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UAAP Season 78 Women’s Basketball: Starter Pack

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[nextpage title = “Starter Pack”]
By Aidan Panaligan Manglinong / reports from Levi Verora Jr

With the 78th Season of the University Athletics Association of the Philippines about to begin, collegiate basketball will go full blast, as the chance will arise to witness both seniors’ and women’s action intensify simultaneously.

Coinciding with the UAAP Men’s Basketball opening weekend will be the opening day of the Women’s Basketball division. As a brief background, the UAAP Women’s Basketball tournament was dominated by the National University Lady Bulldogs. The Lady Bulldogs went 14-0 in the regular season, and swept the Far Eastern University Lady Tamaraws in the Finals. The Lady Tamaraws were valiant in their journey to the finals, however, as they went through the entire stepladder in escaping the University of Santo Tomas Tigresses, 62-61, to advance to the semifinals and overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage against the De La Salle University Lady Archers.

It’s a new season with a lot of burning questions waiting to be answered.

Will Bea Daez and the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons break their 14 game losing streak? Can Danica Jose channel Cassie Tioseco and bring the trophy back to Katipunan? Will the return of Ara Abaca and Snow Penaranda to the Lady Archers help their team regain the women’s title? What about debuting Lady Archer Head Coach, Cholo Villanueva? Will the National University Lady Bulldogs extend their reign, especially with the addition of Congolese student-athlete, Rhena Itesi, and the experience gained by the student-athletes they enlisted to Perlas Pilipinas? FEU, on the other hand, also have a foreign student-athlete on their team in Yetunde Okunla, and a now internationally-experienced Claire Castro in their line-up. Will those additions be enough to tip the scales in their favor?

Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s UAAP Women’s Basketball Tournament. Welcome to the Starter Pack!

NEXT: First up! The underdogs >>

[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “The Underdogs”]

The Underdogs
By Aidan Panaligan Manglinong / reports from Levi Verora Jr

UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES LADY MAROONS

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Season 77 record: 0-14
Points per game: 48.6
Points allowed per game: 61.3

The Lady Maroons finished with a fruitless campaign last season. Like their male counterparts, the team was able to put up a gallant stand against stronger teams, but were susceptible to late-game collapses, as their opponents exposed the Diliman-based crew’s lack of maturity.

The team was dead last in offense and was second worst in defense, lacking a handful of pieces to make themselves formidable enough against tougher teams.

This year wouldn’t be inspiring too, as Antonia Wong, one of the Lady Maroons’ best players from last season, is now out of their line up. Bea Daez returns to the fold, however, she will have an even more grueling task as she is expected to virtually lead the Lady Maroons by herself, offensively.

Daez was one of the best scorers in the league, averaging 14.2 points per match in Season 77, although she had the tendency to quite literally take matters into her own hands. Last year, she shot 30-for-137 from three-point area, a clip she must improve this time around.

UP was teeming with consistent scorers and defenders who could contain the bigger, more physical players from other teams. Workhorse Janeena Tatel (5.8 points, 7.6 rebounds) showed brilliance the last time out, although it would be a Gargantuan task to keep performing that way on a daily basis against even taller frontlines.

This year, to say the least, will not be a winning season for the Lady Maroons, although the team should develop maturity from this season to move forward with optimism.

 

UNIVERSITY OF THE EAST LADY RED WARRIORS


Season 77 record: 3-11
Points per game: 53.6
Points allowed per game: 63.3

The Lady Red Warriors parade a roster of exciting and explosive players, although the main problem would be incorporating the individual talents into a cohesive whole, in order for the team to contend with the powerhouses of the league.

The Recto-based cagers parade a frontcourt that features Eunique Chan, one of the key returnees for the squad this year. Chan averaged 11.6 points and, a league second-best, 8.6 rebounds in Season 77.

Possessing grit, Chan has the ability to bang bodies inside the post even against taller frontlines, although she will need help if the team wants to succeed from a frontcourt standpoint. Much is expected from enforcer Love Joy Sto. Domingo to complement Chan.

Chery Joy Ano-os, an athletic four who put up 8.9 points and 8.4 boards last season, must also be able to hold her own against the league’s giants.

