Pasig, Balanga barge into Doha Masters quarterfinals

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

Two Filipino ballclubs have punched their tickets to the quarterfinal round of the FIBA 3×3 World Tour 2019 Doha Masters.

Chooks-to-Go-backed Pasig and Balanga swept their preliminary round games to qualify for the knockout stages of the 12-team tournament held at the Katara Amphitheater.

Pasig, backstopped by Joshua Munzon and Taylor Statham, plowed through Katara and Liman to top Pool A. Balanga, with Travis Franklin and Alvin Pasaol starring at the forefront, produced exciting finishes over Riga Ghetto and Moscow Inanomo to rule Pool C.

Pool C Game 1: Balanga Chooks 19, Riga Ghetto 17

Behind the impressive showing of import Travis Franklin, Balanga Chooks scored the first victory for the Philippines in the Doha Masters courtesy of a 19-17 squeaker over third-seed Riga Ghetto.

The former Colorado State Ram and NBA G-League campaigner tallied Balanga’s first 10 points, with six coming from beyond the arc. Alvin Pasaol joined the scoring fray at the 5:50 mark, as his two-pointer pushed Balanga to its biggest lead, 12-5.

The Latvian club stormed back to the ballgame though with a 9-2 run, orchestrated by Kārlis Lasmanis and Agnis Čavars. A reverse layup from Čavars, the 11th-best 3×3 player in the world, tied the game at 14 with 2:30 remaining.

Artūrs Strēlnieks wrested the lead, 15-14, for Riga with a split from the free-throw line. Two missed charities by Nauris Miezis at the final 1:54 left the door open for Balanga. After Franklin and Lasmanis traded baskets, Pasaol sank another deuce that gave the Filipino squad a 17-16 advantage.

Lasmanis would force another deadlock at 17 with a layup, which turned out to be Riga’s final field goal in the contest. Franklin knocked down the go-ahead basket with 19 seconds to go, before Karl Dehesa extended the lead to two for Balanga with a free throw. Miezis and Čavars then flubbed their two-point attempts that could have sent the game to overtime.

Franklin paced Balanga with game-high 14 points, along with four rebounds. Lasmanis led Riga with eight markers and eight boards. Lasmanis though committed eight of Riga’s 11 turnovers.

Pool A Game 2: Pasig Chooks 21, Katara 14

The duo of Taylor Statham and Joshua Munzon proved too much to handle for hometown bets Katara, powering Pasig Chooks to a 21-14 triumph in the preliminaries.

Ranked eighth in the tournament, Pasig jumped on the Qatari club early with Statham and Munzon scoring nine of their team’s first 13 points. Back-to-back two-pointers from Munzon, the Philippines’ top 3×3 player, pushed Pasig to a commanding 13-5 lead over ninth-ranked Katara.

At the 3:43 mark and Pasig ahead by 17-12, Munzon electrified the crowd with a one-handed baseline slam over Fadi Abilmona. Statham would then score his squad’s final three points, with his floater over two defenders cementing the seven-point win for Pasig.

Statham registered nine points and six rebounds, while Munzon added seven markers. Aaron Mitchell carried the fight for Katara with nine points and four boards.

Following their loss to Pasig and a 22-11 thrashing from Liman, Katara limped out of contention for the Doha Masters crown.

Pool C Game 2: Balanga Chooks 20, Moscow Inanomo 19 (overtime)

Undermanned Balanga Chooks booked a seat in the Doha Masters quarterfinals with a 20-19 overtime thriller against sixth-ranked Moscow Inanomo in Pool C preliminaries. Alvin Pasaol sank the game-winning two-pointer in the extra period, leading Balanga to a two-game sweep of pool play.

With Leonard Santillan suffering an ankle injury following an early collision with Riga’s Artūrs Strēlnieks, the 11th-seeded Balanga side faced the highly-physical Russian club with just three men. Similar to their first game, Travis Franklin opened the scoring for Balanga, before Pasaol took charge at the end of regulation and in overtime.

Moscow grabbed an 11-7 lead at the 4:14 mark on a Semen Debda two-pointer. But Balanga slowly climbed their way back into the match, with Pasaol tying the game at 16 with two free throws in the final 1:38.

The University of the East stalwart then scored on an off-balance shot to push Balanga ahead 18-17. Denis Bergman would silence the pro-Filipino crowd with a bucket which tied the game at 18.

With 11 seconds left, Karl Dehesa missed two free throws that could have iced the victory for Balanga. Retaining possession in the final eight seconds, Balanga had a last stab at the basket, only for Franklin to flub his jump shot as time expired.

That set up Pasaol’s heroics in overtime.

As both squads traded missed two-pointers, Yura Bespalov scooped in a reverse layup over Pasasol which gave Moscow a 19-18 headway. Pasaol would then drift to the right corner, receive a quick pitch from Franklin and launch the long jumper over the outstretched arms of Denis Bergman.

Franklin scored 10 points while Pasaol added nine for the quarterfinals-bound Balanga side. Debda paced Moscow with nine markers.

Pool A Game 3: Pasig Chooks 19, Liman 16

Relying on Taylor Statham’s bull-strong play near the basket, Pasig Chooks claimed the scalps of tournament top-seed Liman, 19-16, to sweep their preliminary round assignments.

The competitive matchup saw neither team take a lead greater than two points up until the game’s final minute. After Nikola Pavlovic’s go-ahead two-pointer at the 1:04 mark, Joshua Munzon extended Pasig’s lead to three, 17-14, with a layup off a nifty crossover against Aleksandar Ratkov.

