Alvarez, Melano steady down the stretch as Batangas halts Pasig’s win streak

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The moment Lester Alvarez’s triple in the last 11 seconds fell through the net, it was as if the mute button was pressed inside the raucous Pasig Sports Center.

With key baskets down the stretch from Alvarez and Jason Melano, the Batangas City Athletics silenced the Pasig Sta. Lucia Realtors and their legion of fans with a 67-62 win in their Friday night MPBL Lakan Season clash.

Batangas City, the Rajah Cup champions, climbed out of a 10-point hole in the third quarter and a 48-41 deficit at the start of the final period to shock Pasig and earn their fourth victory in the tournament out of seven games. The Realtors, on the other hand, saw their historic five-game winning run fizzle out at the hands of the visiting Athletics.

An 11-2 run capped off by a layup from Arvin Tolentino, gave the Tanduay-backed Athletics a 52-50 advantage with 6:35 left in the contest. Both teams traded baskets and lead from thereon with Pasig regaining the upper hand, 61-60, in the final 2:01 courtesy of a Jeric Serrano putback.

With the game down to its final 52 seconds, Melano took the lead back for Batangas City, 63-61, on a three-point play off a foul from Josan Nimes.

In the Realtors’ ensuing play, a reach-in foul whistled on Jayson Grimaldo would send Serrano to the charity stripe with a chance to force another deadlock. Serrano though would split his freebies, allowing Batangas to retain ball possession with 36 ticks remaining in the match.

With the shot clock winding down, Alvarez knocked down a cold-blooded game-clinching triple which pushed Batangas City ahead 66-62.

In just his third game of the season, Alvarez poured in 12 points along with 4 assists for the Athletics. Grimaldo tallied a double-double consisting of 12 points and 15 rebounds, plus 4 blocks.

Jeric Teng also posted a double-double made up 19 points and 12 rebounds while knocking down five of his 13 three-point attempts. Nimes chipped in 18 markers and seven boards.

Pasig spitfire Robbie Manalang was held to a season-low five points – missing eight of his nine triples – all thanks to the leech-like defense of Genmar Bragais.

The Bong Dela Cruz-mentored Realtors absorbed their third loss in nine contests.

Batangas City made full advantage of their height and heft, scoring 44 inside points compared to just 20 by Pasig. Bench scoring also went the way of the Goldwyn Monterverde-coached quintet, 39-23.


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Banner 27: San Miguel captures Commissioner’s Cup title with dominant Game 6 showing

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Two down, one to go.

The storied San Miguel franchise added another trinket to its cramped trophy case as the Beermen closed out the 2019 Honda-PBA Commissioner’s Cup with a dominant 102-90 victory over the TNT KaTropa in Game 6 of the Finals, Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The triumvirate of import Chris McCullough, reserve big man Christian Standhardinger and five-time season MVP June Mar Fajardo towed San Miguel to their fourth Commissioner’s Cup title – their 27th overall in the league.

The Beermen never looked back after establishing a 19-point lead, 63-44, at the 5:47 mark of the third quarter on a three-pointer by Chris Ross. In the final period, TNT came to within nine with 11:37 remaining on a dunk by Terrence Jones.

McCullough, a former NBA standout, notched another double-double consisting of 35 points and 13 rebounds, along with four blocks. Fajardo also tallied a double-double performance of 19 markers and 13 boards. In his best game of the best-of-seven series, Standhardinger dished out 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, earning himself his second consecutive championship in the pro ranks.

Terrence Romeo was hailed as the Finals Most Valuable Player, capping off his impressive six-game run with 10 points and seven assists.

With a triumphant return to the throne of the midseason conference, the Leo Austria-mentored squad – the five-time defending Philippine Cup champions – remains on course for a second PBA grand slam, a possible sixth in league history.

Jones, the best import awardee, came away with a game-high 41 points, along with 12 rebounds, in his tournament swan song for the KaTropa. Jayson Castro tallied 16 points, while RR Pogoy chipped in 13.



