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UAAP S78 Women’s Basketball Stepladder Stage One: Survival Kit

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For most of the second round, the Ateneo de Manila University had looked like they was on their way out of the UAAP Season 78 women’s basketball tournament.

After a shocking 42-41 loss at the hands of the UP Lady Maroons, the Lady Eagles lost three straight to fall to 4-7 in the team standings — and on the brink of elimination.

But the struggle came to an end as the Lady Eagles drew strength from offensive contributors. Ateneo won three of their last four matches including the fourth seed play-off over UST.

In those wins, Ateneo outscored their foes by 9.7 points and had different players topscore. Heading into the rubber match against the third-seeded University of the East Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, the Lady Eagles should show more teamwork to extend their season.

Danica Jose is still the focal point of Ateneo’s play on both ends of the floor. She has team-high averages of 13.8 PPG, 11 RPG, and a league-leading 2.6 BPG. Her activity, especially on the defensive end, will be key — although she needs help.

Ateneo’s next leading scorer is guard Hazelle Yam with 8.2 PPG, but outside of the duo, the Lady Eagles should find more options. Jollina Go, Claire Aseron, and Cara Buendia are some of the players who have shown the ability to contribute in big games, and the upcoming do-or-die match should be a showcase of depth for Ateneo.

The Lady Eagles should also control the glass and protect the inside to boost their chances of advancing.

The Lady Warriors have been impressive in their third year under coach Aileen Lebornio, who has finally seen her troops display winning form.

UE was only 5-23 combined in the last two seasons but finished with a 7-7 card this time around. The Lady Warriors opened the season on a 3-0 card, and have not yet slowed down towards the tail-end of the season, picking crucial wins over UST and Adamson.

Three leaders have stepped up for UE this season. Chery Ano-os finished third in the overall statistical points tally, and is the Lady Warriors’ main shot creator. Ano-os averaged 14.3 PPG and 3.6 APG in the season. She enjoys valuable support with Ruthlaine Tacula (11.2 PPG) and Eunique Chan (10.6 PPG) both norming double-digit averages in points too.

Overall, the Lady Warriors have four players in the top 20 of the MVP race, and Lebornio should rely on UE’s multi-pronged attack to keep Ateneo guessing.

Keys to winning


Ateneo: Share the load

Danica Jose Fast Break
Jose and Yam are talented offensive weapons but Ateneo cannot afford to just rely on their 1-2 punch. The veterans must step up in the do-or-die affair, and the Lady Eagles must also get stops. It is a game which may be decided by their ability to step up on defense.

UE: Attack the paint
Ruthlaine Tacula 3
Ano-os and Tacula are two of the best in getting to the interior off the dribble. They should use this speed against Ateneo’s perimeter defenders and try to create scoring opportunities for the team. With bigs like Love Joy Sto. Domingo (12.4 RPG) and Chan, staying aggressive on offense might pave the way for UE to advance even farther in the competition.

Awaiting the winner are the second-seeded De La Salle Lady Archers, which also enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage in the stepladder semi-finals.

X-Factors


Ateneo: Cara Buendia

Caramia Buendia

Head coach Erika Dy has started Buendia at the four spot due to her ability to drive and hit Jose inside the paint off a high-low play/high post entry pass. Buendia should be able to read the defense and make impact on both ends of the floor.

UE: Love Joy Sto. Domingo
Lovejoy Sto Domingo v Akiko Tomita
One of UE’s twin towers, Sto. Domingo must hold her ground against Jose. Jose has outplayed her counterparts in the last three games and being one of the best rebounders and interior defenders in the season, Sto. Domingo should limit the imposing Lady Eagle.

Prognosis


Ateneo celebration

Ateneo wins by 5 points. The Lady Eagles are on a roll, and have shown they are more than their star duo of Jose and Yam.

