Author Archives: Volt Lozada


UAAP Midseason Report

Friday, 9 October 2015 | Written by

Fans had to wait for a while before the UAAP season began, but once it did, the league did not disappoint. Teams have played exciting basketball right from the get go, and the games are only going to get better from here on out.  The first round is officially over, and teams are now left with only seven games to play as they prove themselves worthy of a Final Four slot. Here’s a rundown of the teams  and their standings after the first round:

University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers (6-1)

The team came into the season with high hopes, but nobody expected them to be on top of the league standings after the first round. After struggling in their first game against an unheralded Adamson Falcons team, the Tigers went toe to toe with the title favorites Far Eastern University Tamaraws and scored an improbable win. The team pulled off a couple of comeback victories against both the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the De La Salle University Green Archers, with their lone loss coming from a then-winless National University Bulldogs team. Ed Daquioag and Kevin Ferrer have put the team on their backs and have become an unstoppable pair for the Tigers.

Far Eastern University Tamaraws (6-1)

To no one’s surprise, the Tamaraws are on top of the league standings, tied with UST, the team that put the blemish in the first round of their campaign. They started off like the powerhouse team that they are, dominating what was thought to be a pretty tough Ateneo team in the season opener.


A Silver Lining: The FIBA Asia 2015 Aftermath

Tuesday, 6 October 2015 | Written by

gilas2The Gilas Pilipinas team went to Changsha, China with high hopes but plenty of doubters. Their opening day upset loss to newcomers Palestine did not help silence critics. However, after a series of dominating wins, they reclaimed their tag as favorites, and were three wins away from claiming the lone spot for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

A win against Iran in the second round of the tournament and a surprising win by Qatar against Korea in the other group paved the way for a relatively easier road to the Finals for the Philippines.

The Quarterfinals: Lebanon 70 – Philippines 82

The first hurdle in the Philippines’ way was the gritty Lebanon team that beat Jordan in their last game of the second round. Upon learning that they will be matched up against the Philippines, Coach Veselin Matic claimed the Philippines was a much easier opponent than Iran, being quoted as saying “No Iran, now Philippines. We can play Philippines easy, easy.

Feeling disrespected, the Philippines went out motivated to beat their opponents. However, Lebanon proved to be a handful as they hung tough with the Philippines early in the game, keeping the game close through halftime trailing by just five, 32-37.

The Philippines bucked bad calls and a hostile Chinese crowd and threatened to break the game wide open in the third quarter led by Jayson Castro’s relentless attacks. Lebanon refused to stay down, however, and cut the Gilas lead down to seven points in the final quarter of play. Defense and timely baskets would help the Philippines keep their lead in double digits, though, as they finished off Lebanon with a 12 point win. Through every gritty play, Calvin Abueva could be seen walking over to the Lebanese bench to yell “Easy, easy!” as if to remind Coach Matic that he asked for this.

After the game, Matic tried to clarify the quote, saying the Philippines plays great basketball, but they were an easier matchup than Iran because they lacked size. He did recognize that they had the skill, and that was enough to possibly carry them to the title.

The Semifinals: Japan 70 – Philippines 81

With Qatar beating Korea in the previous round, they relegated the latter to a first-round encounter with Iran instead of a potential semifinal encounter with the Philippines. However, they couldn’t get past Japan in the quarterfinals, setting up a second meeting between Japan and the Philippines.

In their first game, Japan proved to be a handful for the Philippines, before a second half surge helped the Philippines secure the slim seven point win. Their semifinal encounter proved no different. Makoto Hiejima was playing out of his mind, scoring 22 points by halftime, helping them end the half in a tie, 39-all.

Hiejima and Joji Takeuchi gave the Filipinos all that they could handle as they kept the game close through three quarters at 54-all. Dondon Hontiveros then turned back the clock in the game, knocking down triple after triple, as he, Andray Blatche and Jason Castro helped the Philippines pull away late in the game, as Japan’s key players dealt with fatigue.

The Finals: China 78 – Philippines 67

After dealing with two tough teams in the previous rounds, and having dealt with shady calls and non-calls, the Philippines were now up against the hometown team, China. Things did not start off right from the get-go, as their bus was left discharged, causing the team to be late for shootaround. To make matters worse, they had a difficult time getting tickets for their assistant coaches owing to their late arrival.

Still, the Philippines was fired up to start the game, starting off to a hot 5-0 start. However, China crept back and captured the lead shortly after, as they capitalized on 14-of-22 charities against the Philippines’ 7-of-11. As expected, the hostile crowd did not do any favors for the Philippines, nor did the officiating, as they complained all game about the calls.

China would not relinquish their 46-35 advantage at halftime, as nobody in the Gilas team got it going like they did in the previous games. China would keep the Philippines at bay, as they claimed the gold and the lone spot for Rio in the tournament.

Guo Ailun, Zhou Qi, and Yi Jianlian of China, Iran’s Nikkah Bahrami and our very own Jayson Castro-William were named as the Mythical Five members, with China’s Yi winning Most Valuable Player honors.