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Zamboanga rips Parañaque as Roño, Vizcarra figure in near endgame scuffle

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WITH Reed Juntilla rediscovering his form, Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines came away with a 74-65 triumph over the Parañaque Patriots Friday night in another MPBL Lakan Season showpiece at the Pasig Sports Center.

After scoring just two points in their August 7 outing against the SOCCSKSARGEN Marlins, Juntilla dropped 20 markers for the Universal Canning Inc.-backed quintet, which notched its sixth victory in 10 games of this tournament put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.

Ahead by just seven at the end of the third, Zamboanga increased its  lead to 11, 61-50, courtesy of two free throws from Raphy Reyes at the final 8:19 mark. From thereon, the boys of coach Bai Cristobal controlled the tempo of the ballgame to keep the Yabo Sports-backed Patriots at bay.

A Jemal Vizcarra twinner with 47 ticks remaining drew Parañaque to within seven, 72-65, but in the ensuing possession, Juntilla closed out the show with a fadea way jumper to push Zamboanga on safer grounds.

As the game was drawing to a close, a commotion right in front of the Zamboanga bench erupted as a fuming Vizcarra charged into Robin Roño, his former Parañaque teammate.

The Patriots team captain had to be restrained by teammates and MPBL security to prevent the fracas. A technical foul was assessed on Roño for unsportsmanlike behavior, as well as on Patriots team owner Joan Villafuerte who entered the floor during the Roño-Vizcarra confrontation.

The former National University point guard was eventually thrown out of the contest for incurring a second technical.

Backstopping Juntilla was Ryan Costelo, who tallied 12 points and six assists.

Jayboy Solis registered 18 points and six rebounds for Parañaque, who saw their win-loss record drop to 3-7.

Don Trollano, an early favorite for the MIP plum?

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If there’s ever a shortlist of candidates for the “Most Improved Player” of the season award, expect the name “Celedonio Trollano” to be on it.

The fifth-year swingman out of Adamson University has been enjoying his best PBA conference thus far with the TNT KaTropa, currently in a tussle with the San Miguel Beermen for the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup championship.

ALSO READ — What went wrong for TNT in Game 5?

Plucked out from Rain or Shine in March 2018 in a trade that involved Norbert Torres, Trollano has flourished in his role for TNT in the ongoing best-of-seven finals series – surprising league observers that have followed the career of the Gigmoto, Catanduanes native since his collegiate years.

During his UAAP stint with the Soaring Falcons, the 6-foot-3 small forward was known more for his gunslinging ways from the perimeter. In UAAP Season 76, the lanky long ball specialist registered a 30.2% clip from the three-point region. The following year — despite a dip in his three-point shooting percentage, Trollano’s offensive production increased from 7.4 to 15.8 points per contest. Season 77, though, was a forgettable one for the then-graduating Trollano and the rest of the San Marcelino-based squad, as the team only managed to win just one of their 14 elimination round games.

After an impressive stint in the PBA Developmental League, Trollano eventually made his way to the pro ranks in 2015. The Elasto Painters tabbed Trollano as the 15th overall pick in a talent-laden Rookie Class, headlined by Moala Tautuaa, Jeth Troy Rosario, Maverick Ahanmisi, Chris Newsome and Scottie Thompson.

Fast forward to 2019, Trollano seemed to have reinvented himself with the KaTropa, which features a platoon of wing players made up of RR Pogoy, Ryan Reyes and Anthony Semerad.

From being just an outside threat, the 27-year-old former national team reserve has expanded his repertoire to other facets of the game. Aside from the occasional triple, Trollano had made his presence felt in the Finals with his rebounding, defense and all-around hustle.

Trollano would track down loose balls out of nowhere and score on putbacks against a taller San Miguel frontline led by June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos and their import Chris McCullough. Over at the defensive end, Trollano made it a point to stay in front of San Miguel’s perimeter players, forcing them out of their comfort zones.

In the current conference, Trollano is averaging a career-best 9.45 points and 5.82 rebounds per match, eclipsing his numbers from his first four PBA seasons.

Regardless of the outcome of the midseason conference for TNT and if he sustains his fine form until the Governors’ Cup, Trollano could easily be one of the top picks for the MIP citation.

