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Late Zubiri goal lifts La Salle past ten-man UST



The De La Salle Green Archers stay undefeated in Season 77 as the first round of men’s football came to a close, after a surviving a feisty showing from the University of Santo Tomas Golden Booters to take a narrow 2-1 victory Thursday afternoon at the FEU Diliman Football Field.

The first half opened to a counterattacking clash between the two sides. UST easily established their presence in the wing, care of Erfren Menares Jr. and Marvin Jake Bricenio, whose crosses kept the La Salle defense on their toes. The Tigers however struggled to find a way into the penalty area, and it was the boys in green who dominated the midfield throughout the half. The Archers were rewarded with their first goal of the game at the 17th minute, after Gelo Diamante managed to connect with a free kick by Gerald Layumas. Diamante’s header sent the ball curved into an arc too high for UST goalie John Rey Catalino to catch, and it eventually found the net. The Archers’ celebration was cut short when Diamante was unable to get up after an awkward landing, and had to be helped back up to his feet by his teammates.

Nicholas Villacin had the chance to double the La Salle tally later at the 21st minute, after he was able to send a free kick from the left wing into the direction of the net, but the ball was parried away by Catalino.

After struggling to find a way through the midfield for the early first half, Jogi Celiz managed to sneak past the La Salle defense at the 25th minute to go one-on-one with La Salle goalie Raphael de Guzman, but he lost control of the ball before he could tap it into the direction of the goal. The ball was easily collected by De Guzman.

Around the 30th minute, Diamante had to be taken out of the game after another bad fall after colliding with UST goalie Catalino while trying to attack from the right wing. He was replaced by Chuck Uy, who at the 34th minute had the chance to score one for La Salle after finding a good angle to strike from the right wing, but the ball sailed past the post.

Approaching the 39th minute, UST’s Norwyn Ortañez was slapped with two yellow cards in quick succession, after two violent tackles on La Salle’s Jose Montelibano just a minute apart. He was immediately sent off the pitch, leaving the Tigers down to 10 men for the game.

With UST still struggling to establish their presence in front of the goal, the La Salle counterattack yielded a few more near-hits in the last five minutes of the first half. The last shot of the half however came from UST’s Joridale Molino, whose volley from just beyond the penalty box ended up sailing wide. At halftime, La Salle led 1-0.

The Tigers finally found a way into the Archers’ penalty area at the 47th minute , and were promptly rewarded. After squeaking past the La Salle defense, Molino positioned himself in point-blank range, before flinging the ball towards the goal. The ball was immediately knocked off course by La Salle goalie De Guzman, but it bounced back into play and was collected by Gabriel Daniel Alcantara, who easily tapped the ball into the net.

Looking to retake the lead, the Archers immediately shifted gears and focused on their attack. It was Nate Alquiros who helmed the La Sallians’ counterattack, distributing the ball and taking every free kick. The 60th minute saw the start of a series of narrow misses for the Archers, who repeatedly came close to finding their much-needed second goal, but whose shots were all wide or stopped in their tracks by the fast hands of Catalino. The reinvigorated UST attackers themselves found a couple more opportunities, but kept conceding the ball to the La Sallians’ counterattack.

With the score still unchanged approaching the 90th minute, it appeared the fixture was headed to a draw. But at the 89th minute, the Archers had something to celebrate about, when Nate Alquiros found Christian Zubiri lurking just in front of the goal. Zubiri easily connected with Alquiros’ cross with a header that sent the ball flying past Catalino for the goal. The Archers had no trouble stopping the Tigers from pulling off any last-minute miracles, and exited the pitch at the end of the extra time with the win.

“Dapat mahawakan namin ‘yung bola, yung possession,” said La Salle assistant coach Elvin Marcellana, speaking in place of La Salle head coach Hans Smit, who was participating in a Philippine Football Federation event and was absent from the sidelines. “Iyong mga katawan nila medyo pagod eh, so more long balls. Dahil sa pagkapanalo naming ngayon, medyo lumaki chance namin this season.”

“Kaya namin labanan lahat ng teams,” said UST head coach Marjo Allado, when asked about his team’s performance in today’s game. “Pero minsan ang pumapatay sa amin ay ang [lack of] experience.”

The Archers remain undefeated this season, with four wins and three draws to their name after the first round of the men’s football tournament. UST meanwhile continues to slump, with a record of two wins, no draws, and five losses.

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Kelly Williams rides Angkas to make it to TNT game



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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TNT limits Blackwater gunners to snap two game skid



Needing to end the funk they are in, the TNT Katropa completed a second half turnaround and thwarted an inspired Blackwater Elite squad, 92-83, to finally lay their two-game slump to rest, Wednesday evening at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

Both squads are now sporting identical 2-2 cards after the match, creating a six-way logjam with Phoenix, Rain or Shine, NLEX, and Alaska in the team standings.

“Our rotation messed up in the first half, good thing we recovered in the second half,” shared Katropa head coach Nash Racela of their slow start. “Going into this game, we knew that we gonna have a hard time against Blackwater.

“We knew that it’s not gonna be easy getting a victory over them. It would take our absolute best and they really able to challenge us, especially in the second half. [Good thing] our shots started to fall,” added the tactician.

Roger Pogoy top-billed for the Texters with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Jayson Castro, had 17 markers on top of five boards, three dimes, two steals, and two blocks.

The Katropa trailed in the majority of the first 24 minutes, but it all changed come the third canto where they unloaded an overwhelming 16-3 run — ended by Rosario’s lay-up — to take a 60-53 lead with 2:56 left in the quarter.