A Silver Lining with Silver

The road to Rio does not end quite yet. The second, third, and fourth place finishers in the FIBA Asia tournament (Philippines, Iran ,and Japan) will get the chance to book a ticket to Rio through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2016. They will be joined by from Eurobasket (France, Serbia, Greece, Italy, and Czech Republic), three teams from the FIBA Americas (Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico), three teams from Afrobasket (Angola, Tunisia, and Senegal), one team from Oceania (New Zealand), and three host nations that will be determined in November. The teams will be divided into three tournaments consisting of six teams each, with the winner of each tournament qualifying to the Rio Olympics in 2016.

While we may have missed out on the chance for the outright slot by settling for our second straight silver medal in the FIBA Asia tournament, this Gilas team proved that they have the heart to win as much as, if not more, than the previous incarnations of the team. They have silenced critics and made fans believe that we are indeed back as serious contenders in the Asian region, and it won’t be long before we announce our presence in the world stage.

Jayson Castro, who received a second selection as the region’s finest point guard, called for unity for the next tournament if they we are to challenge China’s dominance in the sport.  As we set our eyes on an Olympic slot in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, let’s hope that unity starts sooner than later.


FIBA Asia 2015: Conquering the Group Stages

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 | Written by

The Philippines’ road to Rio is getting clearer, but it’s not getting any easier.

After two rounds of the FIBA Asia tournament, the Philippines are now in the quarterfinals of the tournament, and are three wins away from booking their ticket to the 2016 Olympics. Here’s a look at the path the Gilas team has travelled so far:

The First Round – Shock and Recovery

In the relatively easy Group B of the tournament, the Philippines was widely believed to top the group consisting of fairly lower ranked Hong Kong, Kuwait, and Palestine. With only one team set to be eliminated in this round, every win counts as their records will be carried over to the second round.

In their very first game, the Philippines looked like the dominant team that everyone pegged them to be, leading by as much as 15 points at the end of the first quarter, 27-12. However, the Palestinians fought back, and refused to accept that the Philippines was better than them. They kept in pace with the favorites, and eventually took the lead via a deciding 10-0 run towards the end of the quarter. In the end, it was the first timers beating one of the tournament favorites, 75-73 to the shock of everyone.

With one loss already on their record, critics and fans alike have voiced disappointment on the team. They quickly silenced everyone with a resounding 51-point win over Hong Kong, 101-50. Unlike their game against Palestine, the Philippines did not let go of the gas pedal as they led from start to finish and shackled Hong Kong with energy on defense.

If their win against Hong Kong wasn’t enough to show that the Philippines has regained their senses, they followed it up with a 46-point win against Kuwait, 110-64. More than the win, though, the game would be remembered for the scuffle between both teams near the end of the game. As the game was winding down in the fourth, Ranidel De Ocampo hit Abdulaziz Alhamidi with an elbow to the face, prompting the Kuwati to confront the referee about it. De Ocampo would later defend his action as retaliation for a low blow from the same player, and said that his teammates have been complaining about the dirty play from Alhamidi. If anything, the win and the scuffle only made the team’s bond stronger.

At the end of the preliminary round, the Philippines advanced to Group E together with fellow Group B teams Palestine and Hong Kong, as well as Group A winners Iran, Japan, and India.

terrence romeo

The Second Round – Establishing Dominance

For the second round, six teams will be competing for four slots that will head to the quarterfinals. In this round, teams will face the teams not belonging to their group. Wins in this round will have more weight, as the final rankings at the end of this round will determine who the teams will face in the quarterfinals.

In their first game, the Philippines faced a talented Japan team, whose only loss in the tournament thus far was against Iran. The Japanese had everything going for them, with the Philippines struggling against their zone defense, and Andray Blatche getting injured in the second quarter. However, the locals stepped up, as De Ocampo and Jason Castro helped the team recover at the half for a 35-33 lead. Despite re-injuring his ankle early in the third, Blatche would show heart by returning to the game late in the game to help the Filipinos make a key run to end the game. Japan would take advantage of a hobbled Blatche, and tied the game with three minutes to play. De Ocampo would put the finishing touches to the game though, as he sparked a 9-2 run that would decide the 73-66 outcome.

It was the mighty Iran who would be in their way next. Hamed Haddadi and the Iranians have taken over the mantle of the best team in Asia that was long held by China. The Philippines have only managed to beat Iran in the 2011 and 2012 Jones Cup, but never in the bigger stages. With a renewed confidence, the Philippines hung tough against the defending champions, keeping the contest tight at 22-25 by the end of the first. Iran would show their form in the second though, as they led by as much as nine, before De Ocampo hit a three to end the half. The Gilas team made a furious run in the third, outscoring Iran 28-17 to claim the lead, 65-61. Iran was visibly frustrated by the Filipinos, and it would be most evident with four minutes to go in the game as Haddadi would get called for a technical following his fourth foul on Gilas sparkplug Calvin Abueva. With the 7-foot-2 behemoth sulking at the bench, the Filipinos put the finishing touches in the game to notch Iran’s first loss in the tournament, 87-73. In the battle between the two best point guards in Asia, Castro would hold off Mahdi Kamrani’s attempt to reclaim his spot,as he outclassed the veteran point guard with 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting. Iran coach Dirk Bauermann claimed that they got shell-shocked by the Philippines, and hoped that it would spark his team as the Palestine loss sparked their conquerors.

