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FEU blanks UP to claim spot in the Finals

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Goals from Charmaine Fagaragan and Sharmine Siaotong ensured that the FEU Lady Tamaraws are in the finals for the third straight season following a 2-0 win over UP at the Moro Lorenzo Football Field on Saturday afternoon.

The defending champions, whose passage to the Finals was halted by La Salle last week, took no time to make their intentions realized. Just two minutes into the match, FEU went ahead. The Lady Tamaraws launched a quick attack after intercepting UP’s attempt to play rapid off a dead ball. Ina Araneta got ahead of the pack before giving the ball to Charmaine Fagaragan. The forward sneaked the ball in towards the net with technique, timing it well to beat the rushing UP goalkeeper AJ Javier.

After seizing the advantage, FEU sought to immediately extend it. They got to sustain the attacking rhythm for it but did not have the touches to make it happen. Alesa Dolino had a couple of free kicks; one went wide while the other was saved by Javier. Barbie Sobredo and Kimberly Cupal also had shots but neither doubled their lead.

Playing in the back foot in the first 15 minutes of the match, UP established their offense at the 17th minute. Cristina delos Reyes found Mary Obra on the left flank but her cross into the box was easily gathered by FEU goalie Shermaine Ramos. Their best chance came 19 minutes after kickoff, when Obra’s header off a Kali Navea-Huff cross had the power but not the accuracy to send it past Ramos.

The brief UP attacking game was then halted by the Lady Tamaraws who regained momentum in the match. Araneta had two opportunities to score. At the 24th minute, her long distance attempt skied over the bar. Four minutes later, she had a better look on goal by maneuvering past Javier. With no one guarding the net, Araneta launched from a narrow angle but her effort was cleared by Marie Navea-Huff. In the ensuing corner, Sobredo’s corner went straight to Cupal who headed wide at the half hour mark.

FEU’s attack-oriented approach yielded a near goalscoring opportunity with eight minutes remaining in the opening half. Araneta nearly made UP pay when she took advantage of a communication lapse between Javier and M. Navea-Huff but her shot was booted off the line by Christina Mendoza. It was then followed by two dangerous crossed from Fagaragan in the last few minutes of the first half. Both her deliveries located teammates but Siaotong and Araneta misfired. At the interval, the score remained 1-0, narrowly in favor of the Lady Tamaraws.

The second half was played slower, much to the comfort of FEU. Five minutes after the restart, Fagaragan failed to maximize another fumble committed by the Lady Maroons but the ball was eventually stripped off her. In the succeeding play, Siaotong scooped her shot off target. It was followed by a quick exchange of chances, the only one throughout the half, as K. Navea-Huff drilled a cross to Delos Reyes but the forward nodded off target. Then, Araneta whipped a shot inside the box. Javier was able to stop it but its power seemed to have been too much for the UP goalie to handle. Nonetheless, Javier recovered in time to prevent Fagaragan from tapping in.

The game’s pace then slowed down, with both teams carefully designing plays to score the pivotal second goal of the game; for UP to equalize or for FEU to pull away. Six minutes after the hour mark, Siaotong surprised the UP defense by chipping in from way out to double the green-and-gold’s advantage. Cupal almost added a third at the 70th minute but fired her attempt off the mark.

The Lady Maroons were given a lifeline in the game when Delos Reyes’ shot struck a Lady Tamaraws’ arm, earning a penalty in the process. Molly Manalansan, unfortunately for them, smacked her shot straight at Ramos. The midfielder aimed to make amends moments later but skied her shot over the bar. Deep in the game, Araneta and Roselle Lecera looked to add insult to injury, but Javier managed to keep their shots out.

FEU Coach Let Dimzon expressed immense happiness with the result. “Nakikita ‘yung fire, ‘yung spirit. Gusto talaga nila makuha ‘yung game na ito.” While many of the chances were not converted, Dimzon was pleased that the opening goal came early as it boosted the team’s confidence throughout the game.

On the distaff, UP Coach Anto Gonzales is concerned about how his players performed. “I’m not really looking at the three-game winless streak, but looking to fix kung ano ‘yung nga problems,” which for him included the team’s vulnerability in counter-attacking and lack of stability in goalkeeping.

FEU, now safely through to the Finals, will field their second string players against Ateneo to provide ample rest for their key players, according to Coach Let Dimzon. As for UP they will be aiming to solidify their hold on second place when they go against UST next week.

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Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates

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Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting

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Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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Jake Vicen performs under pressure as Blazers end eight-year title drought

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For the second straight match, the championship showdown between the College of Saint Benilde Blazers and the Arellano University Chiefs reached kicks from the penalty spot. And once more, goalkeeper Jake Vicen came up big.