With 26 seconds left in the match, Stefan Kojic would sink two free throws which drew Liman closer, 17-16. Statham, who finished with game-high nine points, finished off their Serbian counterparts with back-to-back field goals, effectively sending Pasig to the knockout quarterfinal round.

Munzon and Pavlovic combined for eight points and 10 rebounds for Pasig. Mihailo Vasic led Liman in scoring with six markers.

Photo credits: Chooks-to-Go 3×3

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ONE Roots of Honor: Pacio exacts revenge on Saruta, reclaims world crown

ONE Championship: A New Era – Xiong Jingnan stops Angela Lee in Tokyo HIGHLIGHTS

PASAY – After a brief stop in Japan, the ONE strawweight world championship is on its way back to the mountains of Baguio City.

Joshua Pacio lived up to the promise of regaining his world title against Japanese rival Yosuke Saruta, scoring a knockout win in ONE Championship: Roots of Honor held Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

One swift kick from Pacio to Saruta’s left temple ended the title bout at the 2:43 mark of the fourth round. With Saruta crumbling face first to the mat, referee Kemp Cheng waved the match off – sending the tense Filipino crowd in attendance to a frenzy.

Tentative in the first round, the La Trinidad, Benguet-born mixed martial artist known as “The Passion” found himself down on the mat courtesy of a right straight from “The Ninja”. The 23-year old Filipino bet recovered in time, landing significant strikes in the next two rounds and stuffing numerous takedown attempts by the Wajutsu Keishukai Hearts product. Pacio also mixed up his strikes to befuddle Saruta, unleashing a combination of his trademark spin kicks and backfists that kept the dethroned Japanese champion at bay.

Then in the eventful fourth round, Pacio went for the kill – with a picture-perfect roundhouse kick ending the night’s co-main event.

The stoppage victory crowned the Team Lakay standout as a strawweight champion for the second time, also avenging his January 19 defeat to Saruta in ONE Eternal Glory held in Jakarta. Pacio joins heavyweight kingpin Brandon “The Truth” Vera in ONE’s roster of current world champions.

Pacio hiked his win-loss slate to 14-3, while Saruta suffered his ninth defeat in 28 bouts.

Nguyen stops Jadambaa to retain world featherweight crown

In the main event, Martin Nguyen successfully defended his ONE featherweight world title with a sensational knockout win over Narantungalag Jadambaa.

At the 1:07 mark of the second round, Nguyen sent the Mongolian challenger to the mat with a flying knee to the jaw, prompting the stoppage. The knockout blow was actually set up by a low kick by Nguyen to Jadambaa’s kneecap that obviously buckled the Team Tungaa fighter.

It would be Nguyen’s second defense of the title he won in August 2017 against Marat Gafurov in ONE Quest for Greatness.

Nguyen’s MMA record now stands at 12-3, while Jadambaa stumbles to 14-6.

Kelly zaps Korean rival with vicious ground and pound

Edward Kelly scored the first victory for Team Lakay in the main card in an emphatic fashion, stopping Sung Jong Lee at the 2:51 mark of the second round in a grueling featherweight clash. The 35-year old Wushu specialist survived a plethora of submission attempts thrown by his Korean foe, eventually ending the fight with a series of short punches and elbows on the ground.

Taken down to the mat multiple times, Kelly foiled every submission hold attempted by Sung. The Team Lakay standout known as “The Ferocious” escaped Sung’s Achilles lock, arm bar and D’Arce choke attempts in the opening round. With 40 seconds left in the frame, referee Kemp Cheng issued a yellow card on Kelly for an illegal upkick that hit the 10th Planet Jiujitsu Korea product on the face.

Kelly’s persistence paid off in the second round, as an Achilles lock reversal saw the hometown bet on top and in side control of his Korean opponent. The Baguio City native uncorked a ground and pound assault on a prone Sung, forcing the stoppage – much to the delight of the pro-Filipino crowd.

With the win, Kelly raised his record to 12-6. Sung, on the other hand, plummeted to 4-5.

RELATED: Kelly falters, Gonzales impresses in Manila card prelims

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ONE Roots of Honor: Kelly falters, Gonzales impresses in Manila card prelims

ONE Championship: A New Era – Xiong Jingnan stops Angela Lee in Tokyo HIGHLIGHTS

PASAY – Filipino bets are off to contrasting starts in another packed ONE Championship fight card here in Manila.

It was a short night for Filipino mixed martial artist Eric Kelly, as Korean upstart Kwon Won Il knocked out the hometown bet 19 seconds into their bout in ONE Roots of Honor, held Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The 23-year old Kwon caught Kelly with a jab-straight combination, which staggered the Baguio City native. Kwon finished off the former ONE featherweight world title contender with a volley of hammer fists, prompting the referee the call for the stoppage early in the first round.

Kwon improved his MMA record to nine wins with just one defeat, while Kelly dropped to 12-7.

Later in the night, Eric Kelly’s brother Edward faces Sung Jong Lee of Korea in a featherweight MMA bout.

In the event’s curtain-raiser, Ramon Gonzales of the Philippines submitted Akihiro Fujisawa of Japan via guillotine choke 1:19 into the first round.

ONE Roots of Honor pits Martin Nguyen against Narantungalag Jadambaa for the featherweight world championship in the main event, co-headlined by the strawweight world title rematch between current titlist Yosuke Saruta and Joshua Pacio.

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Tough year for San Miguel Alab Pilipinas after bowing out of contention

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

No team or nation in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) has ever won a championship in consecutive years.