For their final game of the round, the Philippines needed to win against India to claim the top spot in Group E.  The game didn’t start smoothly for the Philippines as India got off to a hot start. They would quickly recover though, and finish the quarter trailing by just one. Terrence Romeo would spark the team as they tried to pull away in the second quarter, as he put in nine quick points to claim the lead at the half, 42-36. They couldn’t shake off India well enough to rest Blatche though, as the feisty Indians kept in pace with the Philippines through the third. However, defense helped the Philippines break the game wide open. For much of the fourth quarter, India struggled to create anything on offense as Coach Tab Baldwin’s boys shackled them with a suffocating man to man press. The Philippines finished off India with a nifty alley-oop from Romeo to Matt Ganuelas before a three pointer from India decided the final score of 99-65. With the win, the Philippines claimed the top spot in Group E.

The Final Round – Looking Ahead

The last three games of the tournament will be a single round elimination featuring the top four finishers of each group getting cross-matched with each other. This means that the top teams will get matched up with the bottom teams, while the second seeds will get matched up with the third seeds of the other group.

For the quarterfinals, the Philippines will need to beat Lebanon in order to advance to the semifinals against the winner of Japan and Qatar. On the other quarterfinals matchup, India will face off against China with the winner advancing to challenge the winner of the Iran and Korea matchup.

The shocking loss of Korea to Qatar set the stage for a relatively easier bracket for the Philippines heading to the Finals, as three of the top five teams in the tournament will possibly be facing off against each other in the other bracket. Iran proves to have the most difficult road of all, needing to defeat Korea and China on their road to the Finals.


The Quest for Rio: FIBA Asia 2015

Tuesday, 22 September 2015 | Written by

The FIBA Asia Tournament that will be held in Hunan, China, will serve as a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. However, only the first place finisher will claim a spot in the Olympics, which makes the tournament all the more important for those looking to qualify for it.

The Gilas Pilipinas national team has never hidden its intention on basketball greatness, and competing with the best in the world in the Olympics is a step towards that direction. Needless to say, they are heading to China with a gold medal in mind.

16 teams will vie for the top prize in the tournament, and on June 27th, FIBA held the draw to determine the groups of the teams involved. The Philippines drew a spot in Group B, together with Hong Kong, Kuwait, and Palestine. The top three teams of each group will advance to the next round.

Here’s a look at the first round opponents of the Philippines:


The young Middle Eastern squad qualified for the 2015 edition of the FIBA Asia tournament after finishing second in the 2014 Gulf Basketball Championships in Saudi Arabia, behind perennial champions Qatar. The team’s last appearance in the tournament was in 2009, where they finished 11th out of 16 teams.

Among the players who appeared in the 2009 tournament are point guard Shayee Mohanna, forward Abdulaziz Al-Hamidi, and their top performer Mohammad Ashkanani. Incidentally, Ashkanani will be the team’s oldest player at just 31 years old heading to the tournament.

While they don’t appear to be a huge threat for the relatively easy Group B, Kuwait will certainly try to pull off a surprise to make a case for themselves in this year’s tournament.

Hong Kong

Another young and dangerous team, the unheralded Hong Kong team could best be remembered as the team that gave the Philippines a scare during the last FIBA Asia tournament in 2013. Though the Gilas team escaped, the team led by Chan Siu Wing and Duncan Reid helped Hong Kong gain the upper hand through the first two quarters, before the home team got their act together in the second half.

It was one of those games that made their neighboring countries take notice. Still, basketball is at its infancy in Hong Kong, with only one player playing professionally in Lo Yi Ting, while the rest have regular day jobs.

Hong Kong could be on the bubble in this group together with Palestine, but judging from their previous showing at the FIBA Asia tournament, they have a decent shot to make the second round of this year’s tournament.


Like Hong Kong, basketball in Palestine is also in its infancy. In fact, as of 2013, their only professional basketball player was big man Sani Sakakini. He is understandably the team’s best player, but he also showed that he is one of the best players in the region, as he helped the team clinch third in the West Asia Basketball Championship to qualify for this year’s FIBA Asia tournament.

Sakakini has been instrumental in forming the team, along with head coach Jerry Steele, who had no prior professional coaching experience but ran clinics in Palestine. They also recruited Jamal Abu-Shamala, who played for the University of Minnesota, the Jordaninan National team, and a couple of NBA D-League teams. They are hoping to add Omar Krayem into their team, after the sweet shooting guard had a brilliant showing in the Philippine Basketball Association as the Asian import of Globalport Batang Pier.

Despite this being their first time participating in the FIBA Asia tournament, they already look like the second best team in Group B.


Looking Ahead

After the top three teams have been determined, Group B merges with Group A to form Group E, playing the teams they did not meet during the group stages. At this point, the Gilas team may have to face either Iran, Japan, Malaysia, or India. Of the six teams competing in the group, only the top four will make it to the next round.

Images: Gilas by Leo Hidalgo from Some rights reserved.


MVP Cup 2015: The last tournament before FIBA Asia

Thursday, 17 September 2015 | Written by

2015_mvp_cup_logoThe FIBA Asia 2015 tournament will kick off on September 23, and Gilas 3.0 is looking more and more ready as the day draws closer.

After finishing second in the Jones Cup with a 6-2 mark, the Nationals participated in a four-team pocket tournament in Manila. The Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) Cup was organized by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilpinas (SBP) as an opportunity for the national team to compete with other national clubs or top-tier professional teams as they prepare for the upcoming FIBA Asia tournament.

