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Valdez to team up with Reyes for the first time

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For the first time ever, collegiate rivals Alyssa Valdez and Mika Reyes will be donning the same jersey when they see action in the Clash of Heroes on Monday, May 15, at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

Valdez, a former Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagle and current skipper for the Creamline Cool Smashers, will team-up with former De La Salle University middle blocker and current Petron Tri-Activ Spikers ace Reyes, to banner the Pilipinas-Blue squad against a veteran-laden Pilipinas-Red team in this fund-raising project organized by the PSC-POC Media Group, in cooperation with the Larong Volleyball Sa Pilipinas, Inc. for the benefit of the national volleyball team’s foreign training.

Also joining Pilipinas-Blue team in this event are Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, and Dawn Macandili, the protagonists of the UAAP Season 79 champions De La Salle University Lady Spikers.

Completing the line-up are Jovelyn Gonzaga of Cignal; Kat Tolentino of Ateneo; Elaine Kasilag of Pocari Sweat; Bia General of Generika-Ayala; Frances Molina and Ria Meneses of Petron; Lourdes Clemente of Sta. Lucia; and CJ Rosario of Foton.

Assistant coach Brian Esquibel of Foton will call the shots, with Ronald Dulay of Foton and Ian Fernandez of Petron as deputies.

Aside from the highly anticipated partnership between Valdez and Reyes, it will also be a reunion of sorts for Valdez and Fajardo, the childhood buddies from Batangas who blossomed into two of the country’s best volleyball players.

National team head coach Francis Vicente stressed that the team assignment hadn’t been intentional.

“It’s the outcome of long nights of deliberation among members of the national coaching staff,” said Vicente, who mentored Valdez and Fajardo during their high school days at the University of Santo Tomas.

“Alyssa and Kim are both candidates for team captain. I want to see how they will lead the team composed of players with different backgrounds. I would carefully take note how they will provide the spark and chemistry on the floor.”

But Valdez, Fajardo, and Reyes’ squad is headed for a very tough battle.

Rachel Anne Daquis of Cignal will be at the helm for Pilipinas-Red squad, together with fellow veterans Aiza Maizo-Pontillas of Petron and Aby Marano of F2 Logistics.

Also in the squad are Denden Lazaro of Cocolife; Kat Arado of Generika-Ayala; Myla Pablo of Pocari Sweat; Grethcel Soltones of Bali Pure; Jaja Santiago of Foton; Gen Casugod of Generika-Ayala; Maika Ortiz of Foton; Maddie Madayag of Ateneo; Rhea Dimaculangan of Petron, and Roselle Baliton of the University of the East.

Nene Chavez of Generika-Ayala, the skipper of the team that won the country’s last gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games in 1993, will map out the plays to be assisted by Kungfu Reyes of UST and Benson Bocboc of La Salle.

“Rachel, Aiza, Aby and Jaja are overflowing with international experience. I want to see how they will prove their worth and translate that experience into a victory against younger players like Alyssa, Kim and Mika,” the National Team mentor added.

“This would serve as the basis in forming the 18-woman roster. So I want to see them fight for their respective slots.”

Tickets are still on sale at the media center of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. For inquiries, please call (02) 536 4722.

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Basketball

OIC Willie Marcial insists ‘walang pagbabago’ in return of physical play in PBA

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The return of physicality in PBA games early this 43rd season has drawn raves from the coaches and the fans. At last, the matches are decided by the players themselves and not by the way the referees blow their whistles.

All the fans, the players, and ultimately the coaches have been longing for such, as physical play was something that was heavily controlled during the administration of former commissioner Chito Narvasa from 2015 to 2017.

“The games are being called a little differently now. They’re allowing a little bit more contact or a lot more contact,” said Meralco Bolts head coach Norman Black.

“I love it. I’m an old school guy so you can imagine. No harm, no foul.”

