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Tiger Softbelles return to the Finals



Déjà vu

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UST (Finals-bound)2000000241

The University of Santo Tomas Tiger Softbelles were seeded third in the post-season of the UAAP Season 79 Softball tournament. However, UST, a team loaded with a line-up composed of RP Blu Girls standouts and a steady anchor in ace pitcher Ann Antolihao, proved that seedings are only for namesake.

Monday afternoon, the Tiger Softbelles performed an encore of their Game One performance, eliminating a bruised National University Lady Bulldogs squad, 2-0, to advance to the Finals for the second straight year at the historic Rizal Memorial Baseball Stadium in the city of Manila.UAAP-Season-79-Softball---UST-def-NU-Game-2---Tiger-Softbelles-celebration

And once again Antolihao, the league’s ace of aces, was spectacular on the mound. Pitching her second complete game in just three days, the fourth-year pitcher allowed just three clean hits after giving up just two in Game One. Moreover, she, along with the UST fielders, left seven Lady Bulldogs stranded.

“[Ang mga laro namin] naka-depende yan sa kundisyon ng mga bata pero pag na-hold ni Antolihao, it only takes one run to win,” said UST head coach Sandy Barredo.

When NU threatened to knot the game at the top of the seventh inning, Antolihao stopped them from their tracks. With two outs and Dyan Arago (reaching base due to a fielding error) and Carla Payapaya (walked) reaching base, the Cebuana calmly struck out lead-off batter Kristine Acuna to book UST’s ticket to the Finals.

On the other end, the Tiger Softbelles were able to pick up two runs in the very first inning that proved to be enough.

A single by lead-off batter Hannah dela Torre opened the inning while a sac fly courtesy of Lealyn Guevarra moved the runner to second base. An attempt to knockoff dela Torre in the next at bat only allowed Lealyn Guevarra to reach base. And when it mattered, clean-up hitter CJ Roa, a member of the RP Blu Girls, connected on a single to left field to bring home the two runners to put UST up for good.

After connecting just four time for the entire game — eight for the entire series, their offense is still a major cause of concern for Barredo.

“Roa naka-hit kanina tapos 2-for-3 pero yung consistency niya wala pa rin. Malaking bagay kasi pag nandiyan siya. Percentage lang yan in a seven inning game,” the champion mentor shared. “Nag-eexpect pa rin sa mga big hitters natin like Garde, [Celestine] Palma, and even [Shiela] Perales. Yan yung apat na inaasahan ko.”

The Lady Bulldogs though heavily relied on Acuna for their offense. However, their line-up, a team that has been battered by five injuries to key players at the latter end of the second round, could not support their top hitter.UAAP-Season-79-Softball---UST-def-NU-Game-2---NU-Lady-Bulldogs-seniors

Outfielder Mary Grace Blanco, shortstop Dyan Arago, second basewoman Carla Payapaya, Clarifer Singh, Razel Cuyos, Baby Gequillo, outfielder Charleslyn Tulalian, and catcher Colleen Alilin all played their final game for NU leaving them with a lot of holes to plug for next season.

With eight days to rest before the Game One of the Finals begins on Tuesday, March 21 at 8:00am, Barredo gave a stern warning to the six-time defending champions, Adamson Lady Falcons.

“Payback time,” he said. “Yun lang. So, same thing, pag nakundisyon si Antolihao, it’s a different story. Pero pag di siya nakundisyon, talo na.”



Where is Joshua Munzon?



Still remember Joshua Munzon?

The uber-athletic Fil-American made waves in the ASEAN Basketball League last season, producing highlight-worthy plays and excellent numbers for Vietnamese squad Saigon Heat and the Westports Malaysia Dragons.

He had also gained ground with Filipino fans when he and Saigon came the Philippines back in January to face Alab Pilipinas. The Heat may have lost 99-79, but Munzon won the hearts of Pinoys that night with the way he played.

But now, with the new ABL season rolling, he is nowhere to be found.

It is baffling, to say the least, that such a talented cager like Munzon isn’t suiting up for an ABL squad this season, considering that he posted commendable numbers of 19.4 points and nearly five steals in his rookie year.

He still made strides in the Thailand League with club team PEA, after his ABL stint last March. However, it was still a mystery why Munzon isn’t in the ABL, especially with the amount of teams that want his services.