The three-day, single round robin tournament was participated in by a total of four teams – the Wellington Saints from New Zealand, the Chinese-Taipei national team, and the PBA’s own Talk N’ Text Tropang Texters. The Lebanese national team confirmed their participation for the event, but they withdrew before the start of the tournament.

On the first day of the tournament, the Gilas boys faced off against MVP’s top ballclub, the Talk N’ Text Tropang Texters. The Texters were without their leaders in Jason Castro and Ranidel De Ocampo, as they committed themselves to the national squad. They remained competitive though, as they showcased the top two picks in the recent draft in Moala Tautuaa and Troy Rosario – both of whom also played for Gilas during the Jones Cup. Terrence Romeo continued his brilliant play for the Gilas team, finishing with 22 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while Castro was his usual efficient self with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Naturalized big man Andray Blatche still looks out of shape, as he struggled going up and down the floor and hitting just 28% of his shots. On the other side, it was Rosario who struggled, finishing with just five points. Former Gilas player Larry Fonacier proved he’s still a capable player despite not being selected to the team this year as he finished with 20 points, nine rebounds, and four assists in a losing effort, as the Texters bowed to the Gilas team, 93-77.

The other game of the day featured the Chinese-Taipei team taking on the Wellington Saints. The Gilas team met fierce competition from these two teams during the Jones Cup – Taipei nearly came from 16 points down to steal the win, while they needed to come back from the same deficit to force overtime before winning it against the Saints. While the Saints looked like they were bent on winning the tournament, Taipei looked like they were playing to tune up their young players. As a result, the Saints walloped Taipei to a 28-point beatdown, 108-80.

The second day saw the Texters surprise Chinese-Taipei with a sterling performance from both Tautuaa and Rosario, as they finished with 20 and 19 points, respectively, and 13 rebounds each on their way to a 99-91 victory.

The Nationals squared off against the Saints in the second day of the tournament, with the Saints looking to exact revenge from their Jones Cup loss. After being down 13 as late as the third quarter, the Gilas team leaned on the heroics of Romeo to help them mount yet another comeback against the Saints. The Globalport star churned in 14 of his 18 points in the final quarter, dropping crucial long bombs to help the team come back from the deficit and maintain their lead down the stretch. The Saints couldn’t finish strong, as the Filipinos came away with an 84-81 victory and remain undefeated in the tournament.

On the last day of the tournament, the Talk N’ Text squad got the brunt of Wellington’s frustration, as the Saints made sure there won’t be any heroic comebacks in the game. The Saints made a 24-8 run to end the third quarter that put them in the driver seat that they never relinquished, claiming the second spot in the tournament with a 101-78 victory.

For their final game of the tournament, the Gilas 12 finished strong against a winless Chinese-Taipei side who opted to sit naturalized player Quincy Davis and their top stars in Lin Chih Chieh and Tseng Wen-ting. They nearly blew a 20-point lead, as they allowed the Taipei side to complete a 14-2 run that cut the lead to eight with barely three minutes still to play. Though they would come up with a 90-77 win, Coach Tab Baldwin wasn’t impressed with his side, who he expected to dominate the relatively shorthanded Taipei squad. Still, it was one of the better games for Andray Blatche, as the big man finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

After finishing their third tournament on its way to FIBA Asia, the Gilas team now looks to apply the finishing touches on their team as they headed to a secluded camp in Cebu. Though the team has shown promise over the past several games, Coach Tab has admitted that they still fall prey to silly mistakes on the floor.

The five-day training will hopefully fine tune the team that is currently ranked third in the official power rankings heading to the FIBA Asia tournament.


[UAAP 78] UP Fighting Maroons Rising to the Top

Friday, 11 September 2015 | Written by

UP_Fighting_MaroonsIf the UAAP season ended today, the UP Fighting Maroons would have a twice to beat advantage heading into the Final Four.

Of course, UAAP fans wouldn’t want that to happen, as they’ve waited too long for this season to start. Still, wouldn’t it be a sight to behold if the season did end up that way?

This year’s hosts have suffered a couple of winless seasons, and would have suffered a third one, if not for their win against Adamson University last year. The win would break a 27-game losing streak, after they failed to win a game in Season 76. Their futility on the basketball court has been widely accepted, that it even spawned a Twitter account similar to a parody account keeping track of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, who have similarly been treading the cellar in the NBA.

Over the past eight seasons, the Fighting Maroons have only been able to manage three games at the most, and they have also failed to win a game in three of those seasons.

This year, they were bent on making changes. They started by changing their look, unveiling a new logo to represent their team starting in Season 78. They then went on to start a change in their culture by doing something they haven’t done in a while – win a title. The Fighting Maroons topped in the inaugural season of the FilSports Basketball Association, an amateur grassroots league featuring some provincial and commercial teams. They may not have faced teams they will face in the UAAP, but winning a title gave the Fighting Maroons a welcome change after seasons of winless droughts.

They did their alma mater proud right out of the gates. After UP put on a show to officially kick off the start of the season, the Fighting Maroons put on a show of their own, as they won a back and forth game against a young Adamson Falcons team. While it was a game that was winnable for UP, they followed it up with an inspiring win against last year’s runners up, the De La Salle Green Archers.

