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UFL inaugural All-Star event highlights league’s finest talents

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There will be a change in scenery this Saturday in the United Football League (UFL). Instead of having the usual club football action that it has given in the past two months, the UFL will be staging an interesting set of matches to whet the appetite of football fans in the country at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium. “The event primarily is organized as a charity event and as a marketing event to help promote football, not just the UFL but also the teams who are also involved in the UFL,” stated the league’s technical director Richie Gannaban. “It is also our way of giving back to the community,” he added.

UFL Presser 2

A renowned rivalry will be rekindled in the first game dubbed as the Western Visayas Classic. The match, which will kick off at 5:15 in the afternoon, will showcase the brightest players coming from the football crazy provinces of Iloilo and Negros Occidental. The Ilonggos will be coached by Stallion FC Assistant Coach Marjo Allado while Ian Treyes will mentor the Negros Occidental selection. The talent pool for both teams is rich as it includes regular starters and several big names, such as Ruben “Balut” Doctora Jr., Eduard Sacapaño, Ian Araneta, and Tating Pasilan to name a few, who are not only popular in Region 6 but across the country too. In fact, Doctora of Stallion FC will captain the Iloilo team, who will be donning red, and Sacapaño will lead the way from the back for the yellow-clad Negros Occidental.

Both parties branded the game as a fun encounter, pitting traditional rivals against each other. “It’s always a pleasure playing against Iloilo,” told James Tinsay who spoke on behalf of Treyes in the press conference held at the Giligan’s Restaurant in Star Mall Mandaluyong earlier today. In response, “I think it’s all about pride,” stated Allado who is also hopeful that fellow Visayans, particularly from the said provinces will be able to witness the occasion and support their teams live at the venue. The captains shared their experiences in games against each other, with Sacapaño stating the 1997 Regional Meet win the Negros Occidental team recorded against a much-fancied Iloilo side to claim the championship that year. For his part, Doctora made it known that he has never lost an Iloilo-Negros Occidental match from elementary up to high school. On Saturday, someone has to give for sure. If the game ends in a deadlock, both teams will be gunning for bragging rights via a penalty shootout, skipping the 30 minutes of extra time commonly used as tiebreakers in knockout games.

The other big showdown will be between the best of the Philippines versus the Rest of the World selection which will be held at 8:15 in the evening. Loyola Meralco Sparks gaffer Simon McMenemy, the man who coached the Azkals in the game-changing 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup run that saw the Philippines reach the semifinals for the first time, will be mentoring players whose origins are outside of the 7,107 Philippine islands. On the other side of the fence sits Ali Roxas Go, a former Philippine international and is now serving as the coach of Ceres-La Salle FC. Among the heavyweights in the Philippines squad include Aly Borromeo, Phil Younghusband, Misagh Bahadoran, and Juani Guirado while the Rest of the World’s stellar cast will be bannered by Izzo El Habbib of Global, Joaquin Cañas of Loyola, Louis Clark of Kaya and Kim Sang Min of Ceres. “For everyone interested in football, it’s going to be a good spectacle,” McMenemy reckoned while also implying that it will be tough to claim who will end the night as winners as both teams have a good bunch of players with them. On his part, Go thinks that the true winners will not only be his team and their opponents but everyone in general. “I think this is going to be good for football in our country. For sure it’s going to be a good game, I think both teams are in good shape. Rest assured, I think the boys will give their 100% in the game,” he remarked. Just like the first match, should there be a tie at the end of the 90, the winners will be determined by way of the eternally dramatic penalty shootout.

UFL Presser 3

In between the two gigantic matches will be the UFL XI vs 100 kids exhibition match. There will be one player representing each of the 10 Division 1 clubs of the league with news anchor and presenter Paolo Bediones occupying the last slot. Together, they will play against 100 kids—all of whom will be on the field at the same time—in a match that will be played under the spirit of goodwill. Tickets for the event will be priced at 100 pesos and the proceeds will be going to Operation Smile, an NGO dedicated to attend to the needs of children with cleft palette.

The whole event will be shown on a delayed basis on AksyonTV on the following day. For more information visit http://ufl.ph

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Mixed Martial Arts

Rene Catalan continues rampage with TKO win

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Rene Catalan continues to turn critics into believers

Filipino fighter Rene Catalan made his sixth appearance inside the ONE Championship cage at ONE: Kings of Courage, held at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Saturday evening. He faced 21-year-old Chinese athlete Peng Xue Wen in the opening main card bout, and leaned on his elite wushu skills to stop the young star at the 4:22 mark of the second round.

The victory improves Catalan’s record to 4-2 (1 NC), extends his winning streak to four, and gives him the first TKO stoppage of his martial arts career, as he bids to climb the strawweight ladder in search of the ONE Strawweight World Championship.

“The Challenger” came out in the southpaw stance to open the bout, throwing big hooks and a head kick that narrowly missed as he established the center of the cage from the start of the contest.

The Filipino landed a host of powerful strikes, including a perfectly-placed uppercut and a melee of punishing leg kicks, but Peng’s conditioning and composure kept him in the match as he looked to stand and trade with the man 18 years his elder.

Catalan picked up where he left off when the bout resumed in the second round, this time operating out of the orthodox stance, landing more leg kicks and continuing to deny Peng any space to work.

Despite his dominance on the feet, there was a brief moment of concern for the Filipino on the mat when he jumped into the Chinese wrestler’s guard mid-way through the second round, and immediately found himself in a triangle choke. But the Filipino kept his composure and managed to work himself free.

Once the fighters returned to their feet, Catalan poured on the pressure in search of a finish, and he got it with just 38 seconds remaining in the stanza.

