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Tamaraws re-enter finals, sink Maroons in extra time

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Arnel Amita left it late as his follow-up strike in extra time earned the FEU Tamaraws the opportunity to defend the throne as they squeaked past the UP Maroon Booters, 1-0, to reach the UAAP Season 77 Men’s Football Finals at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium earlier tonight.

It was a game of two halves in normal time. UP held the ball slightly more in the first 45 minutes, but FEU responded by controlling the second half. The game had a slow start, as both teams were trying to decipher each other’s plans. Winger, Rogie Maglinas got the ball rolling with a cross towards Jinggoy Valmayor eight minutes into the match. The forward collided with Michael Menzi, FEU’s goalkeeper of the day. As a result, the UP striker’s shot was easily gathered by FEU’s defenders, who decided to clear it as their goalie needed treatment. Five minutes later, UP’s aggression almost yielded a goal. In a crowded FEU box, Daniel Gadia had room to shoot just outside the six-yard box, but it struck the post. It was the closest chance for UP to find the net in the match. At the 19th minute, Michael Simms sent a cross, but it had too much height for Jinggoy Valmayor to get a touch on it. The loose ball went to Maglinas, but had a poor first touch, placing the ball out for a goal kick with his misfired attempt on the first time.

Meanwhile, FEU punched their first chance 21 minutes in. Joshua Mulero played 1-2 with Jhan Jhan Melliza, but the defender’s shot missed the target. Prior to that, they played with long, accurate passes, but UP got well into those plays, forcing mistakes from FEU’s players. The next few minutes saw rare exchanges between the two teams with UP opting to be more patient in attacking. Free kicks from both UP’s Valmayor and Paolo Bugas did not create chances. FEU began to bring more threats soon after. Melliza and striking partner, Eric Giganto, took the initiative in spearheading the attack, but their efforts were sufficiently impeded by the UP central defender duo of Feb Baya and Ian Clarino. A swift yet unproductive array of attacks capped off an uneventful first half, where neither team scored a go-ahead goal.

Unlike in the first half, FEU started the second strongly, forcing the Maroons to react most of the time. With momentum on their side, the reigning champions produced loads of shots that caused problems for UP. Melliza and Giganto combined for three good chances that were thwarted in the opening eight minutes of the second half. While they were busy on the attack, it left space for UP to set up quickly on the counter. They did so at the 54th minute, when Simms’ ball from the right wing located Maglinas, who was not able to hit the ball with an acrobatic bicycle kick attempt. Another opportunity to catch FEU off guard came three minutes later, but Mulero shielded the ball against the speeding Valmayor, eventually recovering the ball only to not make anything out of it as he committed a needless foul.

After that quick stretch, FEU continued to dominate. In just six minutes, FEU got to string five chances together–highlighting the Tamaraws’ capability to play well with high-tempo football courtesy of usual suspects up front. Nonetheless, UP held on to prevent their opponents from getting the lead. On their part, UP had a short spell on the attack, but the senior players were not able to take advantage of the breaks presented to them. They would end the match rueing those missed chances as FEU sustained rhythm in the last 20 minutes or so of normal time up to the two halves of extra time. Near chances were not enough to change the score before the 90 minutes expired, but it set pace for the champions to control the rest of the encounter. Full time with both teams still scoreless meant that 30 more minutes were required to break the tie.

Early into extra time, FEU looked to have grabbed the lead when Audie Menzi’s free kick went past Villanueva. To the relief of the Maroons, the referee ordered a retake as the Tamaraw midfielder took it too early. The second try sailed wide, but their perseverance paid off after constant pressure resulted in a mistake made by Clarino at the 97th minute. The rookie defender handled the ball inside his team’s box, enough for the Tamaraws to take the lead should they make something out of the penalty attempt. Amita took responsibility in putting his team ahead by nailing the lucrative spot kick. Season 76 Best Goalkeeper Villanueva actually parried away Amita’s shot, but the latter was just at the right place for a rebound, which he slotted with ease to hand the Tamaraws the advantage.

Falling behind, UP had opportunities to force a penalty shootout at the very least through set pieces, but Valmayor’s free kicks were telegraphed by the FEU players, who seemed to have learned their lesson following the last time they have witnessed the graduating UP striker in such situation. After a tiring 120 minutes of football played, FEU held on to the narrow lead, and booked a return trip to the finals next week against La Salle.

“Maganda ‘yung game. Kahit nag extra time na, ginawa pa rin namin ‘yung game namin [focusing on] team play,” shared FEU Assistant Coach Dexter Chio. The Tamaraws have prepared well to make sure that they will get past the semifinal round and keep their hopes of winning the second consecutive title in men’s football. As for next week’s winner-take-all affair with La Salle, Chio opened that they will spend the week figuring a way past their opponents, who remain the only team they have yet to defeat this season.