Coach Renzy Bajar may not be the most decorated coach who took the helm for UP, but after leading the Fighting Maroons to a preseason title and two wins to start the season, he looks like the coach they need. The return of Jett Manuel has been a huge boost for UP, as the former Most Improved Player winner led the team’s charge in their first two wins. So far, he has made good on his promise when he decided to return to the team.

It has been a total team effort for the Maroons over their first two games. They have 13 players playing at least 13 minutes per game, with each one having already registered a point. Paul Desiderio is averaging the most minutes at 26 per game, while Diego Dario, Angelo Vito, and Piero Longa have contributed efficient minutes for the team. Imports Andrew Harris and Cheick Kone have shown that they can be a presence in the paint, while veteran JR Gallarza has yet to make a splash for them.

It may be too early to celebrate, but for a team that won their first two-game win streak over the past 10 years, there are plenty of reasons for their fans to be happy. Team Manager Dan Palami, who also serves in the same capacity for the Azkals, knows that 2-0 doesn’t make a championship. Coach Renzy is not worried though, and in fact isn’t even surprised that they are seeing early success in the season.

UP will face another surprisingly undefeated team on Sunday, with the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers looking to play spoilers to their feel good story.

Win or lose, UP has already shown that they are out to prove that “Fighting” is not just a word they added to their team name.


Pagtindig at Pagsulong: The UAAP Season ’78 Primer

Friday, 4 September 2015 | Written by


uaapThe long wait is over.

The 78th season of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament finally kicks-off on Saturday, September 5. The tournament usually kicks off in July, but was moved to a later date following a shift in academic calendars by member schools.

Surprise exits were supplanted by surprise entries, and this season will make sure that it is worth the wait. The University of the Philippines hosts this year’s tournament, with the theme “Tumitindig, Sumusulong” – moving away from the usual English mottos for the simple reason being “we are Filipino,” according to Dr. Anril Tiatco, director of the UP Information Office and overall chair of the opening ceremony of Season ’78.

Here’s a look at this year’s teams:

Hungry For More

Now that they’ve had a taste for it, they want more.

The NU Bulldogs had a historic championship run last season, ending a 40-year-old title drought despite being the fourth seed in the Final Four. They lost key players in Troy Rosario, Glenn Khobuntin, and Henri Betayene, but will still be bannered by Gelo Alolino and Alfred Aroga. After years of playing with a talent like Bobby Ray Parks, the Bulldogs thrived under the radar last season, surprising everyone with their chemistry.

This year, they will have a target on their backs once more, as every team would want to claim a victory over the defending champs. Coach Eric Altamirano will welcome back defensive wingman Jeoffrey Javillionar back in the fold, after the player missed all of last season due to injury. Sophomore Mohammad Salim and Rev Diputado may be able to see more minutes this season after performing well during the preseason tournaments.

Raging on to the Top

One of the most intact lineups this upcoming season will be the FEU Tamaraws.  Last season’s runners up did lose a couple of key players in Anthony Hargrove and Carl Cruz, but they are still stacked with last year’s veterans. Mike Tolomia, Mac Belo, and RR Pogoy is already a core group to reckon with. Coach Nash Racela also has the likes of Russel Escoto, Ron Dennison, Francis Tamsi, Raymar Jose, and Alejandrino Inigo Jr. in his arsenal, making them one of the favorites this upcoming season to win it all.

The Escoto brothers will no longer be the only brother tandem in the lineup, as FEU tabbed Fil-Euro brothers Ken and Steve Holmqvist. The impact of Anthony Hargrove’s departure will be lessened by the arrival of 6’5” Cameroonian recruit Prince Orizu. FEU will surely be a team to look forward to this season.


When Height Wouldn’t Be Might

Last year’s runner up De La Salle were one of the feared teams in the past. This year, it won’t be the same, as Norbert Torres and Yutien Andrada entered the PBA draft, while Arnold Van Opstal decided to sit the year out to rehabilitate an injury. Prized recruit Ben Mbala, meanwhile, was ruled out for this year’s tournament after playing an exhibition game during the offseason.

The team will still be a force to reckoned with, as Jeron Teng returns with Jason Perkins, Thomas Torres, Julian Sargeant, and sophomore Paolo Rivero. The loss of sharpshooter Almond Vosotros was easily filled by the entry of youth team standouts Jollo Go and Joshua Caracut. The stoic Coach Juno Sauler will probably downplay his team’s chances, but it won’t be a surprise to see them back in the Final Four this year.

King Eagle’s Swan Song

Keifer Ravena looks like a PBA-ready guard especially after his clutch performances during the Sinag Pilipinas’ campaign in the SEA Games. The King Eagle will play one more year though, as he looks to erase the memory of dropping their twice-to-beat advantage to eventual champions NU Bulldogs last season. Key returnees include Von Pessumal, reigning Rookie of the Year Arvin Tolentino, and big men Gwyne Capacio, Gideon Babilonia, and Alfonso Gotladera, who will be playing his final year of eligibility.

As a school known for not only for its basketball program but also for their academic excellence, Ateneo has not been short of high school standouts wanting to join their team. While the team lost Nico Elorde and Chris Newsome to the PBA, they were able to attract the Nieto brothers to join their team, and the collegiate debut of Jerie Pingoy will finally happen this year. Import Chibueze Ikeh will be their man in the middle, and a surprise turn of events saw prized recruit Hubert Cani become eligible to play for the Eagles this season. It’s a “championship or bust” season for Ravena, and they have all the tools they need to win it all this year.