(Images from PBA)


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Zamboanga-based squad SCC Aviation experiences Manila’s brand of hoops

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About 1,334 kilometers from home, the Southern City Colleges (SCC) School of Aviation tasted what basketball in the metropolis is all about.

The SCC basketball squad traveled to Manila to battle a team assembled by Sneakerhunt PH (SHPH), in a series of goodwill games last July 26 to 28 at the Playdium Arena, Ronac Art Center and at the Gatorade Hoops Center.

SHPH, the local basketball community that organizes nightly pickup games in various Metro Manila venues, recently hosted the Zamboangueños in two of their impressive home floors. Team SCC was in town to train for their upcoming leagues back home with the help of the roster formed by SHPH head Joseph Aldea.


SCC team owner Orlando “Butch” Caliolio Jr. gave a glimpse on the brand of basketball played in their province.

“The leagues in Zamboanga City are quite competitive given the fact almost all types of divisions are also available in Zamboanga. The number of games are varied by the number of teams and the format used for the tournaments,” shared Caliolio, whose family founded the institution in 1946.


“As an institution have always set our sights on what lies on the horizon way beyond our shores, our thrust to learn new things and innovate and to put into practice what we acquire is paramount. Coming to Manila gives us that privilege, while at the same time allows us to offer our services as a business entity in the industry of Aviation and Education. Basketball is a language that allows us to communicate with the diverse offerings of Manila,” he added.

The partnership between SCC and SHPH was forged through common friends of Caliolio and Aldea, and for their love for the sport. Aldea pitted the community’s selection, named as the “SHPH Bad Boys”, against Team SCC in action-packed tune-up games.

“I hooked up with SHPH and Mr. Joseph Aldea thru an invitation of a friend and common friends. SHPH and SCC Aviation have very similar values and it is a partnership that is continually developing and growing.”

SCC was recently involved in the June 29 staging of a PBA On-the-Road game between the Meralco Bolts and the Magnolia Hotshots. Dubbed “Kebrahan na Zamboanga”, hometown pride Mark Barroca dazzled inside the Mayor Vitaliano D. Agan Coliseum to lead the Hotshots to a 99-88 victory over the Bolts.

Their recent visit to Manila served as an eye-opener for the Zamboanga-based quintet, as they shared the hardwood floor against the SHPH players who are coming off diverse backgrounds.

“Basketball is a global sport. The style of play in Mindanao, specifically in Zamboanga City, compared to that of Manila is differentiated not by the style of playing but rather by the diversity of players that Manila offers. I personally would sum up playing in Manila as ‘refreshing’. In Manila, you get to meet and compete with ballers from all walks of life, competition is fierce and the love of the game is evident each time you step onto a playing court,” shared Caliolio.


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Resilient Beermen survive KaTropa in gripping Game 2 showdown

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With their championship pedigree tested, the San Miguel Beermen carved out a 127-125 victory in double overtime over TNT KaTropa in Game 2 of the 2019 Honda-PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals, Wednesday night inside the Araneta Coliseum.

Forcing a 1-1 deadlock in the best-of-seven series, the Beermen banked on the heroics of Terrence Romeo, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot – the franchise’s vaunted guard trio – to frustrate TNT, who rallied from 17 points down only to falter in the extra session.

Dragged to deep waters, the San Miguel Beermen held on to avoid falling from a 0-2 series deficit against an inspired TNT side that ran away with a 109-96 win in Game 1.

The KaTropa were well on their way to a second-consecutive series triumph with 56 seconds left in regulation with a Don Trollano jumper which gave the Bong Ravena-mentored squad a 105-101 headway. Two free throws from Chris McCullough, 11 seconds later, drew the Beermen closer 105-103.

Off a foul from Romeo, Trollano would then split his two free throw attempts in the final 23 seconds of regulation, extending TNT’s lead to three, 106-103.

Coming off a timeout, Romeo knotted the score at 106 with a clutch three-pointer with 18 ticks remaining in the fourth.

In the first overtime frame, Jeth Troy Rosario broke a 111-111 standoff with a three-pointer, sending the KaTropa to the driver’s seat with 1:20 remaining. With his team ahead 114-112 in the last five seconds of the first overtime, Rosario, though, flubbed two free throws that would have iced the match for the KaTropa.