Looks like the trend would remain with San Miguel Alab Pilipinas’ early exit in the quarterfinals of the 2018-19 season.

The defending ABL champions, who finished the eliminations at second place, bombed out of contention for back-to-back titles after a 2-0 series loss to the seventh-seed Hong Kong Eastern Lions. The 2017-18 champions and last season’s semifinalists shocked Alab Pilipinas in the opener in Cebu, 90-88, last March 29, followed by a 102-84 closeout last April 3 at their home floor in Wan Chai.

It was an acrimonious end for the tournament for Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Josh Urbiztono, Caelan Tiongson and the rest of Alab Pilipinas, who were gunning for a title repeat after striking gold in the eighth season of the ABL. After a promising 5-0 win-loss start to Season 9, the Jimmy Alapag-mentored squad stumbled towards the end of the 10-nation joust as it dealt with an assortment of challenges and adversities.

The Slump

Alab Pilipinas opened up its campaign in the current ABL season in the most ideal way – a 17-4 record highlighted by a clean 12-0 slate at home. League observers had Alab Pilipinas penciled as a potential finalist as early as the middle part of the preliminaries.

However, the reigning ABL titlists hobbled to the finish line of the eliminations, losing their last four matches including an 88-74 defeat at home to the Formosa Dreamers. With an 18-8 record, Alab Pilipinas even relinquished the top spot in the team standings to the Dreamers, who finished with a 19-7 card.

Then came the two playoff game losses at the hands of the Lions that sealed the fate of the deposed champions.

The injuries

Alab Pilipinas’ last victory in the tournament turned out to be resident big man Lawrence Domingo’s final game in uniform. In Alab Pilipinas’ 101-96 home win against the Macau Black Bears last March 8, the 6-foot-4 forward went 5-of-5 from the field to tally 11 points. Domingo, however, failed to suit up for their remaining games due to a knee injury.

During the aforementioned four-game slump, Alab Pilipinas world import Renaldo Balkman sat out of three contests due to surgery on his broken nose. Even Parks, the two-time league MVP, missed games in January for a groin injury.

The third world import

At the start of the season, the ABL allowed teams to enlist three foreign imports instead of just two. Almost all teams took advantage of the rule change, except for one.

Alab Pilipinas, the reigning titleholders, stuck with Balkman and fellow Puerto Rican Peter John Ramos as their reinforcements. Despite the clamor from fans, the second tour of duty for Justin Brownlee – a well-loved import who paired up with Balkman for Alab Pilipinas last season – never materialized. The former PBA Best Import awardee signed up last March with Al Riyadi, a powerhouse squad in the Lebanese Basketball League.

Photo credit: ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Facebook page

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Areas for improvement for Kai Sotto

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

Despite the accolades and his early impact to Philippine basketball, Kai Sotto and the rest of the Sotto family admits that the 7-foot-2 wunderkind is still a work in progress.

After weeks of speculation, the basketball prodigy has finally decided to go overseas for training. The reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player has opted to forego his remaining years with the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eaglets to focus on improving his game in the United States and possibly in Europe.

READ — Kai Sotto to leave Philippines, train overseas to chase NBA dream

With the dream of someday making it to the National Basketball Association, Sotto plans to spend the next two to three years abroad to further develop his basketball skills honed through his stints with Ateneo and the Batang Gilas youth program. The 16-year-old center also expressed his commitment to the national team in future international tournaments, in parallel to his basketball journey outside of the country.

What individual skills or facets to his evolving game should Sotto focus on? FOX Sports Philippines has these to suggest to the young big man:

Footwork

Despite his frame, Sotto has to be light on his toes especially on the post. Against constant double-teaming defenses, the drop step and the pirouette are some of the vital big man moves that Sotto has to learn. Sotto could somehow take notes from five-time PBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) awardee June Mar Fajardo, or NBA stars Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo – a bunch of big men who could move their feet well on the low block and even in transition.

Perimeter shooting

Power forwards and centers nowadays, notably in the European leagues, have expanded their offensive arsenals. Limited in the past to dunks, layups, hook shots and putbacks, today’s new breed of big men have added the jump shot from midrange and even from the three-point line to their game. With most national teams utilizing various forms of the zone defense, the three-point shot has become its proven “kryptonite”. Future Gilas Pilipinas rosters would surely benefit on having a sweet-shooting Sotto in the fold.

Passing

As previously mentioned, Sotto at the post would face countless double-teams — even triple-teams. Pesky defenders would earnestly try to pluck away the leather from Sotto’s grasp once he maintains its possession. Instead of forcing the issue, Sotto has to recognize these situations where kickout passes to open teammates are the best options.

Defense

It’s not that Sotto cannot protect the shaded lane. In the UAAP, referees would often retrieve the basketball from the stands with Sotto swatting away short stabs and floaters thrown by the opposition. However, there are some players who know how to outsmart tall defenders like Sotto. Shot fakes and contact while leaning in are some of the tricks utilized by smaller offensive players against bigger opponents. Sotto has to learn how to counter these ploys, especially from players driving through the lane.

Physique

With the game of basketball getting more and more physical, Sotto has no other choice but to bulk up. Sotto is expected to rough it up against his foreign counterparts down low and a lanky body frame wouldn’t be of much help. Aside from the basketball court, the weight room should be a constant hangout for Sotto for him to build up more muscle.

RELATED — Kai reaches for the sky

RELATED — Where should Kai go? A closer look at the European clubs interested in Sotto

(Images from FIBA)

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International exposure, not height, lacking for PH youth teams, says Baldwin

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

The Batang Gilas program, now enforced with tall, athletic prospects, needs a few more elements for it to fully succeed.