Trusting the System

Last year’s hosts looked like a strong contender for the title, with hotshot guard Roi Sumang leading the charge and two foreign reinforcements in Charles Mammie and Moustapha Arafat taking turns in the middle. They didn’t quite make the cut though, and settled for a fifth place finish in last year’s tournament.

This year, they saw the exit of their foreign players and a couple of key players, but the biggest loss would be Sumang, who decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to enter the PBA draft. To add salt to their wound, guard Dan Alberto was deemed ineligible for what would have been his final year in the league. With nine rookies and seven veterans representing the team this year, they will have to trust Coach Derrick Pumaren’s signature defensive schemes in order to register some numbers on the win column.

Embracing the Underdog Status

After back-to-back Finals appearances and a relatively intact lineup coming into last season, the UST Growling Tigers were among the favorites to finally win it all. Unfortunately, they buckled and didn’t even make the Final Four last season.

Maybe it was the pressure of being on top, or maybe they just weren’t prepared. Whatever it was, it is now in the past, and they are ready for another fresh start. The Tigers will anchor their campaign on fourth year center and perennial MVP contender Karim Abdul, UST-through and through Kevin Ferrer, and last year’s revelation, Kent Lao. They have a sneaky good team with scoring stalwart Louie Vigil, Henry Subido, and veterans Ed Daquioag and Jan Sheriff still with the team. With no expectations from the team, the Tigers will hope to recapture their status as contenders once again.

Major Changes for a Major Rise

Another year, another shot at rising from the cellar.

The UP Fighting Maroons have been a symbol of futility in the UAAP Basketball tournament because of their poor record, but they have always fought to shed that tag. Though they would only win one game last season, they were optimistic with their chances moving forward, with former Rookie of the Year Kyles Lao at the helm. Unfortunately, the talented guard suffered an ACL tear that would cause him to sit out the season. Still, the team has a promising core in Diego Dario, JR Gallarza, Henry Asilum, Dave Moralde, and Mark Juruena. This year’s hosts are welcoming new changes to their team, and with a new logo, they hope they would also have a new image as contenders in the UAAP. Look for UP to fight for a Final Four spot more than ever.

Hope in Rebuilding

The Adamson Falcons had a forgettable Season 77, winning just one game through the season. Their dismal performance led to rookie head coach Kenneth Duremdes’ exit after just one full season. It didn’t help that scoring guards Don Trollano, Ryan Monteclaro and Jansen Rios have already played out their years of eligibility. Among last year’s holdovers, Dawn Ochea, Jospeph Nalos, and Ivan Villanueva are the only players who were able to play all 14 games for the Falcons, and while it doesn’t guarantee minutes for them this season, they are players who may have bigger roles for the team.

New head coach Michael Fermin will have an almost impossible task to improve on last year’s performance, but a team with nothing to lose is always the most dangerous.


NCAA 91 MidSeason Report

Thursday, 20 August 2015 | Written by

ncaa91The NCAA tournament has reached the midway point of the season, and this early, the contenders are distancing themselves from the pretenders.

The perpetual rivals San Beda College and Letran Knights are on top of the standings at the end of the first round, but with the UPHSD Altas, Arellano Chiefs, JRU Heavy Bombers, and the Mapua Cardinals hot on their trails, no one is a lock for the Final Four just yet.

Teams dealing with changes have struggled early on, but they are not to be counted out just yet.

Here’s a quick look at the first half of the season of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

Surging Knights

With all eyes on the San Beda Red Lions and other contenders, the Letran Knights stole the show at the first half of the tournament. The Knights, notably playing without a foreign reinforcement, won their first seven games before a shocking loss to the Emilio Aguinaldo in their eighth game.

The “House of Chaos” closed out their first half of the season by coming from behind against the Mapua Cardinals to hold on to solo first at the end of the first round. While Rey Nambatac is leading the scoring charge for the Knights, their team has mostly relied on their relentless defense to notch their impressive start.

King Lion Roaring

Perennial favorites San Beda have kept their dominant form to start the tournament, blowing out their first two games against the Mapua Cardinals and the EAC Generals. However, they were caught by surprise by their rivals, the Letran Knights in their third game. Since then, they have won their next five games before getting tripped by the Arellano Chiefs in a rematch of last year’s finals in the very last game of the first round.

In the middle of the Lions’ success has been do-it-all forward Art Dela Cruz. The second generation superstar has been making a name for himself, leading the early MVP race with his excellent play this season. Dela Cruz is the only player in the league who is in the top five of points, rebounds, and assists department, while also figuring among the top 10 in the steals category.

Two-Pronged Altas Attack

The Altas barely made it to the Final Four last season, but that seems to be a distant memory with their excellent showing this season. They have managed to sweep all the other teams this season, save for the top two teams in the Letran Knights and the San Beda Red Lions.

Scottie Thompson and rookie Bright Akhuetie have been anchoring the Altas charge this season. Thompson has been beasting over the past few games, registering three triple-doubles over the season, including a 13 point, 13 rebound, and 17 assist masterpiece against JRU to close out their first half of the season. Akhuetie, meanwhile, has been averaging a double-double in points (22.7) and rebounds (11.9). Both players have been early favorites in the MVP race alongside San Beda’s Art Dela Cruz.