TNT then never relinquished their position in the driver’s seat, even leading by as much as 17 points, 76-59, after RR Garcia’s open triple from the right wing with 8:51 in the final period.

The Elite still tried to come back through a 20-9 rally led by Mike Cortez and Poy Erram to knock within six, 79-85, but Castro’s three-point play conversion that sent TNT to an 88-79 lead with 1:04 left proved to be the game-sealing dagger.

Garcia finished with 12 points for TNT who shot 41.6 percent from the floor. Anthony Semerad had 11, while Troy Rosario flirted with a double-double of nine markers and 11 boards. Mo Tautuaa grabbed 15 caroms and scored six.

The Elite, after shooting 42.6 percent in the 94-77 win over Ginebra last Friday, shot just 38.3 percent. They were led by Erram with 20 points and eight rebounds, and Cortez with 14 markers on top of five boards and three assists.

Mac Belo, after averaging 20 markers in the last three games, finished with just nine markers on 4-of-18 shooting. He made up for it though with 13 rebounds. Main gunner Allein Maliksi also scored nine on 4-of-15 shooting.

TNT will look to post another win against sister team Meralco on Sunday, January 21, 4:30 PM at Ynares Center in Antipolo, while Blackwater will aim to bounce back versus GlobalPort on Friday January 19 4:30 PM at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The Scores:

TNT 92 – Pogoy 24, Castro 17, Garcia 12, Semerad 11, Rosario 9, Williams 6, Tautuaa 6, Reyes 2, Golla 0, Onwubere 0, Carey 0.

Blackwater 83 – Erram 20, Cortez 14, Digregorio 9, Belo 9, Maliksi 9, Jose 7, Sumang 5, Marcelo 4, Sena 4, Pinto 2, Cruz 0.

Quarterscores: 15-16, 36-43, 65-57, 92-83.

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James Yap breaks out of personal shooting slump



James Yap came out of Rain or Shine’s locker room at the SMART Araneta Coliseum with a sigh of relief on Wednesday night. Two slumps had finally been put to rest.

First, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ two-game skid saw its end with a 120-99 victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters — a one-sided affair nobody expected, since Phoenix had been coming off two straight victories.

More importantly, Yap’s personal slump had also come to an end. After shooting just a combined 4-of-26 in the last three games, the two-time league MVP shot 8-of-10 from the floor en route to a conference-high 20 markers.

“Well ako keep working hard lang,” said the 35-year-old of his performance. “Kung pangit yung last two games ko, last three games ata, huwag ka mawalan ng pag-asa. Pag-aralan mo yung pagkukulang mo… I’m not 100 percent sa kundisyon.

“Yun ang wino-work out ko lagi.”

“I think everybody expects James to play well but tao lang din naman siya. Pero you know, what we want from James is to basically play his best. Whether he’s in a slump, we still want him taking shots,” added Rain or Shine head coach Caloy Garcia.

Aside from Yap, six more Elasto Painters scored in double figures in the victory. According to the 14-year league veteran, it was mostly because of the advice he gave his teammates: pull the trigger when given the chance.

“Lagi kong sinasabi sa kanila wala nang isip-isip pa, pag open, tira. Ganun. Yun yung usap-usapan namin sa loob. Pag nasa loob na kami ng court, wala nang isip-isip pa. Tira! So at least yung kumpyansa nandoon,” he said.

“Sana tuloy-tuloy na, madala namin for next game.”

Wednesday’s victory truly means a lot for Yap and the Elasto Painters, who are now 2-2 in the team standings. Now, all that the seven-time champion aims to do is to sustain his rhythm as the 2018 Philippine Cup rolls on.

“Malaking bagay ‘to. Sa lahat ng kumbaga, pinaghirapan mo sa papakundisyon, at least nagbubunga,” said Yap.

“So pagpatuloy ko pa rin ginagawa ko or higitan ko pa para kahit papano ma-sustain or tuloy-tuloy na.”

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Caloy Garcia downplays misunderstanding with Raymond Almazan



The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters were already missing the services of Jericho Cruz, Jay Washington, and Jireh Ibanes Wednesday evening. Adding to their woes was that their ace big man Raymond Almazan did not suit up in their game against the Phoenix Fuel Masters.

But the 6-foot-8 big man, who missed the last two Gilas practices, was not injured. He figured in a soft confrontation with head coach Caloy Garcia during their game against Globalport last January 12.

“Hindi kasi nakapag-practice the last two days so sabi namin pahinga na lang muna. Actually, after the loss against Global, medyo nagka-anuhan lang kami but I think everything is good right now,” said Garcia after Rain or Shine’s 120-99 against Phoenix.

“Well siyempre, frustration.”

During their 70-78 loss against Globalport, Almazan shot just 1-for-5 from the field, finishing with just two points, four rebounds, and three turnovers.

“We know that he can perform better than the way he did against Global,” furthered the second-year head coach. “Actually I told Raymond before the start of this season that one of my goals was to basically make him a double-double player. Yun yung target ko nung simula.

“But the way he played against Global, I felt that it wasn’t Raymond.”

The rest of the Elasto Painters are confident that the two will get a chance to settle things out.

“I’m positive that would be resolved and we just have to hold the fort. I think we’ll be okay,” said Tiu, who is one of Rain or Shine’s leaders.

“Hopefully, the guys can step up and when Raymond’s back we’ll be even stronger.”

Garcia hopes that Almazan understands that this is just part of the game. Moreover, he just wants what’s best for the five-year veteran.

“So ayun, medyo napagalitan, nagkatampuhan but that’s it. I think kasama naman sa trabaho namin yun eh.”

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