The Leo Austria-coached Beermen took advantage, as Ross collared the rebound, raced downcourt and lobbed a pass to Cabagnot who sprinted to the rim for the game-tying layup that forced a second overtime session.

In the second extension, the Beermen finally closed out the grueling contest.

Five-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo knocked down two free throws off a foul from Yousef Taha to push the Beermen ahead, 124-122, with 32 seconds left in the second overtime period.

The Beermen then forced TNT to a turnover in the ensuing possession, with Chris Ross picking off a Jayson Castro miscue for a layup that extended San Miguel’s lead to four with 17 ticks left.

Castro atoned for his turnover with a three-pointer in the final 11 seconds, cutting the deficit to one, 126-126.

A split from the charity stripe from McCullough, which gave the Beermen a flimsy two-point lead, gave TNT a glimmer of hope with 10 seconds remaining in the ballgame. In a tough defensive stand, the defending five-time Philippine Cup champions dodged two three-point attempts from Castro that went wayward, sealing the final count in favor of the Beermen.

McCullough led the way for the Beermen with a double-double performance, consisting of 32 points and 22 rebounds.

In his best game donning the San Miguel uniform, Romeo finished with a conference-high 29 points on 10-of-14 field goal shooting (71%). Ross tallied 25 markers, built around seven three-pointers out of 11 attempts, while Cabagnot chipped in 19.

Rosario paced TNT with 34 points, shooting 8-of-12 (66%) from beyond the arc, only to foul out with 1:15 left in the second overtime frame. Best Import of the Conference contender Terrence Jones, ejected in the final minute of the first overtime, scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for another double-double outing.

Game 3 is slated on Friday, August 9, also at the Big Dome.

The Scores:

San Miguel (127) — McCullough 32, Romeo 29, Ross 25, Cabagnot 19, Fajardo 12, Standhardinger 7, Pessumal 2, Santos 1, Rosser 0.

TNT (125) — Rosario 34, Jones 28, Castro 27, Pogoy 17, Trollano 14, Heruela 5, Washington 0, Taha 0.

Quarterscores: 32-25, 59-45, 84-77, 106-106, 114-114, 127-125.


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Breakthrough after breakthrough, Pasig keeps thriving under Sta. Lucia banner

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Buddy Encarnado couldn’t help but stay still and stare as fans spilled over the floor of the Pasig Sports Center.

Who can blame the amiable team manager and basketball lifer? His vision for Pasig’s MPBL ballclub is slowly coming to life, and at a much early phase in the tournament.

The city of Pasig hosted the MPBL Lakan Season for the fifth time inside the Pasig Sports Center Friday night, with the Sta. Lucia-backed Realtors testing the mettle of expansion squad SOCCSKSARGEN Marlins. Behind the exploits of Pasig’s “Big Three” of Jeric Teng, Josan Nimes, and Robbie Manalang, the Realtors outclassed the Marlins, 89-77, to clinch their fourth consecutive victory and fifth overall in the tournament.

Not bad for a team that won just four games last season. During the 2018-19 Datu Cup, the squad, then known as the Pasig Pirates, lost their first six matches and eventually ended the season with a 4-21 win-loss card.

Encarnado, best remembered for his tenure with the Sta. Lucia Realty basketball team in the PBA, was given just two weeks prior to the opening of the 2019-20 season to reorganize a Pasig squad for the MPBL.

With the Realtors’ current progress, most league observers believe that Encarnado still has that “magic touch”.

“It means so much to me. It proves na yung style ko, hindi pa passe. I’ve been in basketball for the past 36 years. I rely on my instinct and my eye on talent,” said Encarnado, who was once again tasked by Sta. Lucia chief Exie Robles to manage the real estate giant’s basketball team.

“This is beyond my expectation. Ang nasa ulo ko noon, decent fight. Ayoko lang na matambakan kami. But I think I did the right fine-tuning. Look at what they have been doing. They outdid themselves for a bunch of non-entities. Mga walang pangalan, except for Jeric Teng probably,” he added.