Don’t Count the Chiefs Out

Last year’s runners up looked like they would have a difficult time replicating their feat last season, losing a couple of key players to graduation. They lost their first game against JRU in their opener, but they did manage to beat the teams they were supposed to beat, including a hard-fought overtime battle with the Mapua Cardinals. They would lose to the Letran Knights and the UPHSD Altas and the Letran Knights, but they would hang on for solo fourth as they managed to avenge their winless Finals showing against the San Beda Red Lions in the penultimate game of the season.

Chief playmaker Jiovani Jalalon leads the way for Arellano, leading the team and the league with 9.6 assists per game, as well as 2.0 steals per game. Reigning rookie of the year Dioncee Holts continues to be a presence on the defensive end, averaging 1.6 blocks in the tournament. The Chiefs may not be as strong of a contender as they were last year, but their total team effort has them hanging around the Final Four picture as they remain a dangerous team to go up against this season.

Bombing For a Place on Top

The JRU Heavy Bombers were one of the favorites coming into the season, having won the Filoil Preseason Premier Cup against reigning UAAP Champion, NU Bulldogs. However, they didn’t have a great start to their season, splitting their first two games, and getting shocked by the San Sebastian Stags on their third game. They did manage to score the biggest comeback of the season with a monumental comeback against the Mapua Cardinals.

While they don’t have a player among the top stat stuffers in the league this season, Tey Teodoro has emerged as one of the heroes for the Bombers’ bid to a Final Four slot.

Cardinals Keeping In Pace

This year’s hosts welcomed back former rookie of the year Josan Nimes back into their lineup, and they were optimistic that they would be competitive this season. Through the first half of the season, however, they have only managed to beat the bottom four teams. While they have managed to keep in step against the top teams in the league, they have had issues in closing out opponents. They suffered the worst meltdown so far in the tournament, allowing the JRU Heavy Bombers to come back from 18 points down with three minutes left in the game.

Apart from Nimes, the Cardinals have relied on the league’s leading rebounder, Allwell Oraeme in their quest to snag a Final Four slot.

The Struggle Is Real

The season is just in its midway point, and while there is still enough time to improve on the teams’ standings, some teams have dug themselves into a difficult hole. Four teams have found themselves with identical 2-7 records after the first half of the season.

The Emilio Aguinaldo Generals lost four of their first five games by double digits, before breaking into the win column with a win over the San Sebastian Stags. They also scored the biggest upset of the tournament so far, registering the lone loss of the streaking Letran Knights in their very next game. However, it couldn’t carry them to a longer winning streak, losing their next two outings to stay in a logjam at the bottom of the standings.

The Saint Benilde Blazers knew they had an uphill battle coming into the tournament, but they tried to hold their own against the other teams. Unfortunately, they’ve only managed to beat fellow cellar-dwellers Emilio Aguinaldo and San Sebastian.

The San Sebastian Stags started off with back-to-back wins, but has lost their next five games. Their former coach, Topex Robinson, hasn’t had much luck either with his new team in the Lyceum Pirates, only managing to beat two other struggling teams in the Saint Benilde Blazers and the Emilio Aguinaldo Generals.


When Mind Wins Over Heart

Thursday, 13 August 2015 | Written by

Filipinos are one, if not the most passionate fans of basketball in the world. After its run during the 2013 FIBA Asia tournament, we have encapsulated this passion in one word: puso.

It was “puso” that drove the undersized Filipinos to book their tickets to Spain in 2014 for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and it was “puso” that put the world on notice of Philippine basketball and its fans.

Fittingly, it was “puso” once again at the center of the Philippines’ bid to host the 2019 Basketball World Cup.

When FIBA, basketball’s world governing body, announced in March that the 2019 edition of the tournament will be held in Asia, the choices were narrowed down to two; the traditional powerhouse China, and the Philippines.

The winning bid books an automatic seat in the tournament.


The Philippines and its fans impressed FIBA when it hosted the 2014 FIBA Asia tournament. They only impressed them more in Spain, where a Philippine contingent was always present in their short stint in the tournament.


It helped the Philippines become a legitimate contender to host the 2019 tournament.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny Pangilinan opened the Philippines’ final bid on August 7, highlighting some upcoming infrastructure developments in time for the 2019 tournament. Actor Lou Diamond Philipps also helped the Philippine pitch by highlighting how active the Filipinos are in social media which could help draw not only basketball fans to watch the tournament, but also spark interest in non-fans as well. Former Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes and former captain Jimmy Alapag highlighted the Filipinos’ passion and love for the game that would make a tournament held in the Philippines a truly memorable one.

China, the World Superpower

Not to be outdone by the Philippines, China centered its bid on its ability to host big events.

In 2008, Beijing was home to the Summer Olympics, showing how China can cater to a global audience. It certainly helped that the Chinese delegation proposed eight cities to host the 2019 FIBA World Cup – Beijing, Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Foshan and Dongguan.

With modern infrastructure and arenas already in place, China won the priviledge of hosting the World Cup.

Former NBA player Yao Ming, the Chinese ambassador of their bid, believes that hosting the event in 2019 “will inspire a lot of people and particularly more young athletes to participate in basketball.”

A Very Difficult Decision

Horacio Muratore, the FIBA President, admitted that it was a very difficult decision to choose among the two countries as both had excellent presentations.

It was so difficult that officials needed an additional 40 minutes to come to a decision. In the end, it was China who won the bid, with 14 votes against 7 for the Philippines.

