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Stats Don’t Lie: The Meteoric Rise of Jericho Cruz

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At the end of last season, more than a few people wondered whether Rain or Shine’s championship window was closing. After all, they just haven’t been quite able to get over the hump, losing their last four trips to the Finals. There were some questions as to what path management would take going forward. [READ: What now for Rain or Shine]

As it turns out, the Elasto Painters decided to stay the course, keeping their core of Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, and Almazan intact, while rebuilding through the draft and tapping the services of Maverick Ahanmisi, Josan Nimes, and Don Trollano.

However, when news broke out that Paul Lee would miss time again with yet another injury, it seemed as if Rain or Shine’s chances of making the Finals this conference were slim. After all, Paul Lee was their star amongst stars – the one guy who gave them a definite edge every single night. Who was going to replace his production?Jericho Cruz

Enter second-year guard Jericho Cruz.

Cruz has filled Lee’s shoes ably, leading the Elasto Painters in scoring and assists while helping Rain or Shine keep abreast with league leaders Alaska and San Miguel Beer.

How good has he been? Look at these per-36 numbers, care of our friends at HumbleBola.com

Elasto PainterPPGRPGAPGFG%3FG%TPG
Lee (last season)21.27.24.540.6%38.5%2.6
Cruz20.53.93.448.8%34.4%2.2

Cruz has blasted through all expectations, although he did display glimpses of solid play last year. The problem was that with only a handful of minutes to go around, Cruz just didn’t have as much opportunities to showcase his game. With Lee out though, it seems that Jericho is out to prove that he not only belongs in the league, but also be mentioned as one of it’s brightest young stars.

What makes Cruz so dangerous is his quick first step and ability to get to the basket. He’s most deadly in transition, where he uses his athleticism to not only get to the rim quickly, but to power through or beat challenges at the rim.

What makes Rain or Shine’s guards so effective isn’t only that they are highly skilled, but they have a lot of space to work with. Quinahan and Belga stretch the floor, opening up the lane for penetration. Meanwhile, Almazan and the newly-acquired Jewel Ponferada are finishing well around the basket, making it difficult for big men to leave them to help on drives to the rim.

This system works to Cruz’ strengths, as it allows him to showcase his talents and maximize his athleticism. Cruz is currently shooting 50% on ball screen shots this conference, putting his Points Per Possession on ball screen at 1.14 – a figure that would rank him right with masters such as Lee and NLEX’s Jonas Villanueva. What’s most impressive though is that more than half the shots he’s made off ball screens have come in the paint.

What’s scary for defenders though is that Cruz has developed an outside shot. He’s shooting a very solid 34.8% from three this season, including a very lethal 50% on catch and shoot 3’s. Of course, there haven’t been many of them but the fact that he’s a threat from there makes him even more dangerous.

With rapid development of Cruz, Rain or Shine can actually afford to give Lee even more time to rest for the playoffs. Imagine a back court rotation that includes Lee, Chan, Norwood, AND Cruz, who, if he was playing more minutes for another team, could be in the running for the BPC award.

Of course, there’s no telling is Cruz’ production will be sustainable once Lee comes back. After all, there is just one ball to share among all those scorers. For now then, let’s just enjoy the show while it lasts.

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Mixed Martial Arts

ONE Championship pledges to help Global Citizen in fight against poverty

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Contributed photo

During the pre-fight showdown between the fighters main evening ONE Championship: Global Superheroes, the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in Asia also forged a partnership, Monday afternoon.

ONE, through chief executive officer and chariman, Chatri Sityodtong vowed to help Global Citizen in its fight to end poverty.

“It is with great excitement that I announce ONE Championship’s partnership with Global Citizen, an NGO with the goal of ending extreme poverty across the world by the year 2030,” said Sityodtong. “Just like Global Citizen, ONE Championship aims to inspire the people of the world to come together to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.”