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KIA holds on late against Rain or Shine to end 16-game losing skid

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Photo by PBA Images

The Kia Picanto’s months-long, 16-game losing skid had finally come to an end at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94, in a fight-marred affair, Saturday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

The Picanto, who lost an average of 35.7 points in their last three outings, is now 1-4 in the team standings. Meanwhile, the Elasto Painters, who were coming off a 120-99 victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters last January 17, dropped to 2-3.

“Finally nasa press room ako hindi nasa corridor. I’m relieved more than tired. I’m more relieved than anything else,” said Kia head coach Ricky Dandan. “We finally broke that (skid) and this will go a long way in our rebuilding for our ball club.”

Rashawn McCarthy and Roider Cabrera scored 14 apiece to lead the Picanto, with the former adding four assists. Forward Mark Yee flirted with a double-double as he finished with 13 markers and eight rebounds.

Kia spent the majority of the final frame ahead, but RoS kept on fighting and stayed within distance. However, the Picanto built enough separation, 96-89, with 1:52 to go thanks to McCarthy and three-year pro Glenn Khobuntin.

But just as when the win was within their grasp, Rain or Shine imposed a serious threat. Behind an Ed Daquioag jumper and Chris Tiu’s visits to the foul line, the E-Painters managed to close within a field goal, 96-94, with 21.9 ticks left.

RoS had a chance to pull the rug underneath Kia after forcing McCarthy to a turnover off the inbound with less than 20 seconds left, but all the shots taken by Tiu, Daquiaog, and Maverick Ahanmisi did not find the mark.

Mark Yee was able to secure the miss but saw himself in a jump ball situation afterwards after a fight for the ball with Beua Belga. Yee won the tip, and Khobuntin was there to get the ball and ran it down for the game-sealing lay-up.

The six-foot-three Khobuntin, probably the star of the night for Kia as he steadied the Picanto’s ship in the end-game, contributed 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting, scoring eight in the final frame.

RoS’ loss put in vain the breakout game of rookie Rey Nambatac as he had 12 points and 11 rebounds. James Yap scored 11 markers on 4-of-8 shooting, while Tiu and Jewel Ponferrada scored 10 apiece, with Tiu having six boards.

Ahanmisi nearly had a double-double as he had nine points and eight rebounds along with four dimes.

Moreover, this defeat of theirs was a sour welcome for Jericho Cruz, who is making his 2018 Philippine Cup debut after missing their first four games due to a knee injury. He only scored one point in the 10:32 minutes he played.

The crazy finish of the match somehow shadowed the brawl between Raymond Almazan and Eric Camson, which took place in the 3:01-mark of the second canto. Both were slapped with penalty two flagrant fouls and got ejected.

Almazan, who had just returned to RoS after being put under disciplinary actions after bumping heads with coach Caloy Garcia, finished with six markers and four rebounds. Camson had 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Kia was not able to parade new acquisition Carlo Lastimosa. The scoring guard, whom they signed from the free agent market, was in street clothes on the sidelines after spraining his ankle during team practice.

Rain or Shine will look to book their third straight win against NLEX on January 26, Friday, while Kia will aim to end their historic skid versus Meralco on January 24, Wednesday. Both games are set at 4:30 PM at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

KIA 98 – McCarthy 14, Cabrera 14, Yee 13, Khobuntin 11, Camson 10, Celda 8, Galanza 8, Ababou 6, Sara 5, Tubid 5, Caperal 4.

Rain or Shine 94 – Nambatac 12, Yap 11, Tiu 10, Ponferada 10, Ahanmisi 9, Belga 8, Norwood 8, Borboran 7, Maiquez 6, Almazan 6, Daquioag 4, King 2, Cruz 1, Matias 0, Trollano 0.

Quarterscores: 13-18; 40-44: 72-68; 98-94.

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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Photo by PBA Images

It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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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 had called Chris Ross the “N” word, which had 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 nag-flare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

However, Guiao 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 had 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 directed at 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 has been a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now gone down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees an urgent 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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