The third-year custodian denied one of Arellano’s prolific scorers Roberto Corsame in the shootout and sealed the title after eight long years, 3-2, penalties, Wednesday evening at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Blazers made its intentions clear from the get-go as they repeatedly pierced through the defense of the Chiefs.

Nonetheless, at the 38th minute, the white-shirts clinched the goal they much deserved. The Blazers pushed forward, and almost got a call in their favor. The referees, however, played advantage, and fortunately Benilde held on to the play.

Miguel Artillera found himself unmarked on the right flank and easily blasted the ball past opposing keeper Jericho Desalisa.

The Marlon Maro—mentored side continued to play aggressive in the following period and almost plucked a second one. This time, the Chiefs’ backline led by eventual Best Defender Patrick Bernarte held on.

Such stand was rewarded by their attacking force minutes later, and, as expected, the equalizer came from the counterattack.

Corsame received a pass from the middle and defeated two defenders, and seeing Vicen off his line, sent the ball into the onion bag at the 49th minute.

Both sides tried to break the deadlock, but fatigue slowly crept in the dying minutes of the second period and the whole of extra time, setting up another thrilling finish in the shootout.

Much like in Game 2, the two keepers came up big as Desalisa and Vicen denied their second kickers a clear shot. Arellano went to miss another shot, and it was then up to the Blazers to seal the deal.

Dean Ebarle stepped up and calmly and slotted the ball into the goal for the lead at 3-2. Afterwards, Corsame faced Vicen, but this time, the Cebuano keeper would not be denied. The latter went to his strong side, and, fortunately, guessed right for the huge save as pandemonium erupted from the Benilde crowd and squad.

The Finals series hero and season Best Goalkeeper Vicen was pleased that the new champions carved out the historic win despite early adversity. “Big loss ‘yun, si Val [Calvo], kasi may magagawa talaga siya kung nakalaro namin,” he said of losing their former captain.

Nonetheless, the squad stayed focused on getting it done this year.

“Binuhos lang namin every minute sa training. Luckily, hard work paid off,” closed Vicen.

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Kelly Williams rides Angkas to make it to TNT game

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The TNT Katropa almost played shorthanded when they took on the Blackwater Elite Wednesday evening at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Early in the afternoon, a fire broke out in C5 that caused major traffic in the area. One of the people that was stuck was TNT’s 12-year veteran Kelly Williams.

“Coming from the South, I got to Taguig in about two and a half hours and I heard there was a fire on C5 and I was like, ‘Oh my god what am I going to do?’,” recalled Williams.

“I considered running, I considered jogging. Whatever you got to do, crawl, walk or run.”

Panicking, the 6-foot-6 Filipino-American was adviced by his driver to download Philippine-based mobile app Angkas — a motorcycle service provider. And it was one heck of a ride for the big man.

“My driver said check Angkas, an Uber for motorcycles. Okay. Quickly got out of the car in the middle of the C5, the middle of traffic, found this guy under the overpass, he was surprised to see me,” narrated animatedly by Williams.

“I got my helmet on, jumped on the bicycle and we got here for about 40 minutes,” he furthered. “Every stoplight, the other motorcycles pull up, double take, ‘Oh, what are you doing here?’, ‘Hi guys!’ It was fun, it was actually pretty fun but never again, make sure you plan ahead guys if you possibly get stuck in traffic.

“But it was a good experience for me. You get to see Manila in a different light.”

Around midway through the first quarter of the game, Williams finally arrived. Though relieved to see him, coach Nash Racela and the rest of the Katropa made sure to let him know that he was late.

“Good experience, I apologized to the team, I owe them a team lunch or something and I told coach I won’t do it again,” the 35-year-old expressed.

“Let’s pray that it doesn’t happen again.”

Williams compensated for it by giving TNT quality minutes. During their 92-83 win against the Elite, he tallied six points, six rebounds, and four blocks in just 17 minutes of action.

“You got to come out there with extra effort after coming in late like that. But it’s always my intention to come out and do whatever I have to do,” he expressed.

“Luckily, I was in a good position to get some blocks and it worked out that way.”

And he owes a lot to his driver Richard, who got him to the venue just in time.

“It was a good experience though, thank you to the cyclist, I think his name is Richard or something like that, he’s a lifesaver.

“I tipped him very handsomely. It was about a hundred but I’m sure I paid with whatever was in my pocket because I was very grateful,” he quipped.

Still, he knows that he also owes a lot to his team. He plans on making it up by treating everyone to lunch during their next practice.

Lesson learned for Kelly.

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