Participation in tournaments overseas and guidance from foreign coaches should be on the priority list of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), according to former national team mentor Tab Baldwin.

The current Ateneo De Manila Blue Eaglets head coach gave his impression on the current state of the country’s youth program in the Radio5 92.3 radio show “Power & Play”, hosted by former PBA commissioner Noli Eala, last Saturday.

With the rise of prodigious talents like AJ Edu and the US-bound Kai Sotto, ceiling wouldn’t be much of an issue for the Batang Gilas pool.

“We have some exciting prospects in our junior program right now. We’ve got some unprecedented size for the Philippines with Kai Sotto and AJ Edu. We’ve got some really talented players like Jeron Artest and Dave Ildefonso. So, we’ve got guys who I think can compete legitimately in the international stage and we don’t have any excuses talking about size,” Tabwin said.

In the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship held in Nonthaburi, Thailand, tasked to man the shaded lane were Edu, Sotto, Geo Chiu, and Raven Cortez – a relatively tall Batang Gilas frontline with an average height of 6-foot-9 ¾.  Despite having guards standing below 6-foot-1, their skills alone would be enough to match-up with taller opposition from other countries, explained Baldwin.

“We’re going to have some smaller guards but as long as they’re talented and quick and tough, which they should be able to be, then I don’t think we have to feel like we have to take a backseat to anybody,” said Baldwin, who was at the helm of the men’s basketball program from 2014 to 2016. In February, Balwin’s name floated as the top choice as head for the youth basketball program.

With a sizeable pool of talent, next up for Batang Gilas – if Baldwin had it his way – should be stints in tournaments abroad, as well as training under coaches and experts from other countries.

“We have to do a lot of work toughening up and getting some experience for the international game because I still think that’s our biggest weakness here in the Philippines. I think we’re still far to insular. We think our game here, our league here are the ‘be all and end all’ and yet we love what’s going on outside. Well if we love it so much then why aren’t we bringing in more coaches and more experts to teach us how it’s done on the outside,” Baldwin quipped.

“That’s where the great wealth and development of the game is. We have to broaden our horizon a lot,” he added.

In June, the Batang Gilas selection travels to Heraklion, Greece for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup. For just the second time in the tournament’s 40-year history, the Filipino youth squad joins 15 other nations vying for the World Cup crown.

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SBP backs Kai Sotto’s decision to go overseas

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

Kai Zachary Sotto has received the blessing of the country’s basketball federation as he ventures to training abroad.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), thru its president Al Panlilio, extended their support to the 16-year-old wunderkind who on Monday afternoon announced his decision to leave the country and chase his NBA dream thru full-time training in the next two to three years.

READ — Kai Sotto to leave Philippines, train overseas to chase NBA dream

After a fruitful campaign in the UAAP juniors division with the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eaglets and the Batang Gilas program, the 7-foot-2 Sotto elected to continue his promising basketball journey elsewhere, with the hopes of making it to the NBA as early as 2021.

The son of former PBA slotman Ervin Sotto guided the Blue Eaglets to the UAAP juniors title in the 2017-18 season, winning the Finals MVP plum in the process. The following year, Sotto and the Loyola-based Eaglets came short of a back-to-back, finishing first runner-up behind eventual champions Nazareth School of National University Bullpups.

In the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship held in Thailand, Sotto formed a formidable Batang Gilas frontcourt with AJ Edu, a 6-foot-8 Filipino-Nigerian prospect. The duo led the Philippine U18 squad to a fourth-place finish in the 16-nation joust which was won by Australia.

While in Ateneo, Sotto became a fixture in the National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) Finals – an annual tournament pitting the best high school programs in the country and abroad.

Though Sotto’s announcement thru Instagram made no mention on where his training would be, the statement issued by the SBP specified the United States as his destination.

 

RELATED — Where should Kai go? A closer look at the European clubs interested in Sotto

Tab Baldwin gives advice for World Cup-bound Gilas Pilipinas: ‘Good is not good enough’

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

Gilas Pilipinas rosters have been traditionally “good”, says coach Tab Baldwin. But for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup,  just being good may not suffice.

In the Radio5 92.3 radio show “Power & Play” hosted by former PBA commissioner Noli Eala last Saturday, the current Ateneo head coach said that it’s time for the national team to step it up a notch and try to be “great” this time around in their foray this August in the 18th edition of the World Cup hosted by China.

For the former Gilas mentor, the focus of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the national team coaching staff should be on selecting not just the best available talents since it would take more than just that to compete with 31 other nations gunning for the Naismith trophy.

“It isn’t about picking the best players. It’s about picking the best team – the team that can perform the best and prepare the best together. You can’t go over there and win this thing on talent. You’re not gonna go anywhere if you’ll try to win it on talent,” said Baldwin, who was on Chot Reyes’ coaching staff as a consultant in 2014 when the Philippine quintet competed in the 17th World Cup in Spain.

RELATED – Who is Remy Martin and how can he help Gilas Pillipinas?

Willie Marcial’s appointment as commissioner of the PBA in 2018 marked the end of a league policy that limited the number of players a team can loan to the national pool. It was virtually “open season” for current Gilas Pilipinas mentor Yeng Guiao during the formation of his rosters for the World Cup qualifiers and even during the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. Such was not the case during Baldwin’s tenure, where PBA teams would allow just one to two players to join the national team.

With that predicament addressed, next comes belief–a genuine one–and a pinch of other ingredients that would make this World Cup stint much fruitful for Gilas Pilipinas than its last one from five years ago, says Baldwin.

