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UAAP Campfire: Stepladder Day 3 – Unfinished Business

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Purely based on where we are right now, this has to be one of the most predictable Women’s Volleyball tournaments in recent memory. We had an Ateneo rampage through the elimination round, and they had everyone returning from their championship roster while adding blue chip rookies that only made them a force to be reckoned with.

DLSUvsADMU Round 2-3679

La Salle, as always, has been a really solid team. Cosmetically, they’re still the same forest of long arms that plays with such intensity and always comes prepared. But it was clear that they still lack something through their elimination round matchups against Ateneo. Apparently, the hole Aby Marano left was a bit deeper than what people initially perceived.

NUvsFEU Stepladder Semis -5034

The Lady Bulldogs’ best shot at a title was with their stacked team last season. They have lost three members of that starting six due to graduation and injuries, but they still managed to carve out a Final Four run with the leftovers of last year’s squad. Jaja Santiago has been magnificent all season in leading her team, while the acquisition of volleyball life, Coach Roger Gorayeb, only made this program more formidable.

Many would say that this preview is pointless since a La Salle-Ateneo Finals is imminent and I’m wasting my time writing this piece. But a lot of pundits said the same thing about last season; that it was a clear La Salle-NU tilt for the title. We all know how that turned out. As Coach Roger said after Saturday’s win over FEU, “Libre lang mangarap”.

And hope we shall, Coach Roger. How much of a shot does this NU team have against the Lady Spikers? Let’s sink our teeth deeper into this matchup.

My Old Friend Ramil. We meet again.

Hands down, the most followed team ever was Ateneo’s Fab Five – Ho, Ferrer, Cainglet, Dzi, Nacachi – feat. Valdez. With all the charismatic members of that group, some would say that team was responsible for ushering in the era of fanaticism we have for volleyball today. They had a huge fanbase, that there’s a story of Ateneo bringing decoy people and buses just to get the players out of the venue after games.

The Fab Five era Lady Eagles peaked in Season 75 as they made the Finals but lost to the Lady Spikers. Admittedly, Coach Roger always considered La Salle to be that one road block he just couldn’t overcome. And just when he recruited players that he thought could take him over the top, Ateneo decided to go a different direction and hired Coach Bundit.

Now, Coach Roger is in the same place he was in with that Fab Five team. He has a budding superstar in Jaja Santiago mixed with a less than complimentary supporting cast. He again has to find some way to get this team over the hill that is La Salle.

NUvsFEU Stepladder Semis -4919

In his postgame interview after the FEU win, Gorayeb lamented on the daunting task ahead of him. “Isipin mo, wala pang dalawang buwan since pumunta ako sa NU. Marami pa kaming kailangang iadjust. Hindi pa namin nagagawa ‘yung 100 percent ng sistema ko. Pero masaya ako kasi unti-unti na nila nakukuha ‘yung sistema…Malakas pa rin talaga ‘yung La Salle. ‘Di naman sila nagbago since nagcoach ako sa Ateneo. Ganoon pa rin katibay ‘yung laro nila. Ako wala pa ngang dalawang buwan sa NU. Iba talaga ito [time with NU] kumapara noong simula ko sa Ateneo. Mahirap talaga. We’ll see.”

Coach Roger has gone on and on about his “system” and how he hasn’t acclimated his team to it yet. This system is just Coach Roger’s vaunted defensive pattern that the Lady Eagles still use today. He uses his blockers as a funnel, blocking off vulnerable areas and siphoning off any other hits to their best diggers.

In theory, this already sounds like what a lot of volleyball teams do. But Coach Roger’s system demands that every player be in specific spots on the floor based on the rotation. Apparently, the verbiage and positioning Coach Roger utilizes is completely alien to the Lady Bulldogs as former Coach, Dong Dela Cruz had a totally different scheme.

The Lady Bulldogs are an astounding 6-3 since Coach Roger took over, a success considering how much of a work-in-progress the player-coach dynamic has been in Sampaloc. Still, he is yet to win a Final Four match against the Lady Spikers and his volleyball soulmate, Coach Ramil De Jesus. Once again, Gorayeb has his team overachieving. These Lady Bulldogs are taller and more athletic than the Fab Five Lady Eagles. But, skills-wise, Gorayeb had that team working hard in floor and net defense despite the lack of height. He also had three-time best setter, Jem Ferrer on that team, easing a lot of headaches.

Gorayeb knows that he shall need some of the pieces and tactics he had during his years with Ateneo if he hopes to topple the Lady Spikers. Make no doubt about it, Gorayeb is still the underdog going into this La Salle grudge match and he is surely used to it. Can his Lady Bulldogs do what the Lady Eagles couldn’t do for Coach Roger before?

Star Crushers

Perhaps no other team in the league prepares and scouts opponents like DLSU. Coach Ramil is a volleyball genius with an obsessive eye for detail. This season, we’ve watched La Salle grind down and frustrate opposing offenses just by anticipating and reacting to their tendencies. In addition, their superior length will always be a boon to opposing offenses.

Also, their relentless floor defense is often overlooked when people open up about their dominance over the past years. All of Coach Ramil’s players are versatile enough to play any position on the court. If you’re not an all-around player, Coach Ramil won’t even field you.

