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Third Time Charm: UP pulls off comeback to clinch second seed

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UST (7-5, PS 0-1), 3rd00300104104
UP (7-5, PS 1-0), 2nd000052792

 

One is greater than two.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons rose up from a 0–3 deficit against the University of Santo Tomas (UST), to win 7–4, and secure the twice-to-beat advantage in the Stepladder semifinals, Saturday, March 14 at the Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium.

With so much at stake, both squads put their defense to work in the first two innings. At the bottom of the first, UP lead-off batter, DC Cruz hit a double to right field to start it for her team. The Lady Maroons, however, failed to add-on in offense. The first inning ended scoreless.

In the second inning, it was UST’s turn to get the offense going. One of the leading Best Hitter candidates, CJ Roa, began with a single for the Tigresses at the their side of the second. Two successive outs advance the sophomore to third base. Arlyn Areglado was walked, and put runners on the corners. UP defense held on afterwards, which left Roa and Areglado stranded.

The España-based batters kept the momentum as, second-year pitcher, Ann Antolihao hit the ball to deep left to register a single. Kristine Lacupa was then hit by pitch, and advanced to first base. With runners on first and second, graduating veteran, Jenalyn Polinario hit a booming triple to the right field to score Antolihao and Lacupa; UST were on the board 2-0. Celestine Palma followed it up with another hit, and Polinario added another run, 3-0. Two more hits from Roa and Mallows Garde threatened to blow the game up for UST with just one out. The outfield of the Lady Maroons ended the possible onslaught as they finish with the next two outs at the top of the third inning.

Senior Lily Gonzales started the bottom of the fourth for the Maroons with a hit after Maki Cabriana grounded to shortstop Lyra Gustilo. DC Cruz had a strong hit to the left field, but UST’s Roa caught the ball. With two outs, Sella Mendoza connects to right, but Gonzales was caught going to the second, and was forced out by Gustilo off a throw to Hannah De La Torre. The third inning ended at 3-0 in favor of the Tigresses.

Both teams had a defensive fourth half-innings as they both allow just a hit to their opponents. Antolihao had the lead-off single for UST, but was consequently forced out by UP’s shortstop Gonzales off a throw to Mary Joy Abanes on second. Similarly, the Maroons had a hit from newbie, Gelai Penales, to start their side, but was also forced out by the Tigresses.

UST was not able to pad on their lead in the fifth inning as they were limited to just two hits, and had only two runners left on base. UP had clamped down on defense as well as they had easy put outs and ended the top of the inning with a strike out to Areglado.

Sensing the urgency to overhaul the deficit, the Lady Maroons pulled off in their turn at bat in the fifth. Third-year right fielder, Gabin Paz connects to deep left for a single to lead off the offense. After Cabriana flyed out to the centerfield Lacupa, Gonzales had another base hit to add runners on the bases for UP. A triple by DC Cruz scored Paz and Gonzales to put UP on the scoreboard, 2-3. However, a succeeding error by UST sent the hard-hitting junior home, and the game was tied at 3 runs apiece.

With just an out and with UP still on top of the batting order, Mendoza hit a grounder to shortstop Roa, but the throw to first base Garde was too high, and the Maroons co-captain advanced to first base. Penales, who had a solid outing, added another hit off to the left field, prompting UST to make a pitching change with Garde taking the mound. Second-year player, Chanty Bongat stepped to the plate. She connected to deep left-centerfield for a hit to score Mendoza, and for the go-ahead run for the Lady Maroons, 4-3. The burly designated player attempted to go to second base, but was chased by UST substitute second baseman, Jonalie Almonia, and Antolihao, who was moved to first base. In this play, Penales, though, was able to add another run, 5-3.

De La Torre had the lead-off single for UST in the top of the sixth inning to lead the comeback. A subsequent fly ball to the UP centerfield, Mendoza, by Antolihao advanced her rookie teammate to second base. A hit by Lacupa further moved De La Torre to third, but a fielding error of the third baseman, DC Cruz, scored De La Torre as UST cut the deficit to one, 4-5. Maroons defense retired the next two batters of the Tigresses to end the half-inning.

With the momentum hanging on the balance, UST turned back to their pitcher Antolihao on the mound. Dennise Cruz did not waste time as she swung, and hit the first pitch to the center. Second baseman, Almonia was not able to catch the ball, which allowed Cruz run up to the second base. Paz, then, tried to hit ball, and another error by the Tigresses advanced the veteran to first. Maroons captain, Seiko Hashimoto took matters in her own hands, as she fired up a hit to deep right to score D. Cruz and Paz, 7-4. However, the graduating senior was caught stealing third for the first out. The defense of UST worked its way out to end the agony.

The UP Lady Maroons were three outs from securing the twice-to-beat advantage, and they made it count. Shortstop Gonzales dismissed the first two batters, Roa and Garde. The senior was also able to collar the ball from Oria as the Lady Maroons erupted to celebration. However, it turned out to be premature, as D. Cruz was not able to catch the ball, and Oria was safe at first. With Kristel Angeles at bat, Gonzales finished the match still tagging Oria off a throw by Cabriana on second, finally making the win and the festivities official for UP.

When asked about their goals going into the season, UP skipper, Hashimoto shared that they were really aiming for the championship. However, she said, “Every game we have a goal. At first, we said to just enjoy the game.” In the succeeding matches, the aim of the girls was more specific for every game. The main reason to how they were slowly getting their groove, Hashimoto revealed, “A sports psychologist told us to focus on our goal during the game.” She added, “I can say we are peaking.” The graduating Sports Science major said on her part that she had no preference on who to meet in the semifinals, but shared that they will just prepare for either UST or National University.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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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 called Chris Ross the “N” word that 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 nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though 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 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 against 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 really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great 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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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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Jason Brickman flirts with triple-double as Mono holds off Singapore

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After playing his worst game of the season last Sunday against Tanduay Alab Pilipinas, Jason Brickman bounced back, steering the Mono Vampire to a 91-88 road victory over the Singapore Slingers, Friday evening at the OCBC Arena.

The 26-year-old, who finished with just seven points and three assists in their 71-104 loss to Alab, tallied 10 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. The league-leader in assists did not take a break, playing all 40 minutes.

But it was not a walk in the park for the Thailand-based squad.

Mono led by as much as 22 points, 60-48, with 7:46 left, 16 points entering the final frame. A furious fourth quarter rally by Singapore sliced the lead, turning the game into a single-possession contest with a minute left. The steady hands of Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary from the stripe fended off Singapore.

Brickman’s compatriot Paul Zamar chipped in 13 markers for Mono.

Since torching Alab last January 3, Filipino-Canadian AJ Mandani has been on a slump, going just 3-for-11 from the field for nine points.

Mono’s World Imports Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary both finished with 26 points with the former hauling down 18 rebounds. For Singapore, Xavier Alexander paced the Slingers with 29 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

With the win, the Vampire kept solo third with a 7-4 slate. On the other hand, the Slingers dropped its second straight game since winning against Alab, falling to 5-6.

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