In the wings, Ruthlaine Tacula is the woman to watch. She is a consistent shooter and an all-around workhorse, as reflected by her 9-point, 6.1-rebound, and 3.1-assist averages last year. She may be just a little bit slow against the rest of UAAP’s perimeter players, but she helped UE compete down the stretch, time and again, with her maturity in the clutch.

UE did not lose a lot of big names, save for Danice Llosalla, so they will have a chance of being formidable in each game. The Lady Red Warriors, however, must find ways to shore their backcourt woes as they lack facilitators.

Tacula led the team in assists last season but the lack of playmakers may hound the team in each affair, an aspect of the game they have to solve.

FAR EASTERN UNIVERSITY LADY TAMARAWS

Season 77 record: 8-6, defeated DLSU in the semi-finals, lost to NU in the finals
Points per game: 53.9
Points allowed per game: 53.2

The Lady Tamaraws shocked the twice-to-beat La Salle last year, and forged a showdown with NU in the finals, although they were badly overpowered by the much better squad as they settled for a runner-up finish.

FEU relied on a troika of backcourt weapons in Angel Arellado, Jacq Tanaman, and Ana Valenzona, plus do-it-all forward April Siat, and the 6-foot-4 Clare Castro.

Arellado was one of the deadliest outside gunners in the league, shooting 41 percent from three-point area last year, while norming a team-best 11.3 points per game.

Known for her ability to deliver in the clutch, Arellado will be relied on even more this year as Valenzona, Siat, and Tanaman are all gone. Arellado must be more aggressive too, and not just settle for outside shots.

The absence of those three — all main weapons from last year’s run — adveresly affects the Lady Tamaraws from being a legitimate contender.

The main question now is whether Castro, the Morayta 5’s towering center, can take her game to the next level this year. Castro averaged 10.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks last season.

With tremendous size, it was easy for Castro to score inside (59 percent 2-point field goals last season) although she still lacks the footwork and quickness to add more dimensions to her game.

Production is a given but taking charge for the team given the absences of veterans will be a huge task for the young Castro. Outside of Arellado and Castro, FEU needs to find new faces to go to in order to rise in the team standings.

NEXT: The Contenders >>
[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “The Contenders”]
The Contenders
By Aidan Panaligan Manglinong / reports from Levi Verora Jr

ADAMSON UNIVERSITY LADY FALCONS


Season 77 record: 6-8
Points per game: 55.6
Points allowed per game: 56.4

The Lady Falcons were one of the better shooting teams in the league. They were 3rd overall in three-point field goal percentage, and 2nd overall in free throw shooting.

It was a guard-laden lineup that had a strong showing in the first round, although the team struggled to keep up with the rest of the field, as they settled in the lower half of the team standings.

Janille de Castro is Adamson’s only legitimate big and rim protector, as she put up 6.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game last year. She was lanky, but made up for it with length to alter shots, and she served as the backbone of Adamson’s defense.

Adamson must now atone for the absence of Jingky Balasta, who was the fourth leading scorer last year. Along with Zhalyn Mateo and Jesusa Avila having also left, This season will prove to be a challenging one for the San Marcelino side, although they still have enough tools to compete at a high level.

ATENEO DE MANILA UNIVERSITY LADY EAGLES

Season 77 record: 7-7
Points per game: 50.9
Points allowed per game: 52.3

The Lady Eagles were a team that battled inconsistency from the start of Season 77, and worked their way to almost being in the Final Four, even after a mediocre start.

The team boosts off a second-best defense, which will not be a problem heading into the upcoming season. The team has a ton of physical defenders and height, which can make it difficult for opposing teams in each positions.

Danica Jose, who finished second to Afril Bernardino in statistical points, will again be the focal point of Ateneo’s campaign on both ends of the floor.

Jose is the league’s best center, norming 14.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks last year. She is a dominant force underneath with a reliable back to basket game and was able to hold her ground even against taller, stronger opposition.

When it comes to the backcourt, Claire Aseron (7.4 points, 4.5 rebounds) is the Lady Eagles’ main option. She hit 31.3 percent of her triples last year, which is among the top percentages in the league.

Ateneo did not lose much vital cogs in the offseason, so only their offense will be the main concern for the Loyola camp, as they try to pick up where they left off.

Outside of Jose and Aseron, the Lady Eagles must find other scorers to boost its offensive game even further and become a dangerous two-way team.

UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS GROWLING TIGRESSES

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Season 77 record: 8-6, lost to FEU in first round of stepladder play-off
Points per game: 61.9
Points allowed per game: 58.4

UST was one of the most exciting teams to watch from last year. Bannered by Mythical 5 member, Lore Rivera, and Sofia Felisarta, the Growling Tigresses, went on to make the Final Four although were outlasted by FEU.

Averaging 15.9 points last season, Rivera was the top scorer of the league, even firing 38 points in one game last season. However, she won’t suit up anymore for the squad, and her absence is a huge concern for the España crew should they wish to make it back to the playoffs.

Also gone are Kristine Siapnoc and Kim Reyes, who both space the floor well with their abilities to hit the outside shot.

With those losses, the focus shifts to the interior, with the hulking Maica Cortes. Cortes is an indomitable presence, and put up 11.4 points and 11.1 rebounds per outing last season. She knows how to use her size and is agile enough against taller or bigger competitors.

Aside from her post-up game, Cortes also has a knack for draining baseline jumpers, so she should also find a way to spread the defense out and create for her other teammates.

The Growling Tigresses must find a way to fill in for the departed players and complement Cortes’ play with space in order to stay in the hunt for a Final Four berth this year.

DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY LADY ARCHERS

Ara Abaca

Season 77 record: 10-4, second overall, eliminated by FEU in semi-finals
Points per game: 57.9
Points allowed per game: 50.6

The Lady Archers were on the cusp of making the finals last year, although were stopped in their tracks by a gutsy FEU side as they blew a twice-to-beat advantage.

De La Salle bolsters one of the deepest rotations in the league, as seen by their varying starting units every game. The Taft squad led in assists per game, showing its strong cohesion as a whole.

La Salle drew strength from its plethora of backcourt weapons, led by the likes of Trisha Piatos, Camille Claro and Miller Ong. Claro averaged 6.1 points and 3.7 assists last season, and is the perfect complement to La Salle’s backcourt as she works well with anyone on the floor.

Aside from Claro’s playmaking, she is also a threat from the outside, while Ong (6.4 points), meanwhile, made it difficult for opposing squads with her ability to attack the rim from the perimeter and draws the defense in.

The only setback perhaps for La Salle is their size; there are not many bigs in their lineup, which is why the team succumbed against bigger teams like FEU and NU. The returning Ara Abaca, who averaged a double-double in Season 76, may suffice for the rebounding woes and also add an option on offense.

Gone are Piatos and Ong, who combined for 7.3 of La Salle’s assists as a team last year, so Claro should step up with her maturity on the floor and lead the squad as its main quarterback.

It is now up to new Head Coach Cholo Villanueva to make his team thrive in its unselfish style of play and anyone-can-score, anyone-can-takeover mantra.

NEXT: THE CHAMPS >>
[/nextpage] [nextpage title = “The Lady Bulldogs”]

THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY LADY BULLDOGS

By Aidan Panaligan Manglinong / reports from Levi Verora Jr


In the final part of our preview, we talk about the defending UAAP women’s basketball champions, the National University Lady Bulldogs, which are poised to repeat with their intact roster.

An absolute powerhouse whose squad features a handful of national team stalwarts, the Lady Bulldogs are expected to win it all again. Frankly speaking, the gap between them at no. 1 entering the season and the next three to four teams is huge.

Last year, the Sampaloc-based cagers scored a historic sweep of the tournament, going 16-0 for the entire year. National University outscored its foes by an average of 13.1 points a game last year, taking care of both sides of the floor, and it will rely again on its stacked roster and familiarity.

Three of the five spots in the Mythical 5 selection were also from the team, namely Shelley Gupilan, eventual Finals MVP, Gemma Miranda, and season MVP, Afril Bernardino.

All those names are back for the team, which will make this season even more dangerous for challengers.

Bernardino averaged 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.4 blocks in an all-around performance last season, which merited her the league Most Valuable Player award.

At the wing position, she is a relentless attacker and finisher, and can also create scoring opportunities for her other teammates. On defense, she is also one of the top one-on-one stoppers, which makes her one of the best two-way players of the league.

Gupilan (10.8 points, 6 rebounds, 4.1 assists) is the Lady Bulldogs’ stretch four. She has a penchant for draining outside shots and can also hustle underneath.

