle to get the ball to their comfort zones. Steven Anotado, the Tigers’ leading scorer found himself attacking from the left wing, but ultimately failing to extend the UST lead. At the 35th minute, he came close to adding to his season’s tally, escaping the defenders and striking from the left wing, but the shot turned out weaker than was desirable and was easily scooped up by the NU keeper. He had another try from the same spot ten minutes later, just before the 45th minute clocked in, but once again the shot from the left wing was effortlessly stopped by Perocho. At the half, the score was still 1-0.

Both teams opened the second half with an aggressive display. At the 50th minute, Efren Menares Jr. came close to extending the tally, heading in a lob from the left wing, but his shot was knocked off course easily by a parry from an NU defender. Darwin Busmion reacted in time to rebound the shot, but once more an NU defender had a tap on the ball before Busmion could send the ball in the direction of the net. NU’s Francis Jay Abalunan on the other end came close to equalizing for the Bulldogs, striking from the left wing after finding himself with enough space and a good look, but his shot sailed wide over the net.

The 60th minute saw the Bulldogs regain their hold on the flow of the ball, with Patrick Valenzuela finally able to cut into the box and strike from his comfort zone. At the 64th minute, it was Valenzuela who finally kicked NU’s campaign back to life, forcing his way in front of the goal to receive the corner kick from teammate Abalunan and send the ball into the net with a forceful header, giving the Bulldogs their much needed equalizer.

With NU keeping possession of the ball, the Bulldogs’ forwards found themselves striking as they pleased from the perimeter of the box. Salenga, whose flicks kept the UST keeper on his toes for the first half, once again took the striking reins for NU. However, despite another series of good tries, Salenga remained unable to send the ball into the net.

The last 20 minutes saw temperatures rising, with both teams scrambling to get the much coveted tiebreaker. Though NU dominated possession of the ball, their strikers found themselves struggling to find ways to score against UST goalie Catalino.

Then in the middle of injury time, Salenga gave the NU faithful something to cheer for. Exploiting a lull in the Tigers’ defense, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer stealthily maneuvered his way past the left wing and into the box, and before anyone from UST could react, launched a powerful shot that sent the ball flying past Catalino and into the net. The Tigers barely had any time to set up one last try at salvaging a point, and as the last whistle was blown, it was the Bulldogs celebrating on the pitch.

“It was a whole different team pagdating ng second half. They were not performing really well in the first half, but pagdating ng second half, we all knew that we would bounce back dahil sa spirit pa lang nila pursigidong manalo,” said NU head coach Wilhelm Laranas after the game. The Bulldogs are still at fifth in the standings, but have a good chance of making their way into the top four should they win their next two games.

“This season is a lesson, and we’re preparing for next season,” said UST head coach Marjo Allado after the game. “Hopefully ’pag nandito na ang mga seniors, naka-experience na ang mga ito [his current players]. Siguro, hindi na mangyari ulit ito [losing record].” With the loss, the Tigers stay at the sixth place, and have been eliminated from Final Four contention.

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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 skills 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 fighters returned to their 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 the Phoenix Fuel Masters on 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 the Mahindra Floodbuster.

But his achievement won’t be too memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat at the hands of Paul Lee and the 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 were in contention all throughout the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But the Hotshots’ comeback skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” admitted 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 the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 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 the Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to their first win after a historic 16-game skid, at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

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

“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 them. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all onto 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 had been 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.

But Alab’s bench could not sustain the effort of the starters, which meant the team was clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a spark, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided 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. 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, but they let the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan slice the lead to as low as four points. Then 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 it takes on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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