Based on data gathered by Tiebreaker Times, La Salle held every team’s best scorer below their usual norms with the exception of Ateneo’s Alyssa Valdez and NU’s Jaja Santiago.

DLSUvsADMU Round 2-3699

Setting the aforementioned exceptions aside, La Salle limited all of their opponents best scorers below their average spiking efficiency. This just shows that La Salle is still the best defensive team in the league, ranking first in blocking and third in floor defense metrics.

In a nutshell, La Salle crushes teams by out-working and out-smarting their opponents. NU definitely has the firepower to spare, but they’re going to need every bit of it in the hope of getting past La Salle. Ball distribution will be also be a key factor in this matchup. Though Jaja is basically unstoppable when she gets a good set, she can’t score every point for NU. Myla Pablo, Jorelle Singh and Rizza Mandapat need to have the same level of production they churned out in their previous match against FEU.

As Jaja mentioned in an interview with Tiebreaker Times, they need to be mentally tough in order to handle the Lady Spikers. This NU team has a tendency to lose confidence if things don’t go their way early in sets. The Lady Bulldogs have won only 20 percent of sets where they were down heading into the second technical timeout. La Salle’s going to force them into corners darker than what they’ve seen all season. It’s up to NU to whether or not adjust on the fly and to fight back.

Keep an eye on NU’s setters as well, for they will be the key to boosting the offensive pace that NU needs to squash La Salle’s defense. Usually, other opposing teams like Ateneo gave La Salle some troubles since they have a pro-level scorer in Alyssa Valdez and their setter, Jia Morado. Digging deeper, a topnotch setter like Morado knows exactly when to feed Valdez but she also knows when to use her as a decoy to get her teammates easier scoring opportunities. It’s Morado’s frantic, The Fast and The Furious gear shifting that breaks down La Salle’s defensive dam.

NU needs that type of offensive dynamic for them to beat La Salle tomorrow. Although it will always be a struggle for any team to win a set easily over La Salle, let alone two games. NU definitely has the blueprint to overcome La Salle: Ateneo’s Cinderella run last season. Though that type of greatness may be hard to duplicate, as Coach Roger said, “Libre lang mangarap.”

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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Basketball

D-League to hold three-day showcase for players

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Seeking to further display the greatness of the Filipino basketball players, the PBA is giving more chances to the cagers as the league is set to hold the first-ever PBA D-League Showdown later this conference.

Opening the eighth season with this ground-breaking news, PBA officer-in-charge Willie Marcial is hopeful that this will serve as another motivation for the players to perform at their best this 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.

“Ginagawa naman natin ito para mas galingan ng mga players natin para rin maipakita nila yung tunay nilang talento,” he said Thursday during the opening ceremonies at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

Marcial bared that the plan is to hold a two-day summit for the players suiting up in the ongoing conference to allow them to showcase their talents in front of coaches and scouts, not just from the PBA but also from countries in the Southeast Asian region.

“Lahat ng mga players ay maglalaro dito at mapapanood hindi lang ng mga PBA coaches,” he said.

“Iimbitahin din namin ang mga coaches ng ibang bansa tulad ng Malaysia, Thailand, at Vietnam na kumukuha ng imports sa atin.”

Marcial acknowledged that as much as players seek to make the jump to the pro league, securing spots in the PBA teams have been hard to crack over the past few years, forcing the players to look elsewhere for opportunities.

That has made playing in overseas leagues an option for these less fortunate ballers, keeping them earning while also hoping to impress scouts while keeping their PBA dreams alive.

Some of the players who suited up in the D-League and are currently playing outside of the country are Paul Zamar and Almond Vosotros in Thailand, AJ Mandani in Singapore, and Reil Cervantes in Indonesia.

With this project, Marcial is hopeful that this would keep the players in line while also delivering the best competition the D-League could dream of.

“Iwasan natin ang bisyo at galingan ninyo.”

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CSJL

Letran overpowers Lyceum for second win

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After a string of losses, the Colegio San Juan de Letran Lady Knights returned to the NCAA Season 93 win column with a gritty win over the short-handed Lyceum of the Philippines University Lady Pirates, 28-26, 20-25, 26-24, 25-20, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The Lady Knights won out in a sloppy match which had both teams combine for 25 aces, 15 coming from Letran. According to assistant coach Ron Dulay, Letran needed to solve their reception problems on the fly.

“Weakness nga siguro namin ‘yung receive, pero inaayos namin siya ensayo. Kanina medyo shaky lang ‘yung mga bata. Mabuti noong dulo naka-adjust kami sa ginagawa ng kalaban,” said Dulay.

Both sides also had a whooping 34 errors apiece. Letran’s miscues, however, came early in the match and were lessened by the deciding fourth set which they won convincingly.

“Unti-unte tumataas ‘yung level ng team. Kailangan talaga namin mag-double time pa sa mga susunod na laban kung gusto namin umabot doon sa Top Four,” Dulay added.

Second-year Lady Knight Charm Simborio led the way with 17 points while Glayssa Torres added 15 which includes two blocks and three aces.