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with ONE Championship to bring Global Citizen to Asia. ONE Championship reaches millions of young people around the region and together we will engage them on issues that impact the entire world,” expressed Global Citizen co-founder Wei Soo. “Since we launched Global Citizen in 2012, over 13 million actions have been taken, and we are excited to drive more actions and increase our impact for the world’s most marginalized people through this partnership.”

Headquartered in New York with offices in Canada, Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom, Global Citizen was founded in 2012 with the goal of building the largest platform where people can learn about issues, take action on what matters most, and join a global movement working to end extreme poverty by 2030. Since then, millions of Global Citizens around the world have taken over ten million actions, which includes millions of emails, tweets, petition signatures, and phone calls targeting world leaders to end extreme poverty by 2030.

To date, the actions by Global Citizen’s global community, along with its high-level advocacy efforts and various partners, have resulted in 130 commitments and policy announcements from leaders, including financial aid valued at over US $35-billion, that is set to affect the lives of over 1.3 billion people.

Also present in the launch were ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon Vera, ONE Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, and former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang.

The partnership launching at ONE’s upcoming event in Manila, Philippines on Friday, January 26, will harness the power of ONE’s platform to engage millions of martial arts fans around the world to support initiatives and find solutions to the issues associated with extreme poverty.

Global Citizen and ONE will collaborate across 24 live ONE events scheduled in 2018, and various outreach activations throughout Asia. Fans will have the opportunity to take action and engage with specific policy areas including, education, food security, hunger and nutrition, global health, gender equality and empowerment.

“Our ONE Championship athletes embody the spirit of perseverance and many have risen through poverty through martial arts, inspiring millions of people around the world with their journey,” Sityodtong added. “Through our collaboration across all 24 of our live events scheduled in 2018, ONE Championship and Global Citizen aim to affect positive movement in our society.”

The first action ONE fans can take will be centred on global education. Fans will be able to call on donor countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and India, to attend the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment conference in Dakar, Senegal on February 2, 2018, and make a commitment to GPE to support better education for all. Currently, 264 million children around the world are missing out on an education.

Over half are girls, and over 75 million have had their schooling disrupted by conflict or natural disasters. At the replenishment conference, the GPE will raise much needed funds that will allow it to continue to support quality, inclusive education to hundreds of millions of children around the world.

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AU

Unscathed Altas on another plane, hands Chiefs first loss

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Eighteen straight sets won

NCAA Men’s Volleyball powerhouse University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas showed no signs of letting up and crushed fellow erstwhile undefeated Arellano University Chiefs in just three sets, 25-14, 25-22, 25-17, to notch their sixth consecutive victory, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Skipper Jun Taneo scattered his quiet 13 points throughout the match to lead the Season 91 champions. Rookie Joebert Almodiel finished with 10 spikes.

The Altas edged out the opposition in all scoring skills and dominated them in the non-scoring ones to bag the win. Nonetheless, it was the uncharacteristic 34 errors from the Chiefs that ultimately caused their doom.

With expectations minimized at the start of the season, head coach Sammy Acaylar shared his pride on how his wards have been playing so far.

“Sabi ko nga, hindi ako satisfied sa team ko kasi maraming nawala. Pero dinaan ko sila sa force, sa discipline, sa training. And I always motivate them na everything will come into place,” the seasoned mentor shared.

Acaylar was pleased that what they trained on showed up in the game. “Nakita ko ‘yung galaw nila, almost perfect,” he ended beaming.

The now 6-0 Perpetual will try to seal another semifinals appearance as they battle fellow day winners Mapua University (3-2) on Tuesday, January 30.

John Cabillan rallied the tribe with 10 markers.

The Chiefs (5-1) and the San Beda College (4-1) will figure in an all-important battle on Friday.

The Scores:

UPHSD 3 – Taneo 13, Almodiel 10, Rosales 8, Ramos 6, Muhali 3, Solamilo 1, Catipay 0, Kalingking L.

AU 0 – Cabillan 10, Dela Paz 8, Segovia 5, Lapuz 4, Liberato J 3, Liberato K 1, Arellano T 0, Soriano 0, Domingo 0, Arellano K 0, Blanco L, Esguerra L.