“The Challenger” scored big with a liver shot, then unloaded a fierce flurry of punches that forced Peng onto his back foot. Another shot forced Peng to the mat, where a salvo of ground and pound from Catalan eventually forced the TKO stoppage as referee Olivier Coste stepped in to halt the contest.

Photo, story, and video from ONE Championship

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Basketball

Gelo Alolino regrets Phoenix’s failure to close out Hotshots

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Photo by PBA Images

Gelo Alolino had his best game for the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome with 19 points, eclipsing his previous career-high of 16 markers which he made last May 21, 2017 in a loss to the Mahindra Floodbuster.

But his achievement won’t be too memorable, as it went for naught following a 91-97 defeat at the hands of Paul Lee and the Magnolia Hotshots, who have now collected their third straight victory.

For the second overall pick in the regular 2016 Rookie Draft, it was all because of their failure to sustain momentum up until the game’s final buzzer.

“Sayang, nandun na. We felt na sa amin na nung dulo kaso lang ganun talaga,” rued the 24-year-old sophomore after the match, where he shot an excellent 7-of-10 from the floor.

“Breaks of the game napunta sa kabila.”

Phoenix were in contention all throughout the match. In fact, they were even ahead, 89-84, with just three minutes left to play. But the Hotshots’ comeback skills were unleashed, leading to the narrow win.

“Siyempre kami lahat nasayangan. Maganda naman yung team effort talaga namin,” admitted the 6-foot floor general of their end-game collapse, which wasted their efforts in assists (21) and on defense, where they forced Magnolia to 21 turnovers.

“Kami as players talagang gusto namin bumawi coming from a loss last game sa Rain or Shine.

The Fuel Masters have now lost their second straight outing and have dropped to 2-3. And for Alolino, all they have to do is learn as much as they can from this loss, especially now that they are about to face the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel next.

“Yun nga. Medyo masakit para sa’min ‘to,” admitted the National University product.

“All we have to do is magviview ulit kami ng tape para makita kung saan kami mas pwede mag-improve as a team and bawat isa — including me.”

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Basketball

Glenn Khobuntin repays Ricky Dandan’s trust with end-game heroics

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FILE Photo from PBA Images

Glenn Khobuntin can finally say that he had himself a moment in the pro ranks

The National University alumnus proved his worth for the Kia Picanto, scoring his team’s final six points to steer the often-ridiculed club to their first win after a historic 16-game skid, at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94.

“I knew he would. I knew he would,” lauded Kia head coach Ricky Dandan of the takeover by the six-foot-four forward.

“It was a blessing he didn’t play for the first two quarters because he [came in] fresh at gigil na gigil.”

Khobuntin finished with 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting — the best game he’s had so far, not because of the numbers he posted but with the way he made them. But the three-year pro does not want to take the spotlight all onto himself.

“Hindi lang din naman ako e, kami ding lahat e,” the 26-year-old shared. “Siguro kumbaga nagka-opportunity lang, napunta sa akin yung bola kasi yun yung nasa scheme ng play so ayun.

“Thankful lang ako na-hit ko yung mga na-design na plays.”

However, the third-year pro admitted that he had been frightened during the game’s final stretch, as Rain or Shine managed to impose a serious threat by coming back from a seven-point deficit, 94-96, with just less than 22 ticks left to play.

“Kinakabahan ako kasi two minutes pa rin yun e tapos Rain or Shine yung kalaban namin,” the native of Cagayan de Oro said. “Nakita ko nakakabalik sila. Thankful lang naman ako na yung game napunta sa amin, at least natapos yung losing streak namin.”

But more than the end of their months-long slump, what Khobuntin is grateful for is the trust given to him by Dandan, who fielded him as a starter in the second half after sitting out the entirety of the first 24 minutes.

“Nag-decide siya na ako yung i-start niya so thankful ako kasi nagtiwala siya sa akin.”

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ABL

Justin Brownlee, Alab lock down Knights for fifth win

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Paying a visit to Indonesia for the first time this season, Tanduay Alab Pilipinas needed time to figure the CLS Knights out before stifling the hosts in the final frame to take a 92-87 road win, Saturday evening at the GOR CLS Kertajaya in Indonesia.

This is Alab’s second straight win after losing to the Singapore Slingers last January 10.

With the win, the Philippine-based club team lifts its slate to 5-4 for solo fourth. CLS, on the other hand, dropped to 1-7 — just half a game ahead of the cellar-dwelling Formosa Dreamers.

Justin Brownlee displayed his all-around brilliance in the game, leading Alab with 36 points on 15-for-24 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

But Alab’s bench could not sustain the effort of the starters, which meant the team was clinging to a two-point lead with 7:06 remaining.

Needing a spark, 40-year-old sniper Dondon Hontiveros provided for Alab, knocking down a triple that proved to be the starting point 14-2 Alab run. A jumper by Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. with 2:57 left capped the rally and gave Alab an 87-73 lead.

Hontiveros scored five of the eight Alab bench points. Fortunately for Alab, Renaldo Balkman and Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. were on point. The former tallying a double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Alab’s skipper had 14 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Coach Jimmy Alapag fielded his bench afterwards, but they let the quintet of Brian Williams, Mario Wuysang, Arif Hidayat, Decorey Jones, and Sandy Kurniawan slice the lead to as low as four points. Then free throws by Oping Sumalinog with eight ticks left put CLS away for good.

Williams paced CLS with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Kurniawan added 19 markers. Indonesian legend Wuysang had 17 points and six rebounds in the loss.

Alab ends its road trip on Sunday, January 28, when it takes on the Saigon Heat at the CIS Arena in Ho Chi Minh City.

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