The Lady Knights (2-2) take on perennial rival San Beda College (4-0) on Monday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Christine Miralles topped the Lady Pirates with a career-high 21 points. Team captain Bien Juanillo added 17 markers.

The Lady Pirates (1-3) face the undefeated defending champs Arellano University (4-0) on Sunday also at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The Scores

CSJL (3) – Simborio 17, Torres 15, Abitan 11, Barrinuevo 8, Parin 8, Mendoza 3, Bangcola 2, Uriza 1, Perez 0, Larioque (L)

LPU (1) – Miralles 21, Juanillo 17, Sevilla 11, Bongabong 5, Patio 5, Genova 2, Marcella (L), Romanban (L)

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2018 FIBA 3X3 World Cup

FIBA 3×3 World Cup to be a huge boost for country’s Olympic bid

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All roads will lead to Bocaue, Bulacan as the 2018 FIBA 3×3 World Cup will head to the Philippine Arena. The biggest tournament in 3×3 basketball will be played from June 8-12, 2018.

The announcement was made Thursday afternoon by Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executives. The event was graced by Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. president Ronald Mascariñas, SMART Sports’ Christopher Quimpo, and FIBA’s 3×3 Managing Director Alex Sanchez.

With 3×3 basketball being declared an Olympic event last 2017, the SBP is looking at this tournament as a way to prove to the world that we are capable of hosting and that we can compete with the world’s finest.

“As mentioned earlier, I think we’ve been very successful holding it in the malls, 3,000 to 4,000 people watching the games. We chose to move it to a bigger venue, I think we want to give an opportunity for more people to see the games,” said SBP president Al Panlilio.

“From a Philippine basketball point of view, that gives an opportunity for the youth to watch the game. From an SBP, FIBA perspective, we want bigger crowds in 3×3 and that’s something we want to deliver to FIBA,” he added.

There will be 40 teams split into two divisions that will compete in this annual tourney.

For the men’s side, the Philippines will take on teams from Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Ecuador, Estonia, Japan, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Uruguaz.

In the women’s division, the hosts will face Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkmenistan, United States, and Venezuela.

With this task of hosting a world class tournament, Chooks-to-Go vowed to help in the organization of it.

“We look at 3×3 as our best hope, really, to get a medal in the Olympics. Kami naman sa Chooks, we are behind SBP realizing that dream,” said Mascariñas.

“Kanina pinag-uusapan na, if we’re going to break the record in attendance. I think the question there is not if we’re going to break, but how many more times.”

FIBA, on the other hand, is looking forward to helping groom a possible Philippine team that will compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I’m sure the event this year, we’re starting the countdown, is going to be amazing,” Sanchez said. “I think this is going to be helpful for us in developing.

“I’m coming from Tokyo where we’re discussing the venue and layout of the Olympics. We should make an effort with Al and SBP to see if we have a Filipino team in Olympics. In my opinion Filipinos have a real chance to make it. Hopefully this can give us a nice push to get a PH team to the Olympics,” the Spanish executive added.

“See you in June.”

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EAC

Perpetual escapes upset-hungry EAC

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Fighting off a sluggish start, the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Lady Altas came alive late to slip past the Emilio Aguinaldo College Lady Generals, 22-25, 25-19, 25-14, 23-25, 15-13, and remain on pace for a spot in the NCAA Season 93 Final Four at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Taking on a struggling EAC side, Perpetual head coach Michael Cariño knew that there was a possibility that his squad would relax. His team has had trouble starting and finishing off matches, as evidenced in their first set performance and lack of finishing push in the fourth frame.

“May tendency talaga ‘yung team ko na mag-relax. Sabihin na nating hindi kasi sobrang lakas ng kalaban. Pero alam naman natin sa volleyball na wala namang team na ibibigay sa’yo ‘yung panalo, kailangan kunin mo talaga,” Cariño lamented.

The fifth frame came down to late breaks. The Lady Altas broke a 13-all tie with back-to-back transition conversions from Cindy Imbo and Lourdes Clemente.

“Siyempre, nage-expect ako nang mas maganda pang performance sa team ko. Alam din naman nila na mas may ibubuga pa sila kaya kailangan mas maganda ang ipakita namin sa mga huli naming laro,” the NCAA champion mentor added.

Imbo tallied a game-high 17 points, while Clemente and Maria Aurora Tripoli added 15 points, apiece. The Lady Altas needed all of their 11 aces and 11 blocks to offset their season-high 42 errors.

Aira Binondo was the only Lady General in double-digits with 13 points.

The Lady Altas (3-1) next face the Jose Rizal University (2-2) on Sunday at the FilOil Flying V Centre. EAC (0-4) will look for their first win on Monday against the College of Saint Benilde (2-1).

The Scores

UPHSD (3) – Imbo 17, Clemente 15, Tripoli 15, Sangalang 11, Llorente 10, Versoza 4, Estanislao 1, Gual 1, Umandal 0, Medalla (L)

EAC (2) – Binondo 13, Tongco 9, Pablo 8, Lumbao 7, Magbanua 7, Reyes A. 3, Reyes K. 3, Tasis 2, Yongco 1, Medina (L)

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