The loss officially shuts UP’s season, a shortened one considering that the team has made four straight UAAP Finals appearances. “I thought we really played well in the first half. We didn’t really let them settle. I thought we controlled most of the first half. Unfortunately, in the second half, nag-change ‘yung tide,” UP Coach Anto Gonzales assessed. He was convinced that his players would struggle with the way the team has played their previous matches, but the way the Maroons fought in the match seemed to have restored the coach’s faith in them against the in-form Tamaraws. “Hats off to the boys for really digging deep. It was difficult to somehow stick together despite the adversity,” he elaborated.

The UAAP Football Championships in both men’s and women’s divisions will be disputed on March 8 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium starting with FEU and UP squaring off for the crown in women’s football at 2pm. After that, La Salle will challenge FEU for all the marbles, as the winner will seize the UAAP men’s football trophy.

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KIA holds on late against Rain or Shine to end 16-game losing skid

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Photo by PBA Images

The Kia Picanto’s months-long, 16-game losing skid has finally come to an end at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94, in a fight-marred affair, Saturday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

The Picanto, who lost an average of 35.7 points in their last three outings, are now 1-4 in the team standings. Meanwhile, the Elasto Painters, who were coming off a 120-99 victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters last January 17, dropped to 2-3.

“Finally nasa press room ako hindi nasa corridor. I’m relieved more than tired. I’m more relieved than anything else,” said Kia head coach Ricky Dandan. “We finally broke that (skid) and this will go a long way in our rebuilding for our ball club.”

Rashawn McCarthy and Roider Cabrera scored 14 apiece to lead the Picanto, with the former adding four assists. Forward Mark Yee flirted with a double-double as he finished with 13 markers and eight rebounds.

Kia spent the majority of the final frame ahead, but RoS kept fighting and stayed within distance. However, the Picanto built enough separation, 96-89, with 1:52 to go thanks to McCarthy and three-year pro Glenn Khobuntin.

But just as the win was within their grasp, Rain or Shine imposed a serious threat. Behind an Ed Daquioag jumper and Chris Tiu’s visits to the foul line, the E-Painters managed to close within a field goal, 96-94, with 21.9 ticks left.

RoS had a chance to pull the rug from underneath Kia after forcing McCarthy into a turnover off the inbound with less than 20 seconds left, but shots taken by Tiu, Daquiaog, and Maverick Ahanmisi did not find the mark.

Mark Yee was able to secure the miss, but found himself in a jump ball situation afterwards after a fight for the ball with Beua Belga. Yee won the tip, and Khobuntin was there to get the ball and ran it down for the game-sealing lay-up.

The six-foot-three Khobuntin — probably the star of the night for Kia, as he steadied the Picanto’s ship in the end-game — contributed 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting, scoring eight in the final frame.

RoS’ loss put in vain the breakout game of rookie Rey Nambatac as he had 12 points and 11 rebounds. James Yap scored 11 markers on 4-of-8 shooting, while Tiu and Jewel Ponferrada scored 10 apiece, with Tiu having six boards.

Ahanmisi nearly had a double-double as he had nine points and eight rebounds along with four dimes.

Moreover, this defeat of theirs was a sour welcome for Jericho Cruz, who made his 2018 Philippine Cup debut after missing their first four games due to a knee injury. He only scored one point in the 10:32 minutes he played.

The crazy finish of the match somehow shadowed the brawl between Raymond Almazan and Eric Camson, which took place in the 3:01-mark of the second canto. Both were slapped with penalty two flagrant fouls and were ejected.

Almazan, who had just returned to RoS after being put under disciplinary actions after bumping heads with coach Caloy Garcia, finished with six markers and four rebounds. Camson had 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Kia were not able to parade new acquisition Carlo Lastimosa. The scoring guard, whom they signed from the free agent market, was in street clothes on the sidelines after spraining his ankle during team practice.

Rain or Shine will look to book their third straight win against the NLEX Road Warriors on January 26, Friday, while Kia will aim to end their historic skid versus the Meralco Bolts on January 24, Wednesday. Both games are set at 4:30 PM at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

KIA 98 – McCarthy 14, Cabrera 14, Yee 13, Khobuntin 11, Camson 10, Celda 8, Galanza 8, Ababou 6, Sara 5, Tubid 5, Caperal 4.

Rain or Shine 94 – Nambatac 12, Yap 11, Tiu 10, Ponferada 10, Ahanmisi 9, Belga 8, Norwood 8, Borboran 7, Maiquez 6, Almazan 6, Daquioag 4, King 2, Cruz 1, Matias 0, Trollano 0.

Quarterscores: 13-18; 40-44: 72-68; 98-94.

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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Photo by PBA Images

It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao had called Chris Ross the “N” word, which had caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nag-flare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

However, Guiao denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he had felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also directed at Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it has been a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now gone down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees an urgent need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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