But he has finally shed light on the issue.

“Me and KL (Westports) couldn’t agree to terms on a contract, so I tried to sign with another team. But I guess KL would have to release me to play for another team, although I’m not under contract with KL,” Munzon told Tiebreaker Times.

Munzon added that the apparent “gentlemen’s agreement” among the ABL team owners — which means he has to wait for a year before signing with another club — is what landed him in this unfortunate situation.

“KL told me they won’t release me to sign with another team this season, so I’m going to have to wait ’til next season to sign with another team,” revealed Munzon, who also shared that five ABL teams had reached out to him.

The California State-LA alumnus is currently at his home in Los Angeles, continuing his workouts and waiting for developments, if any. But Munzon did not hide the fact that being held like this is extremely disappointing.

“Very tough. It’s been a very unfortunate situation that I definitely don’t feel I deserve to be in.”

Back in January, Munzon had actually made clear his intentions of playing in the Philippines. Not for a Filipino ABL team, though, but in the PBA. And he was also aware of what he has to do first: play in the D-League.

“Yeah, play in the D-League first,” Munzon was quoted saying back then. “We’ll see after the (2016-2017) season. I’ll weigh my options first and go from there.

“But definitely get in the D-League first, and hopefully move forward from there.”

When he wasn’t seen anywhere in the ABL, those who have been following Munzon’s career assumed that he was bound to fulfill his plans, and it was expected that he will make himself eligible in the 2017 D-League Draft.

Unfortunately, that did not happen.

“I wasn’t aware of the deadlines to apply,” admitted Munzon, the consensus top pick, as the deadline of submission of requirements for Fil-foreign applicants was due last November 10. “I think I’m too late for PBA D-League.”

Had Munzon joined this year’s draft, teams would definitely show strong interest. Standing at six-foot-five with the ability to attack the rim, shoot from downtown, and defend, he perfectly fits the Filipinos’ style of play.

But until then, the fans still have to wait.

He may be clouded with uncertainties in the ABL, but that does not spell the end of Munzon’s young pro career. In fact, he might even fly back to Southeast Asia and return to Thailand for yet another campaign.

“I could possibly be playing in the upcoming TBSL season in Thailand,” Munzon shared. “[But] I’m not sure which team yet though, but I should know sooner than later.”

Munzon is slowly carving a niche for himself as a journeyman in this part of Asia. Asked if he will soon fly to the Philippines to play in the PBA, the 22-year-old said that that possibility will happen “in a matter of time.”

“I would have to play D-League before [going into the PBA], or wait until I’m 28 — but I’m 22,” he quipped. “But I definitely see myself playing in the PBA eventually.

“It’s just a matter of time.”

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Low-key Owen Graham out to prove worth as top pick



When the AMA Online Education Titans announced Owen Graham as the first overall pick in the 2017 PBA D-League Draft, many quickly went to Google to search on who the Filipino-Canadian was. However, there were only a few articles that could be found about his past exploits.

This was in stark contrast compared to their draft haul a year ago that was headlined by heralded Jeron Teng. And that’s just the way the Filipino-Canadian likes it.

“With hard work and dedication, I’m pretty confident that you’re gonna hear more about me,” the 25-year-old shared.

“Maybe not now, not later, but someday you’ll hear more from me because I believe hard work pays off.”

Even with a class that includes the likes of local collegiate stalwarts Alvin Pasaol and Arvin Tolentino, the staff of head coach Mark Herrera decided that’s it is better to stick something that is familiar to them rather than risk getting spurned after one conference just like what happened a season ago.

“Rookie siya sa D-League pero he played for me sa NAASCU na, sa Fr. Martin and NCRAA, so medyo marunong na ‘yung bata,” said Herrera.

“Pretty much, I heard there are tryouts and I just decided to stop by. I just asked to play with them,” recalled Graham, who decided to take the risk of coming back home to the Philippines in 2016.

“They gave me a shot and I just showcased my abilities after that.”

The 6-foot-4 swingman though almost did not get a chance to fulfill his dreams of playing basketball.

Back when he was in college in Toronto, Canada, he, together with close friends Norbert Torres and James Forrester, was recruited by schools such as De La Salle University. However, he had to fulfill a promise to his mother first. He needed to get his collge degree before he could pursue his hoop dreams.