Tab Baldwin (Photo from FIBA)

“For those players, even though the mountain looks high, they have to go over there with the genuine belief–not an arrogant belief–that they can win. With genuine belief, good preparation, hardwork and commitment to one another, that great thing can happen,” shared Baldwin, who also had international coaching stints in New Zealand, Malaysia, Lebanon and Jordan.

“It’ll take greatness to beat these very, very, very strong basketball teams. You can’t go over there and just be yourself and be good, which Philippine teams can do anytime. We are good enough to be good, but we’re not always good enough to be great. And in this stage, this isn’t like FIBA Asia. In this stage, good is not good enough. You really have to set your mind on being something beyond which you are normally are,” he added.

The Philippines landed in Group D with elite European teams Serbia and Italy, and African powerhouse Angola. For Baldwin, height will definitely be an issue for the Gilas frontline when matched against Serbian behemoths Nikola Jokic, Miroslav Raduljica, Stefan Bircevic and Boban Marjanovic, or Italian center Andrea Bargnani.

RELATED – FIBA World Cup: What has to work for Gilas Pilipinas in Group D?

“The reality in the world of basketball today is that big men aren’t playing like big men. Serbia will have some bigs who play in the perimeter. It’s the big guys down inside that are going to do some of the dirty work that teams like Serbia and Italy have. That’s where June Mar (Fajardo) and Andray (Blatche) would have to really do the dirty work down around the basket,” Baldwin explained.

The 60-year old mentor was very particular on how Blatche, Gilas Pilipinas’ naturalized big man, would have to adapt and vary his game against their three preliminary round opponents. Blatche’s propensity on hanging around the perimeter may have to take the back seat against the Serbian and Italian squads.

“Andray likes to play outside a lot. But on defense, he should not have that luxury. He’s gonna have to go down inside and be prepared to be a 280, 290-pound muscleman down inside and help June Mar do that job down there,” Baldwin noted.

“But against Angola, we can go with the smaller, more active lineup and we should be able to be successful if we get things right,” he added.

RELATED – Chot Reyes likes Gilas Pilipinas’ chances vs. Angola, Italy, but says intensive build-up crucial

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Who is Remy Martin and how can he help Gilas Pillipinas?

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

He was named to the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup pool as early as 2018 by former national team head coach Chot Reyes.

He has piqued even the curiosity of coach Yeng Guiao for a possible inclusion in the current Gilas Pilipinas roster.

Some observers have dubbed him as the second coming of Stanley Pringle – a dual threat point guard that can fill up the stat line with points and assists.

But who is this kid, Remy Martin? Will he really be able to suit up for the Philippines’ senior men’s team?

Claim to fame

Born on June 16, 1998, Martin plays point guard for the Arizona State University (ASU), an NCAA Division I school competing in the Pac-12 Conference. The 6-foot court general, currently in his sophomore year, has certainly increased his level of play for the Sun Devils.

From 9.6 points per contest in the 2017-18 season, Martin has improved his scoring to 13.0 after just a year. Under the tutelage of Duke University legend and current ASU coach Bobby Hurley, Martin’s assist count has also increased – from 2.9 to 5.1 this season.

Last February 1, Martin dished out a career game to lead the Sun Devils to a 95-88 overtime victory over the Arizona Wildcats. The wily playmaker scored eight of his career-high 31 points in the extra period to help his team clobber their crosstown rivals.

Fit for Gilas Pilipinas?

Recognizing his roots, Martin has signified his intentions of someday donning the Pilipinas jersey. The youngest of three children of Mary Ann Macaspac and Sam Martin has yet to set foot on Philippine soil, but the bond with his Filipino relatives remain strong.

If Gilas Pilipinas is on the lookout for a guard that can distribute the leather and score buckets, Martin might just be the man for the job. Holding a dual citizenship and a desire to represent the Philippines, this second year ASU guard may share the floor someday with the other national team prospects.

RELATED — Gilas Pilipinas 2023: Meet the top prospects playing in the USA

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Down memory lane: Gilas Pilipinas’ stint in the 2014 FIBA World Cup

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

Five magical nights, five memorable games in one of basketball’s biggest stage.

After a 36-year absence, the Philippine men’s national basketball team (Gilas Pilipinas) made its return to the FIBA World Championship – rechristened as the FIBA Basketball World Cup – in 2014. The 17th edition of basketball’s world championship made its way to Spain with 24 teams battling it out for the prized Naismith trophy.

Qualifying through a silver medal finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, Gilas Pilipinas booked a ticket to Spain for the World Cup – the country’s first appearance since the1978 edition coincidentally held in Manila.

And in less than five months, the Philippine quintet plunges back to action in the 18th staging of the World Cup, with China tabbed as its host from August 31 to September 15. After a grueling qualification process which ran from November 2017 to February 2019, Gilas Pilipinas earned the right to represent Asia and Oceania – alongside seven other nations – in the 32-team World Cup.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines looks back at the campaign of the Nationals in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup:

August 30 – Croatia 81, Philippines 78 in overtime

The draw had the Philippines placed in Group B with Croatia, Greece, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Senegal. Games were held inside the Palacio Municipal De Deportes San Pablo in the city of Seville.

In the Group B opener, Gilas Pilipinas went to war against the Croatians in a match that went to overtime. Climbing back from an early 15-point deficit, the Chot Reyes-mentored squad even took over the lead in the fourth quarter to nearly shock the favored European side. Jeff Chan had a chance to win the game in regulation, but the “Negros Sniper” flubbed his three-point attempt at the buzzer. In the overtime period, Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down key free throws to lead the Kockasti to a narrow three-point win.

