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National U dethrones UST for historic UAAP title

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After years of coming close, the National University men’s table tennis team finished the way they started UAAP Season 80 to finally clinch that coveted first-ever championship.

Right at the start of the season, the Bulldogs shocked defending champions University of Santo Tomas Tiger Paddlers with a 3-0 sweep — a sign of things to come.

And in the Finals, the Bustillos-based squad completed that turnaround, claiming UST’s throne after a 2-1 series win, Monday evening at the University of the Philippines Gym.

Once again, it was the Bulldogs who drew first blood in the championship showdown, after pocketing the first tie that morning. CJ Carrasco sealed the win in the fourth singles match, taking care of Chebuel Andaloc in three 11-6 games.

Nonetheless, the reigning champs poured it in the succeeding tie in the afternoon. With their backs against the wall, the España-based side found a hero in team captain Paul Que.

The fifth-year senior erased Carrasco’s Tie 1 heroics with a complete domination of the latter in the deciding singles match. Que clinched one for UST at 11-5, 11-6, 11-6.

However, National U’s date with destiny was inevitable and fittingly still fell at Carrasco’s hands.

Que stunned Jun Cubio in a marathon of a first singles match at 11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8. The skipper’s win turned out to be the Tigers’ last growl for the season, as the Bulldogs slowly bite their way to the title afterwards.

Cubio’s teammate John Russel Misal, however, admitted that he felt down after the former’s loss. “Nung natalo siya, ang lungkot ko na.”

Despite playing with a heavy heart, Misal needed to play on. The result was a swift work of Shen Tunay at 11-4, 11-5, 11-5.

But the win afterwards turned out to be the clincher more than the boost. The doubles tandem of John Villalon and Jay Villamor surprised everyone in the Gym with a rousing win over Reymark Mabuang and Jericho Cruz at 12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 11-8.

“Nung nanalo yung doubles namin, na-shock ako,” Misal admitted. “Yung feeling ko tuloy ‘di ko na ma-explain; biglang tumaas ulit. Nagkaroon kami ng pag-asa, kaya yung last singles namin pinaluan ko na.”

Nonetheless, Carrasco said that there was no need for the fourth-year Misal to warm Mark Huab up, as he finished the tie on his own.

The fifth-year Carrasco went out in the UAAP with a bang, despite being notoriously known for his antics on the table. The Bulldog had to scrape past Nayre and completed the epic comeback at 8-11, 11-7 10-12, 11-4, 11-9 in the third singles match to formally clinch NU’s maiden men’s table tennis plum.

It was not easy as the competition was tough in the men’s division and the struggles to go over the hump, but the eventual Most Valuable Player Misal summed up everything perfectly.

“Lahat tayo dumadaan sa failure. Ang importante eh ‘yung matuto ka, para sa huli makuha mo naman yung success,” declared the champion.

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Ateneo pulls out of friendly against UST

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The Philippine Superliga regretfully announced Friday evening that the supposed tune-up match between the Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles and the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses on Saturday has been cancelled.

“We regret to announce that the scheduled friendly game between Ateneo and University of Santo Tomas volleyball teams that was to serve as an appetizer to Saturday’s championship game between Petron and F2 Logistics will not push through,” PSL chairman Philip Juico released in a statement.

Though no specific reason was said regarding why the Lady Eagles decided to pull out of the tune-up that was announced Friday morning, the league stressed that the team agreed to play.

“A late announcement by the Ateneo de Manila University officials caused the cancellation of the match they have earlier agreed to play,” the statement furthered.

Even with this circumstance, the league is holding no grudges as it is still open to have a partnership with the Lady Eagles in the future.

“The Philippine Superliga still welcomes the Ateneo Volleyball Team to play in the league as we are open to all interested squads who want to be partners of the PSL.”

Still, Game Three of the Chooks-to-Go/PSL Grand Prix will still have a start time of 4:00pm.

