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Super subs steer Ceres to Group A pole; GAU settle for second

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Four substitutes were involved in all of the second half goals scored by Ceres-La Salle FC to come from behind and defeat Green Archers United FC with the score of 4-1. Group A action of the UFL Cup 2015 concluded with Ceres finishing above GAU on points.

Both teams sealed their progress into the quarterfinals last week but the top seed of Group A, which also meant facing Global FC, is far from settled. GAU needed to beat Ceres for them to claim top spot, as Ceres owned a better goal difference. Things looked promising for GAU in as early as the third minute when Robert Lopez Mendy put them in front. The Senegalese striker received a pass from Chieffy Caligdong down the left wing before breaking away from Jason Sabio to earn enough space in beating Ceres goalkeeper Louie Casas. It placed GAU in a commanding position simply because they will become Group A winners should they end up with a win. However, there was still a lot of playing time left for Ceres to turn the match around, or perhaps for GAU to pad their lead.

After conceding, Ceres worked hard to get themselves level with GAU but the latter squad recorded the second big chance of the game. Caligdong proved too much for Ceres’ right flank to deal with once more with the Ilonggo winger finding Jhan Jhan Melliza but the former FEU Tamaraw did not keep his shot low enough to score his team’s second. Afterwards, Ceres dictated the first half’s flow with GAU making the most out of their pace in counter attacks.

GAU goalie Paolo Pascual and his backline were relatively tested in the last 25 minutes or so by the determined Ceres frontline. Ceres created nine chances, although most of which led to easy catches for Pascual. In the middle of their quest for a game-tying goal, Ceres took a blow when Patrick Reichelt needed to be replaced by Carmelo Tacusalme after picking up an injury.

The Negrense club’s best chance came at the 29th minute. Oladipo Okunaiya’s cross found Adrian Gallardo who was kept from hitting the target by three players in white. The ball then reached Paul Mulders whose shot was blocked. Gallardo managed to get the rebound but he blasted his shot high and wide. Ceres were unable to grab an equalizer but it could have gone worse for them. Deep into the added time of the first half, Lopez Mendy attempted from long range. Fortunately for Ceres, Casas was able to get his hands on the shot to avoid his team from falling two goals down.

The hungrier of the two teams, Ceres played with more urgency. At the 49th minute, Sabio nearly scored for the current UFL Division I leaders as he struck nicely from 25 yards but Pascual tipped the ball out of play. The Philippine international shot again in the ensuing play but he saw his header only hitting the side netting. Afterwards, Okunaiya and Martin Steuble fired just wide prior to the hour mark. At that time, it looked like it was only a matter of time for Ceres to tie the match.

After playing behind for an hour, Ceres’ pursuit for a goal was rewarded at the 63rd minute. Lee shrugged off GAU’s defenders to give himself acres of space inside the box. Calmly, the Korean beat Pascual with a perfectly struck shot that the latter had no chance of reaching. Disgruntled that they lost their lead, GAU were in for a bigger shock a minute later. Gallardo located Bienvenido Marañon, who also came on as a substitute like Lee. With only Pascual between him and the goal, Marañon slid the ball nicely to instantly put Ceres ahead.

Already in front after trailing for most of the game, Ceres scored two more goals that guaranteed them all the points. At the 69th minute, Marañon returned the favor to Gallardo who scored to increase his teams advantage to two goals. Twelve minutes after, another substitute in the name of Jeffrey Christiaens played a one-two with fellow spark plug Cho Kyum Son to punctuate an emphatic turnaround.

Ceres coach Ali Go owed the result to his deep roster which presented the luxury of having quality players come off the bench. “For us it’s how deep your bench that will matter in close games,” Go stated. He also shared that he had to deliver a pep talk to awaken his players who had a hard time against GAU in the first half. “After the pep talk, everybody understood what we’re supposed to do and eventually got the goals. Frustrating first half but the second half was really rewarding. All in all, it’s a good win,” he furthered.

On the other side of the fence, GAU coach Rodolfo Alicante spoke with grief after he witnessed his team give away four goals in the second half. Previously, the Archers have yet to concede goals in the tournament. “In the first half, medyo maganda ‘yung aming performance. Nacontrol namin ‘yung game,” Alicante recalled. Asked what went wrong, Alicante cited the substitutions made in the second half which favored Ceres who eventually opened the floodgates. “Malaking factor ‘yung first goal ng Ceres. Their confidence slightly increased after that.”

Group A action ends with Ceres-La Salle bound to face the second placed team of Group B, which could either be Pachanga-Diliman or Kaya. Meanwhile, Green Archers United are set to clash with Group D winners Global in the UFL Cup quarter finals slated to be in July.

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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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