Reigning Rookie of the Year, Ria Nabalan also showed flashes of brilliance last year, and is expected to shine even more this year as a backup forward, or as Pat Aquino’s main option coming off the bench.

Also in the fold are Trixie Antiquera, Kristine Abriam, and Andrea Tongco who all contribute for the squad in stretches. To shore up its frontline problems, NU has added Congo native Rhena Itesi and Perlas center Jack Animam to its roster to further make it competitive.

With such strengths, there is no reason why the Lady Bulldogs should miss not only the Final Four but also the finals. They are the clear-cut front-runners among the cast with an in-and-out system on offense, and this season is theirs to lose given its depth and crop of talent.
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Basketball

OIC Willie Marcial insists ‘walang pagbabago’ in return of physical play in PBA

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The return of physicality in PBA games early this 43rd season has drawn raves from the coaches and the fans. At last, the matches are decided by the players themselves and not by the way the referees blow their whistles.

All the fans, the players, and ultimately the coaches have been longing for such, as physical play was something that was heavily controlled during the administration of former commissioner Chito Narvasa from 2015 to 2017.

“The games are being called a little differently now. They’re allowing a little bit more contact or a lot more contact,” said Meralco Bolts head coach Norman Black.

“I love it. I’m an old school guy so you can imagine. No harm, no foul.”

“The physicality’s good. It’s good for the game. It’s real men going at it,” opined Alaska Aces head coach Alex Compton on the other hand, seconding Black’s sentiments.

“I like the direction the league is going in with officiating.”

It is just one of the many positive changes that is currently taking place in the league under the management of officer-in-charge Willie Marcial. But he insisted that tweaks haven’t really been made in terms of calling games.

“Wala, pinapalaro lang namin. Walang pagbabago yun,” said the amiable league official Monday evening, when he paid Gilas Pilipinas a surprise visit at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

“Pinapalaro lang namin yung mga players.”

All that he’s doing, according to Marcial, is simply reminding the referees to be firm with their calls.

“Sinabihan ko lang yung mga referees na, ‘Manindigan kayo kung ano talaga.'”

With much more consistent calls comes the shorter duration of games compared to the past two seasons, as time-consuming reviews by referees and officials have not taken place in matches too often this season.

“Mas mabilis na (mga laro ngayon),” said Marcial, also the league’s former external affairs and communications head.

“One hour (and) 56 (minutes), one hour 52… ‘Di umaabot ng dalawang oras eh.”

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Boxing

Manny Pacquiao eyes bout against Vasyl Lomachenko

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Even if he has hinted at retirement numerous times, Senator Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38KO) continues to stress that the time is not yet now.

In an interview with ANC’s Headstart Wednesday morning, the 39-year-old sure hall of famer reiterated his stance that he and his camp are still looking for the best fights possible.

“I am not retired yet. Alam mo na-mimiss ko yun boxing e,” Pacquiao told Karen Davilla.

“I’m still okay.”

Pacquiao, who lost his last bout against Jeff Horn last July 2, is not afraid that another loss might affect his legacy.

Pressed on who he wants to fight next, boxing’s only eight-division world champion disclosed that he is currently under negotiations with the camp of WBO Super Featherweight Champion Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8KO).

“Wala akong problema kung Amir Khan. May discussion din ngayon kay Lomachenko, he is the number one pound-for-pound fighter,” Pacquiao shared.

“Hindi pa na-finalize pero this year.”

Pacquiao is eyeing an April date for the bout as it will be the time the senate goes on a break.

“This year, by April. Pangako ko sa mga tao na hindi maapektuhan ang trabaho ko. April, magandang idea dahil off kami from March 23 to May 13. April wala kaming trabaho,” a confident Pacquiao added.

“Three months is more than enough time to prepare.”

However, there is still one hindrance to the bout, according to Pacquiao. The two camps have yet to agree on which weight class the bout will be held.

According to reports, Lomachenko wants the bout to be at lightweight — a division Pacquiao has not been in for the last 10 years.

“Hindi pa sure. Nag-uusap pa about sa timbang.”

One thing is for sure. Pacquiao is hungrier more than ever.

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Football

Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory

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Photo from the-AFC.com

2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’

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Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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