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Unlikely duo bolsters UST’s bench



During Game One of the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Basketball Finals, one thing was evident: the Far Eastern University Tamaraws have the deepest bench in collegiate basketball today.

The bench of Nash Racela’s squad has done marvels for the Tamaraws, as they kept their veteran core fresh for the playoffs. This was greatly emphasized in the first game as the “bench” produced 38 out of the 75 points they scored. Even if this “bench” had seniors Mike Tolomia and Mac Belo coming in, no one from the Tamaraws played 30 minutes in the game, with Tolomia playing a team-high 26 minutes.

On the other hand, the top-seeded University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers played nine players throughout the whole game. The UST bench only produced 18 points, while veterans Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer played 36 and 33 minutes respectively. In addition, Ed Daquioag, this season’s iron man in minutes with 33 minutes of game time per outing, shot just 1/7 from the field in 29 minutes of action.

Game Two of the Finals was do-or-die for the Growling Tigers. Unlike in Game One, Coach Bong Dela Cruz went all-out, putting senior Louis Vigil in the starting line-up instead of stretch forward Kent Lao. But the initial result was the same, as UST was down 30-21 to enter halftime. To compound the problem, foreign student-athlete Karim Abdul was already penalized with his third personal foul as the first quarter was just about to end.

Needing someone to man the imposing FEU frontline, third year center Jeepy Faundo stepped forward. Faundo had only played a total of 31 minutes during the season, a third of which came in a blowout victory against the Adamson Soaring Falcons which sealed their top-seed status.

In addition, Kevin Ferrer, the protagonist for UST in Game Three, was in foul trouble for most of the game and had to be relieved of defensive duties to avoid unnecessary fouls. Enter Cebuano freshman Zachary Huang, a rookie who had only seen a total of 14 minutes of playing time.

The stat sheets will not show it, but the two members of UST’s “night shift crew” were crucial parts that contributed to UST’s 62-56 win last Saturday.

UAAP 78 Finals Game 1 FEU vs. UST-Bong Dela Cruz“Yun lang talaga nasa utak ko,” UST head coach Bong Dela Cruz disclosed to Tiebreaker Times. “Papaluruin ko talaga si Zachary Huang at si Jeepy Faundo para makapagpahinga yung mga veterans sa depensa.”

“Malaking bagay yung nabigay talaga ni Zachy and ni Jeepy. Nung nakapagpahinga sila Kevin lumabas sila ng fourth ng fresh.”

Both Huang and Faundo each played only eight minutes in the game. The 6’6″ center ended the night having grabbed five boards and helped limit Abdul’s playing time to just 27 minutes.

The Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu standout had actually fouled out in his first collegiate finals game. But in the eight minutes he had played, he helped limit and, even frustrate, ace FEU guard Mike Tolomia as he hounded the fifth-year guard right from the inbound. Also, with Huang on the floor, Tolomia was 0/5 with the rookie defending him.

“Sinabi na sa akin ni coach bago nung game na mag-ready kasi last game sobrang outrebounded kami,” Faundo shared. “Ang matutulong ko sa team ay defense lang tsaka rebounds para maayos yugn disadvantage namin.”

Huang also shared the same story. “Binigyan ako ng kumpiyansa ni coach before the game. Sabi niya sa akin, ‘gagamitin ka today. Basta gawin mo yung role mo and maniwala ka lang sa sarili mo.’ Yun yung sabi niya.”

UAAP 78 Zach Huang-3885The UST rookie also emphasized that bench production does not only mean offense. “Sabi ni coach sa amin (after Game One), ‘may bench tayo. Kahit hindi mag-score basta may depensa bench production pa rin yun,’” Huang said.

Both Faundo and Huang also added that they always worked hard in practice, since they never knew when their names would be called up. “Sinasabi sa amin lagi nila coach na ‘ready ka lang lagi malay mo sa big game ka magamit,’” Faundo said.

“Ang sarap talaga maglaro. Sobrang thankful talaga ako kay coach kasi umpisa pa lang binigyan na niya ko ng kumpiyansa,” Huang added “Nung nilalabas niya ko dahil opensa, sasabihin niya sa akin ‘ready ka lang. Babalik ka para sa depensa.’”

“Si coach lang talaga nagbibigay ng kumpiyansa sa akin kasi siya lang ang naniniwala sa akin,” a grateful Huang furthered.

Faundo then ended by saying that both his and Zachy’s goal is to give their seniors a championship before they graduate. “Ang gusto lang naman namin nila Zachy ay makatulong at mabigyan ng championship yung mga seniors namin.”

“Sa Game Three talagang magpapakamatay ako para sa rebounds at sa defense. Buwis-buhay sabi nga nila para manalo.”

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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