In a tweet by Chot Reyes of the Philippine delegation, he noted that Yao Ming admitted to them that the Philippines had a better presentation than them. It was high praise coming from the China’s ambassador, and he would later give credit to the Philippine team after they won the bid, saying they “pushed us to the limit.”

Heartbreak and Lessons

Millions of Filipinos watched in anticipation for FIBA’s decision, and these same millions had their hearts broken once China was awarded the hosting rights.

Pinoy basketball fans voiced their displeasure the best way they know how – on social media.

While many Filipinos are disappointed by the result, most also readily admit that despite promises of infrastructure development in the presentation, the country may not be ready to host such a massive event unless tangible actions are done by the government.

Despite being one of the first countries in Asia to operate a metro train system, the Philippines only operates three lines today. Yet, the main line continues to be a scourge to countless Filipinos on a daily basis.  This, coupled with the massive traffic jams on the main roads on an everyday basis make hosting the 2019 event seem like a logistical nightmare especially considering the thousands of fans from all over the world who will come and support their countries.

The Filipinos’ passion for basketball was never in question. It is so ingrained in our culture that the Philippine presentation touched the hearts of everyone who loves the game. However, hosting the event means more than just loving the game. The Philippine delegation did the best that they could do, however, they shouldn’t be faulted for not having the infrastructures to support their bid.

Hopefully, this serves as a catalyst for development in the country, such that our next bid will not result in any more heartbreaks.


Cementing Greatness: Wimbledon 2015

Monday, 13 July 2015 | Written by

The oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam tournament of tennis kicked off last June 29 for 13 days of tennis action.

The men’s top ranked Novak Djokovic is looking to win the tournament for the second straight year, and his third Wimbledon championship for his career. Women’s number two Petra Kvitova won the tournament last year, but the top seeded Serena Williams remained the favorite coming into this year’s tournament.

Here’s a quick look at some of the stories in this year’s tournament:

Defending Champions Fall


Nadal gets finishes another disappointing tournament early

Rafael Nadal did not get the chance to defend his title in the later rounds, as he was upset early by 102-ranked Dustin Brown in just day four of the tournament. The 30-year-old German played on Wimbledon’s Centre Court for the first time, but was able to secure his second victory over the former world number one. For Nadal, the loss only highlights his struggles, as he again failed to reach the round of 16 a stretch of Finals appearances.

Petra Kvitova lasted one round longer than Nadal, but similarly suffered an upset loss to 30th-ranked Jelena Jankovic. The world number two started out strong, dropping just three games in her first two matches, but struggled against Jankovic after taking the first set.


The Ailing Ladies Division and the Dominance of Serena Williams



Serena Williams reaching the Finals may not have been a surprise, but her opponent certainly was. World number-20 Garbiñe Muguruza made headlines after reaching the Final for the first time in her career. She is one of the few who actually wished to face Serena in the Finals.

Despite being ranked outside the top 10, Muguruza actually looked to have a better shot at Serena compared to the other ladies in the Ladies’ division. World number three Simona Halep has not performed well over the past few tournaments and did not make it past day two of this tournament. World number five Caroline Wozniacki was upset in the fourth round by the aforementioned Murguruza. In the semifinals, Williams utterly dominated Sharapova in two sets.

Still, it was Williams who came out on top, with a decisive 6-4, 6-4 sweep against Muguruza in the Finals. It was Serena’s 21st major title, one short of Steffi Graf’s record. The win also completed a Serena Slam – winning all four of the majors dating back to last year’s US Open. Coming to this year’s US Open, Serena has a chance to win a fifth straight major, and a calendar sweep of the majors.


Novak Djokovic Wins His Third Wimbledon


Djokovic kisses his third Wimbledon trophy

For the top ranked player in the Men’s division, Novak Djokovic’s run for a second major title in the year did not create as much noise as it would have if it were either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer were making such runs. After losing in the finals of the French Open to Stan Wawrinka, there were doubts about the Serbian player’s mental fortitude in closing out an opponent on the big stage.

On the penultimate day of the tournament, and held his own against the second-ranked Roger Federer. After splitting the first two sets, Djokovic was clinical in claiming his third Wimbledon title, his second this year. He has While the French Open title still is missing from his collection, his third Wimbledon championship tied him with his coach, Boris Becker.  Also, after years of being “the other guy” during the height of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s rivalry, Djokovic has finally elevated himself to be considered as one of the sports’ greats. 


Martina Hingis Recreates Herself in Doubles


Hingis and Mirza won their first Wimbledon title together.

Early in her career, Hingis held many records as a young prodigy, including being the youngest-ever world’s number one. After retiring from the sport in 2003 due to injuries, she was able to return in 2005 but was suspended for suspected drug use in October 2007, effectively retiring from the tour. In 2013, she came out of retirement to play as a doubles player, where she has flourished ever since. The 34-year-old is currently the second ranked woman in tennis doubles.

She added two more grand slam championships to her doubles career. She won the Ladies’ Doubles championship with world number one Sania Mirza against the Russian pair of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina. The next day, she and 24th ranked Leander Paes dominated the team of Timea Babos and Alexander Peya in two sets, 6-1, 6-1, to win the Mixed Doubles championship.


Images: Nadal, French Open, Djoko, Hingis.

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