“I’m a late bloomer. I started to take the game serious when I was 20,” shared Graham, who is also close to Matthew Wright and LA Revilla. “When I was younger, they told me to come here, but I had to fulfill my moms dream which is finishing school in Toronto.

“Now I’m fulfilling my dream.”

Graham hopes to achieve the same success as his friends are experiencing in the pros. But it’s a good thing he knows that the journey will be long and tedious. More importantly, he knows that nothing comes easy here in the Philippines.

“They told me nothing comes easy so I got to come in with a chip on my shoulder, stay hungry, stay humble. That’s just my way,” he said. “Nobody knows about me, I like it that way. It just give me a better chance to prove myself.

“You know I’m forever grateful for this opportunity. There’s always be pressure in everything you decide to do, but I’m just gonna stick to what I know which is do my best, work hard, dive for the ball, get dirty if I have to and hopefully, make an impact.”

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Ramil de Jesus sees simple solution for Cargo Movers: ‘Kailangan lang namin pumasa’



Far from their top-seed form, the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers looked dreary in their loss in Game One of the 2017 Chooks-to-Go PSL Grand Prix Finals. For the entire course of the game, it seemed that they were a notch lower than the Petron Blaze Spikers, figuring in miscues and errors uncharacteristic of the team.

Safe to say, Game One was their worst loss of the season.

For F2 Logistics’ decorated head coach Ramil De Jesus, the solution is simple for the Cargo Movers to win in Game Two.

“Well, kailangan pumasa next game.

“‘Yun lang naman ‘yung puno’t dulo hindi kami nakapasa,” De Jesus staunchly told the media after being on the receiving end of a 14-25, 21-25, 16-25 sweep.

No Cargo Mover was in the stats sheet for excellent receives, meaning they were all net negatives with their passing. This resulted to nine aces for the Blaze Spikers.

Still, De Jesus feels his team is in a good place mentally. He’ll take tomorrow to make adjustments and get his team prepared for Game Two on Thursday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

“Wala ako masyadong sinabi, basta sabi ko we need to bounce back next game. Give your 100 percent, give your best for next game,” claimed De Jesus, who is raring to win his first-ever Grand Prix crown.

“Well-prepared yung Petron and then siguro itong team first time papasok sa ganitong finals. So let’s see next game.”

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Petron dumps F2 Logistics in Game One to inch closer to Grand Prix title



Carrying all the momentum from a rousing victory in the semifinals, the Petron Blaze Spikers drew first blood in the 2017 Chooks-to-Go PSL Grand Prix Finals, sweeping the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers, 25-17, 25-21, 25-16, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Petron was dominant throughout, protecting the early leads they easily built. The Blaze Spikers held a commanding 19-12 lead in the first set, 17-13 in the second frame, and 19-12 in the third set to close their first match in the biggest stage with ease.

Starting and finishing strong was a huge emphasis for Petron after lacakdaisical efforts to start their last two matches, according to head coach Shaq Delos Santos.

“Maganda talaga ‘yung nilaro ng mga players. Makikita mo sa paghahanda namin nitong Finals na all-out talaga, buhos lahat ng effort nila,” said Delos Santos.

“Malaking emphasis sa amin ‘yun kasi nga talo kami sa first set noong unang dalawang laban. Kaya, sabi naming coach na dapat simula pa lang, ibigay na namin lahat para di kami naghahabol,” the former FEU Tamaraw added.

Even in just three sets, Petron’s America imports Hillary Hurley and Lindsay Stalzer still managed to drop 20 points, apiece.

Venezuelan Maria Jose Perez was the lone bright spot for F2, recording 15 points. The Cargo Movers’ struggles manifested in their service reception as none of their players were positive in excellent receives.

The Blaze Spikers try to clinch their first Grand Prix title since 2015 on Thursday, 7 p.m. at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The Scores

Petron (3) – Hurley 20, Stalzer 20, Palma 7, Molina 6, Reyes 4, Dimaculangan 2, Fukuda (L)

F2 Logistics (0) – Perez 15, Bryan 8, Baron 7, Dy 5, Maraño 4, Cheng 0, Cruz 0, Santos 0, Macandili (L), Saga (L)

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