Joining Teng, Nimes and Manalang in the Realtors’ current roster is an interesting mix of talents coming from different backgrounds – and age groups. Collegiate standouts Argel Mendoza (EAC), Wilson Bartolome (UE), Jonathan Ballon (Adamson), Jeric Serrano (LPU), Jesper Bautista (Mapua) and Edcor Marata (LPU) signed up with the Bong Dela Cruz-mentored Realtors in the offseason. PBA veterans Nic Belasco and Francis Adriano also made their return to competitive hoops through the Realtors.

Also given roster spots were Pasig Catholic College (PCC) products Richard Velchez, Marc Tamayo, Lander Canon, Al Darwin Chavenia and Tristan Medina.

“Ang nakuha kong players, wala akong malaking tao. But in basketball, it’s not how big you are. But how big you play. That’s what I keep telling my player. Don’t look at yourselves as leftovers. I got you simply because I believe in you and look at what they have been doing,” beamed Encarnado.

“I have no stars and I kept telling them, ‘You can be the stars that we all look for. It’s just a question of you playing your best and we give you the support.’ But everything will be anchored on defense, hard work, perseverance and commitment to your passion of basketball.”

Next up for the rejigged Pasig quintet is a string of four games for the remainder of August. The Realtors test their newfound resolve against Parañaque (August 10), Batangas City (August 16), Quezon City (August 21) and Nueva Ecija (August 28).

Encarnado, though, is unperturbed with the task at hand for his Realtors. The schedule may be tough but with his team’s confidence on a high, Encarnado is optimistic that his boys can compete.

“I keep telling them, let’s have the confidence to fight. We fought Bacoor, one of the most talented teams. Up to the last minute, ang lamang lang sa amin three points. We’ve had several games already. You can just imagine the confidence level now of everybody. I keep telling them that the key to our success is finding the open man, trusting one another, believing the system, trusting your coach and trusting your management,” Encarnado quipped.


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Pasig stifles SOCCSKSARGEN to surpass Datu Cup win count

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Another big night for Pasig’s “Big Three”.

With the vaunted trio of Jeric Teng, Josan Nimes and Robbie Manalang leading at the forefront, the Pasig Sta. Lucia Realtors scored another victory at their home floor at the expense of the SOCCSKSARGEN Marlins, 89-77, in the Friday night main game of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Season.

With their fourth straight victory and fifth overall in seven games, Pasig – now under the sponsorship of real estate giant Sta. Lucia Land Inc. – has bested its four-win output in the 2018-19 Datu Cup. Last season, the squad – then known as the Pasig Pirates – recorded a tournament-worst 4-21 win-loss slate to finish at the bottom of the team standings.

The Realtors were on the driver’s seat for the entirety of the ballgame, with Teng setting the tone early for his squad. The former UST Growling Tiger unloaded 13 of his game-high 25 points in the first half, where Pasig led by as much as 22.

With their advantage trimmed to just 11 at the end of the third, Manalang kicked off the final frame with back-to-back triples to establish a 65-48 headway for the Bong Dela Cruz-mentored Realtors. With Jeric Serrano and Argel Mendoza joining the scoring fray, Pasig breezed through to the final buzzer, keeping the Biboy Simon-coached Marlins at bay and still winless in six starts.

Despite the heavy downpour that battered the metropolis, fans still came in droves to witness the Realtors’ record-setting night – much to the delight of team manager and Pasig resident Buddy Encarnado. The longtime Sta. Lucia team executive rallied his troops to dish out another fine performance for their home crowd that gathered inside the Pasig Sports Center.

“With this kind of crowd braving the storm, how can we not perform our best? They deserve the best and we cannot do anything less. Otherwise, I do not give justice to the people that have been staying late at night in this venue,” said Encarnado.

Nimes tallied an MPBL career-high 19 points, along with six rebounds and six assists. Manalang waxed hot from beyond the arc once more, draining four three-pointers in a 15-point, six-assist performance.

Pasig dominated the assists (22-7) and fast-break points (19-8) departments against the winless Marlins. Hurting SOCCSKSARGEN’s cause was their paltry free throw shooting percentage, as the Armor On-backed squad missed 13 of their 35 attempts from the stripe.