Bogdanovic paced Croatia with 26 points. Krunoslav Simon and Dario Saric added 12 and 10 markers, respectively. Andray Blatche, tapped as the Philippines’ naturalized player replacing Marcus Douthit, poured in game-high 28 points along with 12 rebounds. Chan contributed 17 markers on 4-of-6 (66%) shooting from beyond the arc, while Marc Pingris chipped in 10.

August 31 – Greece 82, Philippines 70

The European giants scored a wire-to-wire victory over the Philippines in the second day of the group stages. Behind Georgios Printezis, Giannis Bourousis and Nick Calathes, Greece never relinquished the lead to the Filipinos, who fell to their worst defeat of the 17th World Cup.

Printezis led Hellas with 25 markers, while Bourosis finished with a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double. Blatche was the lone bright spot for Gilas Pilipinas, tallying 21 points and 14 boards.

September 1 – Argentina 85, Philippines 81

Gabe Norwood produced the biggest highlights for Gilas Pilipinas in this World Cup against Latin American powerhouse Argentina. The national team mainstay placed both Luis Scola and Marcos Mata on posters with a pair of highlight reel-worthy dunks.

After a fiery start by the Philippines, who led by as much as 10 points in the first quarter, the Argentinians flexed their muscles in the middle quarters to take control of the ballgame. Behind by 15 in the third frame, Gilas Pilipinas came to within one point in the final quarter behind the three-point shooting prowess of team captain Jimmy Alapag.

Down by two in the final 12 seconds, the Philippines bungled its chance to either tie or take the lead due to a traveling violation called on Jayson Castro, enabling Argentina to escape with the four-point win.
Scola paced El Alma Argentina with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Mata chipped in 17 markers on 5-of-7 (71%) shooting from the three-point line.

Combining for nine of 13 three-pointers, Ranidel De Ocampo and Alapag led Gilas Pilipinas with 18 and 15 markers respectively.

September 3 – Puerto Rico 77, Philippines 73

Abandoned by their three-point shooting accuracy, Gilas Pilipinas suffered their fourth defeat in as many games against Puerto Rico. With Jeff Chan, Jayson Castro, Ranidel De Ocampo and Gabe Norwood going 0-for-13 from beyond the arc, the Filipinos limped out of contention from the tournament. Puerto Rican playmaker JJ Barea waxed hot all game long, finishing with game-high 30 points. Blatche paced Gilas with 25 points, while LA Tenorio added 18.

September 4 – Philippines 81, Senegal 79 in overtime

Refusing to go home empty-handed, Gilas Pilipinas went all-out in their penultimate game against the West African Lions. Turning to their defense, the Philippines limited Senegal to just five points in the second quarter. While the Senegalese side came back to life in the third and fourth periods, the Filipinos proved steadier in overtime to claim their only victory of the 2014 World Cup. Blatche and Alapag both finished with 18 points, while June Mar Fajardo posted 15 markers and nine rebounds in his best showing of the tournament. Mouhammad Faye led Senegal with 20 points.

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She’s got game! Lone female baller dazzles in local basketball group

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

Amongst a horde of about 50 players who took part in a casual basketball game one Saturday evening, one participant stood out.

Active on both ends of the floor, this player does all the requisites.

Defending the opposition. Fighting for the loose ball. Passing to an open teammate. Taking the open shot. Nothing fancy or unordinary.

Except maybe for just one small fact: this baller is the only female regular of Sneakerhunt PH (SHPH), a community that organizes two-hour scrimmages at prime basketball courts all over the metro.

Nicole De Los Reyes, a former varsity player for San Beda Alabang, troops the various playing venues of SHPH for her weekly dose of pick-up basketball games. Invited by a friend to join one Sunday schedule, Nicole has become a fixture and a welcome sight in SHPH.

“Niyaya lang ako one time. Naghahanap ako ng pick-up game. Niyaya ako ng friend ko na maglaro dito sa SHPH. Sa Gatorade Hoops Center yung una kong game kasama sila,” said Nicole, who played shooting guard for the San Beda Red Lionesses in the WNCAA.

A self-confessed Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry fan, Nicole is unmindful of the physicality matching up against men on the hardcourt. Her formative years as a female basketball player were, in fact, spent playing with and against male counterparts.

“Simula nung bata pa ako, usually talaga boys kalaro ko. Nasanay ako na sila kalaban ko. Nung nag-college ako, dun lang ako may nakalaro na girls,” shared Nicole.

“Sanay ako (sa physicality). Mas gusto ko yun kasi mas nacha-challenge ako sa kanila,” she added.

One thing that impresses Nicole with the community are the playing venues where the weekly games are held. Spread through six days, SHPH has nighttime slots reserved at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong, Ronac Art Center in San Juan and the Playdium Arena in Quezon City.

“Lahat ng playing courts, ang gaganda kaya ginaganahan din akong maglaro. Lalo na sabi nila sa Playdium, pero di ko pa na-try,” Nicole quipped.

Same with other avid basketball players, Nicole found it difficult in the past looking for schedules in playing venues normally booked by recreational and corporate leagues on the long term. In SHPH, she stumbled upon a group that has locked up slots in top-notch courts in the metropolis which also serve as practice venues for various PBA teams.

“Ngayon lang ako nakakita ng regular na almost everyday (ang laro), one day off lang. Nagulat ako, first time ako naka-experience ng ganito. Since ako, gustung-gusto ko na may laro ako everyday,” Nicole remarked.