“The physicality’s good. It’s good for the game. It’s real men going at it,” opined Alaska Aces head coach Alex Compton on the other hand, seconding Black’s sentiments.

“I like the direction the league is going in with officiating.”

It is just one of the many positive changes that is currently taking place in the league under the management of officer-in-charge Willie Marcial. But he insisted that tweaks haven’t really been made in terms of calling games.

“Wala, pinapalaro lang namin. Walang pagbabago yun,” said the amiable league official Monday evening, when he paid Gilas Pilipinas a surprise visit at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

“Pinapalaro lang namin yung mga players.”

All that he’s doing, according to Marcial, is simply reminding the referees to be firm with their calls.

“Sinabihan ko lang yung mga referees na, ‘Manindigan kayo kung ano talaga.'”

With much more consistent calls comes the shorter duration of games compared to the past two seasons, as time-consuming reviews by referees and officials have not taken place in matches too often this season.

“Mas mabilis na (mga laro ngayon),” said Marcial, also the league’s former external affairs and communications head.

“One hour (and) 56 (minutes), one hour 52… ‘Di umaabot ng dalawang oras eh.”

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Boxing

Manny Pacquiao eyes bout against Vasyl Lomachenko

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Even if he has hinted at retirement numerous times, Senator Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38KO) continues to stress that the time is not yet now.

In an interview with ANC’s Headstart Wednesday morning, the 39-year-old sure hall of famer reiterated his stance that he and his camp are still looking for the best fights possible.

“I am not retired yet. Alam mo na-mimiss ko yun boxing e,” Pacquiao told Karen Davilla.

“I’m still okay.”

Pacquiao, who lost his last bout against Jeff Horn last July 2, is not afraid that another loss might affect his legacy.

Pressed on who he wants to fight next, boxing’s only eight-division world champion disclosed that he is currently under negotiations with the camp of WBO Super Featherweight Champion Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8KO).

“Wala akong problema kung Amir Khan. May discussion din ngayon kay Lomachenko, he is the number one pound-for-pound fighter,” Pacquiao shared.

“Hindi pa na-finalize pero this year.”

Pacquiao is eyeing an April date for the bout as it will be the time the senate goes on a break.

“This year, by April. Pangako ko sa mga tao na hindi maapektuhan ang trabaho ko. April, magandang idea dahil off kami from March 23 to May 13. April wala kaming trabaho,” a confident Pacquiao added.

“Three months is more than enough time to prepare.”

However, there is still one hindrance to the bout, according to Pacquiao. The two camps have yet to agree on which weight class the bout will be held.

According to reports, Lomachenko wants the bout to be at lightweight — a division Pacquiao has not been in for the last 10 years.

“Hindi pa sure. Nag-uusap pa about sa timbang.”

One thing is for sure. Pacquiao is hungrier more than ever.

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Football

Composed Ceres-Negros expels Shan United in shootout victory

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Photo from the-AFC.com

2017 AFC ASEAN Zone Champions Ceres-Negros banked on their poise and composure from the spot as they knocked out Myanmar’s Shan United via a 4-3 penalty shootout (1-1 after extra time) triumph, Tuesday evening at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

The Negrenses punched their ticket to Brisbane, Australia after emerging the better spotkick takers. Four Busmen were on target, while two of their Shan Warriors counterparts fluffed their lines.

The two domestic champions were inseparable after 120 minutes, with the hosts holding their own against the Philippine champions. Ceres-Negros looked the more dominant of the two teams. However, they couldn’t make the advantage count where it mattered, as they failed to breach the sturdy Shan United defense inside the first two regulation halves.

The visitors were visibly more comfortable in the first half, but with the scores staying level at the break, the less-fancied Myanmar champions eventually found their footing in the encounter. While there were several half-chances from either side to open the scoring, both defenses remained defiant en route to unwanted extra time.