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PBA tweaks format for 2017-18 Philippine Cup playoffs

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From 10 teams in the past, only eight teams will advance into the 2018 Philippine Cup playoffs as the PBA made a few changes in its’ format for the 43rd season’s Philippine Cup, making every single game important for all teams.

The way the playoffs will be played out though remains the same. The top two teams will have a twice-to-beat edge over teams ranked seventh and eight, while the ones in the middle (3 vs 6, 4 vs 5) will figure in best-of-three contests.

Both the semifinals and finals will still be best-of-seven affairs.

Meanwhile, the league has also released the full schedule of the Philippine Cup Friday, eight days after publicizing a partial sked that only showed games from December 17 to 29.

SMART-Araneta Coliseum, SM Mall of Asia Arena, and Ynares Center in Antipolo will serve the main venues of PBA games. The FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan and the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay will also hold a few matches.

This season’s Christmas Games, which features GlobalPort Batang Pier-NLEX Road Warriors and Barangay Ginebra-Magnolia Hotshots, will be staged at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

And just like in the past seasons, the league will also hold playdates in out-of-town venues such as Ilo-ilo City, Legazpi in Albay, Calasiao in Pangasinan, Dumaguete City, and Cagayan de Oro City. All of these are set on Saturdays.

The PBA will raise the curtains of its’ 43rd year this Sunday, December 17, at the Big Dome, with defending champions San Miguel Beermen starting their four-peat bid against a revamped Phoenix Fuel Masters at 6:45 PM.

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Lady Eagles versus Golden Tigresses to open PSL’s season finale

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Serving as the opening act for Game Three of the Chooks-to-Go/PSL Grand Prix Finals pitting the Petron Blaze Spikers and the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers, UAAP rivals Ateneo Lady Eagles will face the University of Santo Tomas Golden Tigresses to open the day’s festivities. The game is set at 1:00pm at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

This will be the final encounter of the two teams before the UAAP Season 80 Women’s Volleyball tournament begins on February 3.

The Growling Tigresses are expected to field a complete teams sans fourth-year spiker Cherry Rondina. Rondina will play for Petron later in the evening.

On the other hand, the Lady Eagles will be stepping on the PSL taraflex for the first-time ever. Ateneo won two championships in the collegiate division of PSL rival V-League. Bannering the new-look Ateneo will be Bea De Leon, Jho Maraguinot, and Kat Tolentino.

This will then be followed by the rubber match between Petron and F2 Logistics. The awarding ceremony for the tournament is set at 6:00pm.

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SBP, Robbie Puno still looking for ‘right player’ to naturalize for 2023 World Cup

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Though a lot of foreign cagers have presented themselves as willing to play for SMART Gilas Pilipinas and become naturalized Filipino, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has yet to pick on who will be the heir apparent to Andray Blatche come the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

“At this point in time, we do not have any particular player yet. My understanding is we’re still looking for the best possible candidate,” shared SBP vice chairman Robbie Puno during the celebration of the 2023 World Cup hosting held at Crowne Plaza in Pasig City.

Blatche, who last played for Gilas during the first window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, will be 37 years old when the 2023 edition rolls around. Names that have been thrown out during the calendar year were former Blackwater Elite import Greg Smith, who will be 33 years old in 2023, and Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas reinforcement Isaiah Austin, who will turn 30 by that time.

Still, Puno and his group are taking their time, carefully filtering the candidates as to not hamper the process of the legislative body of the Philippines.

“If our target is 2023, there will be probably enough time for us to make sure we have the right player in terms of his basketball skills, but also his age as well as his attitude,” said Puno, a former congressman representing the first district of Antipolo City.

Moreover, the 55-year-old politician has already planted the seeds for this long process by already talking to the members of the Lower House who will author the bill.

“Right now, we’re ready to spearhead that process. We’ve spoken with a couple of congressmen who will author the bill,” Puno disclosed.

“What we’re waiting for is the imprimatur as to who we will really make the effort to naturalize, because when you start that process, it becomes really difficult.”

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