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What’s in playing at the Big Dome? Everything for Danica Jose

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The playoff game against UST last Wednesday was the last time Danica Jose will enter the Blue Eagle Gym as a member of the Ateneo Lady Eagles women’s basketball team, no matter what result.

But failing to advance to the Final Four would have prevented Jose from getting a shot at playing on a bigger stage, and she didn’t want her collegiate basketball career to end just yet.

The Lady Eagles edged the Tigresses, 64-53, and paved the way for Ateneo to enter the semi-finals and play at the Araneta Coliseum.

It’s a bigger, more prestigious venue — more seats, a more comfortable atmosphere, brighter lights. If the Big Dome’s walls could speak, it would have talked about the venue’s colorful history.

Popularly known as the mecca of Philippine sports and entertainment, the Araneta Coliseum always holds a special meaning for sports enthusiasts.

Still, even if Jose is the daughter of former PBA pro Bobby Jose, she admits to not having envisioned the scene to come her way.

“Hindi ko na-imagine yun when I was a kid. I really played for fun, not yet the whole commitment thing and all,” the younger Jose said, sharing how his father would sometimes take her to the venues during the older Jose’s pro career.

“But he saw I had the passion for it and tuloy-tuloy na daw yan. I made the national team and I knew in college maraming (opportunities) so sineryoso ko na,” she added.

But as the surreal opportunity to play in a historic venue finally arrived, Jose was nothing short of impressive in the team’s do-or-die game against UE last Saturday, making a moment for herself.

“I have to play like it is my last game and I didn’t want to end my last playing year not being in the finals. That is the goal,” she said.

Jose elevated her game and dominated the post on her way to 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks. After the final buzzer sounded, the entire team rushed to centercourt to celebrate the resounding win.

Ateneo last made the playoffs in Season 75 when Jose was in her second year. The team fell a win short of advancing last year, and this season was a roller-coaster ride for the team.

Once on the brink of elimination, the Lady Eagles showed character and have won four of their last five games to forge a match-up against De La Salle next week.

“Sobrang grateful namin. We did not expect to come this far given na after the first round sobrang dehado na kami. Nagtrabaho kami and we know sa Final Four it is not going to be an easy kind of competition and we were ready for that mentally.”

The team walked through the halls of the Big Dome on their way out, the same routine they always do after each game — except this time, it meant a little more special.

“When I entered Araneta, it felt great na we are playing in a bigger stage. And it’s the competition itself. We are in the Final Four and you don’t take things for granted. I was thankful to have an opportunity to play here and end my career in a better way than last year,” Jose said.

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AU

Jovie Prado, Arellano make epic comeback against Perpetual to remain unscathed

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The defending NCAA Women’s Volleyball champions Arellano University Lady Chiefs would just not give up.

Down two sets, the Lady Chiefs turned back the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas in five thrilling sets, 22-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-20, 15-5, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

Outside hitter Jovielyn Prado and middle attacker Andrea Marzan showed up and produced their expected numbers in this crucial tussle at 20 and 16 points, respectively.

Head coach Obet Javier was still optimistic that his players can pull it off after the 0-2 hole. “Siyempre, kailangan mong magtiwala sa players mo,” he said.

The long-time coach added, “Nung first two sets, ang pangit ng laro namin. Siguro sa game, lumabas lang ‘yung maturity ng players ko at ‘yung pusong champion.”

It was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout the day, but the deciding set was all Arellano as setter Sarah Verutiao fired off vicious serves after another and virtually bag the win with a 10-1 lead.

The reigning queens at 6-0 will try to extend their longest winning run in the league to 19 when they face fellow unscathed San Beda College (5-0) on Friday.

Bianca Tripoli registered 20 markers to pace the Lady Altas.

Perpetual (4-2) will take on Mapua University (0-5) on Tuesday, January 30.

The Scores:

AU 3 – Prado 20, Marzan 16, Arocha 14, Ebuen 7, Esguerra 4, Ramirez 1, Bello 1, Balanoba 0, Donato 0, Flores L, Buema L.

UPHSD 2 – Tripoli 20, Imbo 19, Clements 12, Verzosa 6, Llorente 5, Gual 3, Sangalang 3, Estanislao 0, Rosal 0, Umandal 0, Medalla L.

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Basketball

Matt Nieto looks forward to learning from Jio Jalalon, Jayson Castro

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When Matt Nieto made his way into the Meralco Gym on Monday evening, the 20-year-old quickly changed his clothes after receiving his Gilas jersey. And once he got dressed, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles’ floor general quickly went to work, as he wanted to absorb everything he can from the night’s session.

“Actually na-star struck ako. ‘Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ako eh,” expressed the six-foot point guard.

Playing and practicing with the players they idolized growing up has been a theme for almost all of the 23 for 2023 cadets. The same could be said about the wide-eyed Nieto, as he could not believe he was side-by-side with the present and the future of the game in Jayson Castro and Jiovani Jalalon.

“Nakita ko pa lang si idol Jiovani Jalalon, nakikita ko parang… di ako makapaniwala na sa isang practice magkasama kami.

“Sila Kiefer [Ravena], lalo na si Jalalon talaga at si Jayson Castro kasi talagang idol ko talaga sila eh. Napapasma nga ako nung una eh kasi parang baka akalain nila ‘sino ba to?’,” the one-time UAAP champion shared.

Nervous, Nieto tried to talk to Castro and Jalalon numerous times during the practice. The two did not turn, welcoming the young buck with open arms.

“Nung nakausap ko na sila medyo na ano na kasi hindi lang sila magaling, sobrang bait pa nila. Madali akong naka-adjust kaagad dito,” he beamed.