Raniel Jake Diwa paced the Marlins with a double-double, consisting of 24 markers and 11 boards.


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Short-handed Tamaraws prevail over Volcanoes

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CALL it coincidental luck, but those bright orange jerseys are working wonders for these gritty Tamaraws from Mindoro.

The Tamaraws found ways to win, this despite being orphaned by their head coach Justin Tan and top gun Mac Baracael, pulling off a  74-70 win over the Bicol Volcanoes in the MPBL Lakan Season Friday at the Pasig Sports Center.

Mindoro persevered to climb back from a 14-point first-half deficit – stemming from a woeful eight-point output in the second quarter – to clinch their third victory in seven games.

Tan, the Tamaraws’ youthful team owner, and head coach attended the wedding of a close friend — Magnolia Hotshots guard Jio Jalalon — which forced him to miss the game. Tasked to call the shots for the expansion squad were Bengie Teodoro and MC Abolucion.

Baracael, on the other hand, was relegated to the inactive list for undisclosed reasons.

The LCC Malls-backed Volcanoes, who were coming off a deflating loss at home last Saturday against Iloilo, absorbed its fourth loss in eight games.

Playing catch up for the first three quarters, the Tamaraws finally tasted the lead in the final 8:31, 53-52, on a layup by Rodel Vaygan.

Bicol retaliated behind Ronjay Buenafe, Hafer Mondragon and Chris Lalata, as they combined forces to push the Volcanoes within, 68-66 with 1:54 remaining in the ballgame.

In the ensuing play, Raffy Gusi knocked down a cold-blooded three to push the Monel Kallos-mentored Volcanoes ahead, 69-68. A split from the charity stripe from Lalata increased Bicol’s lead to two, with 1:07 left in the game clock.

But another unheralded player would step up for the  Tamaraws – Joseph Brutas, who delivered the go-ahead triple off a Vaygan feed, allowing Mindoro to regain the lead, 71-70, with 58 ticks to go.

The Tamaraws dodged a bullet in their next offensive possession as an errant pass from Sandy Ceñal – telegraphed by Lalata – gave Bicol another stab at the basket. With 18 seconds to go, Vaygan’s fifth personal foul sent Buenafe to the free-throw line for a chance to give his squad the lead.

The normally steady Buenafe, Bicol’s top player, muffed two crucial charities. Mondragon was able to pull down the offensive rebound and Buenafe had a chance to redeem himself but missed a potential game-winning trey.

Nicol Bolos hit the next three of four shots from the foul line for the final tally.

“Yung first half, nanibago kami kasi wala yung beterano namin na si Mac Baracael. Lagi kaming nakasandal sa kanya,” said Teodoro.

“Lumabas sa second half yung sipag at puso nilang maglaro. Kaya napakalaking panalo para sa amin ito. Hopefully magtuluy-tuloy na. Yung kumpyansa nila, I think na-boost dahil sa panalong ito,” he added.

Brutas paced Mindoro with 14 points, spiked by three three-pointers. Vaygan contributed 13 markers and three rebounds.

Leading the way for Bicol was Buenafe, who had a double-double performance of 15 points and 13 assists. Lalata, the only other double-digit scorer for the Volcanoes, chipped in 13.


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Pasig thwarts Bacolod to match win output in Datu Cup

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Feats just keep falling the way for this rejuvenated Pasig ballclub.

The Pasig Sta. Lucia Realtors maintained their hot streak in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Season with an 87-68 triumph over the visiting Bacolod Master Sardines, Thursday night inside the Pasig Sports Center.

With just six games into the tournament, the Exie Robles-owned franchise equaled the number of wins tallied by their predecessor – the Pasig Pirates – in the 2018-19 Datu Cup. During that inaugural MPBL season, Pasig logged a woeful 4-21 win-loss card to finish at the bottom of the team standings.

Three days after sealing back-to-back wins for the first time in their team history, the Bong Dela Cruz-mentored Realtors claimed another achievement in front of a sellout pro-Pasig crowd. The triumvirate of Robbie Manalang, Jeric Teng, and Josan Nimes carried the Realtors to their third-consecutive home win against a pesky Bacolod side.