“Nagulat ako sa SHPH, everyday sila halos meron. Hindi ka na magtatanong kung makakabuo ba or what. Automatic kahit mag-isa ka, makakalaro ka dito sa SHPH,” she added.

SHPH also has an active social media presence through its official Facebook page, wherein schedules and photos are posted. Even video highlights are prepared and uploaded by the group’s founder, Joseph Aldea.

For Nicole, the SHPH community extends a big boost to local hoops especially for the weekend warriors and recreational basketball enthusiasts.

“Maganda yung ginagawa nila lalo na para sa mga individual na ballers na hindi makakuha ng pick-up games like anytime, anywhere. At least dito kahit wala kang mayaya or wala kang kasama, makakalaro ka kasama sila,” said Nicole.

RELATED: Need your regular fix of pick-up basketball? This group organizes games 6 times a week

 

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NOSTALGIA: San Miguel, Ginebra blitz respective foes in PBA Legends games

‘The series don’t start till you win on the road’ – Lillard on Blazers 2-0 lead against Oklahoma

Hardcore fans of eighties and nineties basketball were in for a Sunday treat.

Legendary players from PBA teams San Miguel, Alaska, Ginebra and Purefoods took the court for a worthy cause in UNTV’s “Return of the Rivals” held at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.

A pair of exhibition matches held inside the fabled Cubao sporting venue pitted the Beermen against the Milkmen in the curtain-raiser, while the protagonists of the “Manila Clasico” clashed in the main game. The project aimed to raise funds for the PBA Legends Foundation Incorporated, an organization that looks after the welfare of retired professional basketball players in dire straits.

The San Miguel Beermen, behind Allan Caidic, Denok Miranda, Danny Ildefonso and Dondon Hontiveros, unloaded the greater part of their offensive firepower in the second half to claim a 96-83 win over Alaska in the opener. Down by eight points at the half, the Beermen outgunned the Milkmen 64-43 in the third and fourth quarters en route to a masterful victory.

Ildefonso and Hontiveros closed out the third with a pair of two-pointers to complete a rally from ten points down, giving the Beermen a 62-59 advantage heading into the payoff period.

Then in the fourth quarter, “The Triggerman” caught fire and decided to empty the barrel.

After a game-tying three-pointer by Willie Miller at the 6:06 mark of the said period, the Beermen retaliated with a 13-1 run that took the fight out of the Milkmen. With 2:04 remaining in the ballgame, the 1990 PBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) sank a back-breaking triple in transition– his fourth of the quarter – which gave the Beermen a 91-79 headway.

Caidic was adjudged as the Best Player of the Game behind his 26-point performance, spiked by six three-pointers out of 14 attempts. Miranda, the youngest participant amongst the two clubs, tallied 17 points, four rebounds and four assists. Ildefonso and Hontiveros chipped in 14 and 11 markers respectively.

Miller, a two-time PBA MVP, paced Alaska with 20 points on 7-of-18 (38%) shooting from the field. Johnny Abarrientos, the 1996 MVP, finished with a double-double showing consisting of 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Legendary coach Pilo Pumaren manned the sidelines for San Miguel along with Jong Uichico, who served as his deputy. Alaska tapped Joel Banal as its head coach for the contest, while Aric Del Rosario filled in as his assistant.

In the nightcap, Barangay Ginebra proved steady in the second half to annex a 97-89 decision over Purefoods.

With the game tied at 38 at the half, Vince Hizon and Noli Locsin spearheaded a Ginebra uprising in the third quarter, in which they outscored Purefoods 39-28. “The Prince” dropped three three-point bombs in the said frame while “The Tank” operated on the inside to give the league favorites a much-needed separation from their rivals.

In the final frame, Roger Yap and Tony Boy Espinosa willed Purefoods to a last-ditch rally, only to be foiled by the timely hits of Jayjay Helterbrand, Marlou Aquino and Bal David.

Helterbrand, the 2009 MVP, capped off the night with a triple-double made up of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Hizon, who shot 4-of-9 (44%) from beyond the arc, contributed 19 markers along with nine boards. The troika of Locsin, Aquino and David combined for 41 points.

Helterbrand and Hizon later shared Player of the Game honors.

Yap topscored for Purefoods with game-high 27 points, while Espinosa and Paul Artadi chipped in 14 markers apiece.

PBA Hall of Famers Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez rekindled their history in this one-off match, returning at the helm for Ginebra and Purefoods respectively. Jaworski enlisted Philip Cesar and his son Dodot as assistant coaches, while Ed Cordero served as second-in-command for Fernandez.

The winning teams brought home the prize money worth 100,000 pesos. The players of the game were rewarded with 25,000 pesos along with other prizes.

The scores:

FIRST GAME

San Miguel (96) – Caidic 26, Miranda 17, Ildefonso 14, Hontiveros 11, Belasco 7, Alvarez 6, Racela 5, Agustin 4, Calaguio 3, Gamboa 2, Paras 1, Reyes 0, Asaytono 0, Teng 0, Abuda 0

Alaska (83) – Miller 20, Abarrientos 11, Santos 9, Dela Cruz 8, Cariaso 7, Laure 6, Duremdes 5, Juinio 5, Lastimosa 4, Ferriols 4, Gomez 2, Hawkins 2, Sotto 0, Adornado 0

Quarters: 20-21, 32-40, 62-59, 96-83

SECOND GAME

Ginebra (97) – Helterbrand 21, Hizon 19, Aquino 15, Locsin 14, David 12, Feihl 7, Palad 4, Jarencio 4, Jose 1, Isaac 0, Gayoso 0, Loyzaga 0, Cheng 0, Distrito 0, Ong 0

Purefoods (89) – Yap 27, Artadi 14, Espinosa 14, Sta. Maria 7, Patrimonio 6, Codinera 6, Yee 5, Capacio 3, Marquez 3, Balingit 2, Solis 2, Ravena 0, Magsanoc 0, Pumaren 0, Naron 0

Quarters: 16-17, 38-38, 77-66, 97-89

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UFC 234: Robert Whittaker vs Kelvin Gastelum preview and predictions

UFC: Alistair Overeem interview ahead of Alexei Oleynik fight

From their days in The Ultimate Fighter, Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum have come a long way to reach the world stage.