Coach Chot Reyes has high expectations with Nieto, as he is being groomed as one of the leaders for the 2023 team. Still, he knows that there is still a long way to go for him.

To become a better leader, the second-generation Blue Eagle knows who to reach out to.

“Gusto ko matuto kay Jayson pati kay Jiovani kasi same position kami. And of course yung leadership ni Kiefer, yung mentality na talagang laban kung laban.

“Gusto ko marami matutunan sa kanila kasi wala pa eh, wala pa ako sa peak ko. Sila andun na. So marami talaga akong matututunan sa kanila kasi sobrang galing nila at sobrang dami na nilang na-achieve sa kanilang basketball career,” Nieto gushed.

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Basketball

SJ Belangel makes leap to top 3 of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24

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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ateneo Blue Eaglets towering teen Kai Sotto and La Salle Greenhills Junior Blazers court general Joel Cagulangan remained the top two high school players in the Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Center 24, but there was a lot of movement this week, including the rise of SJ Belangel.

Belangel, Ateneo’s graduating floor leader, had a sensational week, helping steer the Blue Eaglets to an unblemished 10-0 record. With his exploits, he was the consensus third-ranked player of the week, leapfrogging Mapua High School’s and NCAA MVP Will Gozum.

FEU-Diliman do-it-all guard L-Jay Gonzales and Katipunan swingman Dave Ildefonso also moved up the ladder, while UST Tiger Cub ace CJ Cansino dropped to eighth after finishing fourth last week.

Besides movement at the top, there were also a lot of debutatants in this week’s list.

Blue Eaglets double-double machine Joaqui Manuel’s workhorse type of game paid off, as he was ranked 21st this week.

After firing 51 markers last weekend, Bacolod Tay Tung High School’s Harold Alarcon was named as the 22nd top prospect.

Joshua Yerro of University of Visayas then rounded out the list.

Here is the complete Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 Week 2:

1. Kai Sotto, center, Ateneo (1)
2. Joel Cagulangan, guard, La Salle (2)
3. SJ Belangel, guard, Ateneo (5)
4. Will Gozum, center, Mapua (3)
5. L-Jay Gonzales, guard, FEU-Diliman (6)
6. Dave Ildefonso, forward, Ateneo (8)
7. Rhayyan Amsali, forward, NU (7)
8. CJ Cansino, forward, UST (4)
9. Clint Escamis, guard, Mapua (10)
10. Aaron Fermin, center, Arellano (9)
11. Terrence Fortea, guard, NU (16)
12. RJ Abarrientos, guard, FEU-Diliman (15)
13. Inand Fornilos, forward, La Salle (11)
14. Evan Nelle, guard, San Beda (12)
15. Warren Bonifacio, center, Mapua (13)
16. John Galinato, guard, Chiang Kai Shek (14)
17. Mac Guadaña, guard, Lyceum (18)
18. Raven Cortez, center, La Salle Zobel (19)
19. Harvey Pagsanjan, guard, Hope Christian (20)
20. Maui Cruz, guard, EAC (23)
21. Joaqui Manuel, forward, Ateneo (N/A)
22. Harold Alarcon, guard, Tay Tung-Bacolod (N/A)
23. Jancork Cabahug, forward, UV (17)
24. Joshua Yerro, guard, UV (N/A)

On Tuesday, January 23, the second episode of Chooks-to-Go/NBTC 24 will air live at 7:00pm. Tonight’s special guest will be former Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas player and NBTC alumnus Jeron Teng.

The Chooks-to-Go/National Basketball Training Centre 24 is the first-ever attempt to rank the top high school prospects in the country today.

The weekly ranking used the following criteria: league stats, impact in team, team record, leadership, defense, offense, and level of competition.

These rankings will be used to determine the 24 players who will take part in the annual SM-NBTC High School All-Star Game on March at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

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MIT

Joyce Sta. Rita slams 28 as Lady Stags avert Cardinal upset

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Erasing a disappointing third set, the San Sebastian College-Recoletos Lady Stags upended the upset-conscious Mapua University Lady Cardinals, 25-20, 25-7, 29-31, 25-14, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre.

The win revived the Lady Stags’ campaign after back-to-back losses to the Jose Rizal University and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA. San Sebastian are now at 3-2.

“Andun pa rin naman, apat pa naman laro,” said Stags’ head coach Roger Gorayeb on their chances for the Final Four. “Sana umabot.”

Team captain Joyce Sta. Rita produced a career-high 28 points off 22 attacks, four blocks, and two serves. The senior middle hitter paced her squad’s 58 spikes, who outscored Mapua’s 33.

The Lady Cards capitalized on the rotation wherein Sta. Rita was in the backline in that third set turnaround. Nonetheless, Vira Guillema and the rest of the Lady Stags just turned to their experience to ultimately finish the match.

Gorayeb, nonetheless, hopes his team will toughen up mentally for the home stretch of the eliminations. “Kasi ‘yung laro, nawawala na ‘yan sa physical side, napupunta na sa psychological part ng game.”

Angelie Magundayao lead the Cardinals with 10 markers.

San Sebastian will take on the Colegio de San Juan de Letran (2-3) on Thursday. Mapua (0-5) will take on the Emilio Aguinaldo College (0-5) in a battle of the winless earlier that day.

The Scores:

SSC-R 3 – Sta. Rita 28, Dalisay 17, Santos 11, Encarnacion 10, Guillema 4, Tiangco 2, Eroa L.

MU 1 – Mangundayao 10, Racelis 9, Pena 9, Latayan 5, Morano 4, Frando 2, Mercado 1, Barias 0, Hermano 0, Ramilo L.

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