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Basketball

Tireless J-Jay Alejandro heads from D-League game to Gilas training

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Former NU Bulldogs captain J-Jay Alejandro was at the Pasig Sports Center Monday afternoon, making his debut for the Go for Gold Scratchers. After their 75-68 win over Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers, he immediately packed his bags and headed for the exit.

Why was he in a rush? He did not want to be late for Gilas later on.

PHOTO by PBA Images

“Sayang, malapit na ako eh. Pasig lang. Walang showbiz-showbiz, malapit lang talaga,” shared Alejandro, who had five points, five rebounds, seven assists, and two steals for Go for Gold. “Wala rin akong gagawin kasi.

“Tsaka minsan lang magpa-tawag ng practice, every Monday lang, so sayang ‘yung chance makapag-practice.”

The 6-foot-2 combo guard was a much-needed body by the pool of Gilas as only eight players suited-up for Monday’s session. Besides helping out the seniors team, the 22-year-old is looking at the sessions as a way to not just improve but also get in touch with his former collegiate foes.

“Well, ganoon talaga eh. Player, mapapagod at mapapagod ka talaga,” said the All-UAAP team member.

“Pero nakakasama ko sila Arvin Tolentino, sila CJ Perez, tsaka ‘yung ibang mga PBA players, siyempre experience ‘yun eh, tsaka learning process din sa akin.”

Moreover, he knows that being under the tutelage of coach Chot Reyes will only do wonders for him, especially with the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft just months away.

“Mas pisikal talaga sa PBA. ‘Yun, kung paano mo gagamitin ang utak mo pati ‘yung katawan mo sa tamang posisyon sa laro, makukuha ko yun rito,” he said.

“Well sa akin kasi, ‘yung mapabilang ka sa Gilas, mapabilang lang ang pangalan mo sa Gilas, sobrang fortunate na ako, sobrang blessed na ako,” Alejandro added.

“And siguro sa akin, may opportunity na nag-open, so iga-grab ko na lang — either PBA or Gilas.”

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Basketball

Loaded Wangs-Letran wallops AMA in debut

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Armed with new recruits, the Wangs Basketball-Letran Knights embarked on its new chapter with a rousing 93-75 rout of the AMA Online Education Titans, Tuesday afternoon at the Pasig Sports Center.

Everyone clicked for the Couriers with Bong Quinto spearheading the blowout with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists.

Newcomer Bonbon Batiller added 15 markers, five boards, and three dimes in his debut, while starting point guard JP Calvo chipped in 12 points, eight rebounds, and two assists.

Christian Fajarito also registered 11 markers and nine boards, while Alex Mandreza had 10 points for Wangs-Letran.

Despite the promising showing, coach Jeff Napa said that he still wants to see more from his Couriers moving forward.

“Masaya kami syempre dahil nanalo. Pero marami pa rin kaming kailangang gawin,” he said as he wanted more from the Knights after outrebounding the Titans, 57-44.

Quinto and Calvo triggered Wangs-Letran’s second quarter pullaway to establish the 38-26, lead which grew to as high as 22 points, 81-59 in the payoff period.

Michael Cañete topscored AMA with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Kris Porter had 13 in the defeat.

Wangs-Letran will have vengeance on their minds on Monday, January 29 when it takes on NCAA tormentors Che’lu- San Sebastian Revellers. AMA, on the other hand, will have a tough assignment when it takes on the Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers on Thursday, January 25.

The Scores:

Wangs-Letran 93 — Quinto 19, Batiller 15, Calvo 12, Fajarito 11, Mandreza 10, Trinidad 8, Publico 6, Vacaro 4, Balagasay 3, Ambohot 3, Muyang 2.

AMA Online Education 75 — Cañete 20, Porter 13, Escalambre 11, Casiño 10, Antonares 6, Manalang 6, Garcia 4, Ng 3, Parcero 2, Bragais 0, Carpio 0, Paras 0, Raflores 0, Salonga 0.

Quarterscores: 16-13, 44-35, 67-52, 93-75.

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