On February 10 at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia, the former Ultimate Fighter tournament winners headline UFC 234 for the undisputed world middleweight championship. A native of Sydney, Australia but born in South Auckland, New Zealand, Whittaker defends his 185-pound world title against the fourth-ranked middleweight contender Gastelum.

Currently on a nine-fight winning streak, Whittaker owns a mixed martial arts record of 20 victories with four losses. Gastelum holds a 15-3 slate.

Whittaker made his way to the UFC by winning the welterweight tournament of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes in 2012. Gastelum, on the hand, emerged as victor amongst 13 other middleweight prospects in The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen which ran in 2013.

In 2018, both fighters were selected as coaches for the 28th installment of TUF, which featured male and female mixed martial artists from the heavyweight and featherweight divisions, respectively.

Fast forward to 2019, Whittaker and Gastelum find themselves on a collision course for UFC gold.

Whittaker: Back on track

Nicknamed “The Reaper”, Whittaker was elevated from interim to undisputed middleweight champion in December 2017, succeeding two-division titlist and future Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre.

Whittaker’s missed the first half of 2018 due to a staph infection, derailing his title run in the division which also crowned Rich Franklin, Anderson Silva and Michael Bisping among others as champions. In his return to the octagon in UFC 225, Whittaker eked out a split decision win over Cuban sensation Yoel Romero in an exhilarating non-title fight. It marked the second time that Whittaker showed his mastery over Romero, whom he defeated via unanimous decision in July 2017 for the interim world title.

Whittaker now aims for an injury-free campaign in the UFC in 2019, in possession of the middleweight hardware.

Gastelum: Ready for the big stage

Since his upset win over Uriah Hall in the finale of TUF 17, Gastelum has figured in 13 UFC matches. However, Gastelum’s run in the UFC has been riddled with controversies. Aside from weight issues, doping allegations have muddled the career of the 27-year old Gastelum. The San Jose, California-born mixed martial artist missed out on a clash with Anderson Silva on June 2017 for testing positive for Carboxy-THC – a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

After a submission loss on 2017 to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman, Gastelum rebounded with two big victories to earn a shot at Whittaker. The Kings MMA standout knocked out Bisping in the first round of their UFC Fight Night clash in November 2017. Six months after their bout held in in Shanghai, China, “The Count” announced his retirement from the sport due to an eye injury sustained during his scrap with Gastelum.

On May 2018, Gastelum faced jiu-jitsu black belt Jacaré Souza in the main supporting bout of UFC 224 in Souza’s home country of Brazil. In a back-and-forth fight, Gastelum escaped with a split decision victory over the submission expert.

Prediction

It wouldn’t be a walk in the park for the reigning champion. Gastelum has proven to be a tough puzzle to solve, even for the other middleweight title contenders. His chin will be put to the test against Whittaker’s powerful punches.

If the encounter goes the distance, the defending champion might get the upper hand. Whittaker has shown his ability to grind out victories from fights that go the full route.

One thing’s for sure: this title fight would be an exciting one, as both Whittaker and Gastelum have been awarded with Performance and Fight of the Night honors in the past.

(Photos: MMAfighting.com)

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Interim champion Reymart Gaballo makes short work of Japanese foe

Singapore boxer Muhammad Ashiq hunting WBC title in Bangkok

General Santos City may have produced another boxing gem.

Reigning World Boxing Association (WBA) interim bantamweight world champion Reymart Gaballo impressed local fight fans with a second round knockout of Yuya Nakamura in a 10-round non-title bout Saturday night at the Midas Hotel and Casino in Pasay.

The 22-year old Gaballo set the tone early with two knockdowns in the first round. A right straight by Gaballo deposited his Japanese foe to the canvas to score the first knockdown of the fight. A minute later, Nakamura saw himself down on the floor for the second time courtesy of a Gaballo left hook.

The Japanese fighter survived the round, but “The Assassin” made sure that their main event clash wouldn’t last much longer.

The Filipino champion chased his overmatched opponent all over the ring in the second stanza, looking for the finish. Forcing the Japanese to his own corner, Gaballo planted a left hook to Nakamura’s rib cage followed by another left to the jaw. Nakamura crumbles to canvas for the third time in the fight, prompting referee Virgilio Garcia to call for the stoppage at the 1:44 mark of the second round.

Gaballo improves his win-loss record to 21-0 with 18 knockouts, while Nakamura drops to 9-3.

In March 2018, Gaballo captured the interim world title with a unanimous decision victory over Stephon Young in a fight held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. On his radar is Japan’s Naoya Inoue, the WBA regular bantamweight world champion.

Born in Polomolok, South Cotabato, Gaballo fights out of General Santos City – a town that has been represented by a number of world boxing champions in the past such as Roland Navarrete, Nonito Donaire and eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao.

(Photo credit: Sanman Productions)

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