“It was a tough game. We weren’t ready to play 120 minutes because we only had four training sessions before the game but everytime we wear this jersey, we represent Ceres, we represent Bacolod, we represent the Philippines, so we have to give our best,” Ceres’ defender Carli de Murga elaborated to the Inquirer after the match. The Asian Football season has yet to start, and with both teams not too busy with pre-season preparations, rust and fatigue in a demanding affair were evident.

Come extra time, Ceres-Negros took the initiative when Stephan Schröck’s deflected effort went past the helpless Thiha Si Thu just three minutes into the first half.

Nonetheless, the hosts refused to go down without a fight, and their resilience was rewarded later in the opening half. Substitute Patrick Asare found the back of the net to restore parity in Yangon.

Another 15 minutes of goalless action took place in the second half as both teams looked more cautious, perhaps with the collective aim of avoiding a costly error or two. Among all the chances, Schröck’s in the 114th minute may have proved to be the closest to changing the scores, as his attempt shaved the post.

Shan United took to the spot first, where Asare made his penalty attempt count. Nay Lin Tun also made his, but not before teammate Chizoba smashed his attempt over Toni Doblas’ goal.

While the hosts squandered a shot, the visitors remained calm in front of a hostile Myanmar crowd. De Murga, Schröck and Mike Ott nailed their turns, with Marañon also not missing a vital kick from 12 yards.

It set up William Biassi Nyakwe, the man credited with the own goal when he deflected Schröck’s opener, with the chance to prolong his team’s campaign in the AFC Champions League. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t atone for his earlier mistake, as his attempt soared high and wide — much to the delight of the visiting team from Bacolod, the Philippines.

The reward for Ceres-Negros is a trip to Queensland, Australia, where they will seek to do one better than compatriots Global-Cebu. The 2016 Philippine champions also played against the Brisbane Roar, who dealt them a staggering 6-0 hammering this time last year. The match will be held at the Suncorp Stadium on January 23.

As for Shan United, a spot in the AFC Cup Group Stage awaits them and they may not have seen the last of Ceres-Negros just yet. If the Negrenses lose to either Brisbane Roar or Tianjin Quanjian, they will be reacquainted with the Burmese champions in Group F.

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Basketball

Abu Tratter plans to work his way to 2023 by continuing to do ‘the dirty work’

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Abu Tratter may have missed the jersey-giving ceremony that the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas held for the 23 for 2023 cadets last Monday but he made sure to help out when the current batch needed him the most.

After helping the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers win the Sinulog Cup in Cebu a week ago, the 6-foot-7 Filipino-American did not hesitate to heed Gilas’ call, as they were undermanned for their second session in preparation for the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“I think it’s just an honor to put on this jersey, to be able to represent our country, to possibly represent our country in the future. It’s an honor,” shared the Laguna-native.

The 25-year old, who just celebrated his birthday last January 9, admitted that he was in awe of the talent inside the Meralco Gym. Like a fan, he wanted to take a few photo ops with the senior team’s Gabe Norwood and June Mar Fajardo.

“Actually, at first I was just shocked to see June Mar and Gabe, just to be able to be in the midst of them,” gushed the former DLSU Green Archer, who will suit-up for Marinerong Pilipino in the D-League. “I even asked them for a picture, and hopefully they’ll still give me one.

“It’s just humbling, definitely.”

However, the work has only began for Tratter. With five years to go until the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the two-time UAAP champion plans to continue to do what he does best — be the same scrapper that he is and hopefully catch the eye of Gilas’ brass.

“I think just doing the dirty work, of course. Giving whatever the team needs, rebound or any steals, any thing a dirty player would need to pick up on,” he said.

“That’s how it is, garbage into gold. Get anything, sweep up anything and try to put it back.”

Moreover, he will continue answering the call when Gilas needs him, as he himself is learning a lot from being surrounded by the country’s topflight cagers.

“Whenever I can. I want to be able to absorb all the information coming from here and hopefully apply it in the D-League and hopefully apply it on future practices, future games.”

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