The Realtors broke loose as early as the second quarter, right after a disqualifying foul called on Jerome Ortega on a driving Teng at the 4:54 mark. Pasig’s six-point lead ballooned to 11, 50-39, by the end of the first half, with their “Big Three” and veteran Kiko Adriano knocking down key baskets.

Pasig’s lead went as high as 24 in the final two minutes of the match, with Argel Mendoza scoring on a layup.

For Pasig team manager Buddy Encarnado, the goal remains the same for his “overachieving” squad: to restore the pride of Pasig in local competitive hoops.

“I’m not after matching anything. I’m just too happy with my team,” said an ecstatic Encarnado post-game.


“I was able to build this team two-and-a-half weeks prior to the opening. Now, I was able to give back the pride of Pasig to the Pasigueños. Look at the crowd. It’s almost 12 AM, pero ang dami pa ring tao,” the amiable team executive added.

Manalang finished with a game-high of 20 points, while Teng and Nimes added 16 markers apiece.

JP Cauilan led Bacolod with 14 points, while Pao Javelona contributed 13. The Vic Ycasiano-mentored expansion squad saw their win-loss record dip to 2-5 after absorbing their third-straight defeat of the season.


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‘Ant-Man’ the bigger hero as Pampanga blitzes Biñan

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The Pampanga Giant Lanterns foiled a spirited rally by the Biñan City Laguna Heroes in the payoff period to notch a 96-86 victory in their Thursday night Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Season clash inside the Pasig Sports Center.

Mark Cruz led at the forefront for the Giant Lanterns, scorching all game long with 31 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field. The diminutive but gutsy playmaker also added eight rebounds and six assists across his name, guiding Pampanga to its fourth victory of the tournament in seven contests.

The ADG Construction-backed squad almost squandered a 20-point second-quarter lead as Biñan fought back behind Macky Acosta, Kyle Neypes and Paolo Pontejos. With 2:19 left in the ballgame, Pontejos knocked down a corner three with a foul to boot off Felix Apreku. Pontejos’ four-point play trimmed Pampanga’s deficit to just five, 84-79.

The Giant Lanterns would then respond with well-time hits and charities from Cruz, Travis Thompson and Michael Juico to seal the verdict.

“The problem is nag-relax eh, porke malaki yung lamang namin. Good thing nag-step-up yung veterans ko. Dumepensa pa rin sila. Depensa naman talaga yung pini-preach ko sa kanila,” said a relieved Bong Ramos post-game as the Giant Lanterns’ head coach lamented his team’s tendency to lose focus during big leads.

“Roller-coaster ride ito. The good thing there is we are bouncing back. Mahaba pa yan, 23 games pa kami,” the seasoned mentor added.

Juico turned in a double-double performance consisting 13 points and 10 rebounds while Apreku chipped in 10 markers.

Acosta and Neypes scored 21 and 16 points, respectively for Biñan, which lost for the fifth time in eight games this tournament.


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Zamboanga stretches win streak to three as Rizal continues tailspin

Shaquille O’Neal goes wild in mosh pit at Tomorrowland

Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines continued its winning run in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Season, outclassing the Rizal Golden Coolers, 95-76, in the opening game of the Thursday triple-header inside the Pasig Sports Center.

The Universal Canning-owned franchise led from start to finish to clinch their fourth victory in seven games while sending their opponents reeling to their fourth-straight defeat of the tournament.

With three of their shock troopers scoring in double-figures, Zamboanga dominated Rizal on bench points, 56-37. Zamboanga also bested Jayvee Gayoso-mentored quintet in inside scoring, 54-40.

Robin Roño scored a team-high 15 points – all from three-point land – for Zamboanga. Leo De Vera finished with a near double-double made up of 12 points and nine rebounds.

Achie Iñigo paced Rizal with a game-high 19 points, along with seven rebounds and four assists, while Buenaventura Raflores chipped in 11 markers.

Zamboanga returns to action on August 1 as it faces Bacolod at the Cuneta Astrodome.


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True-blue Pasigueño Richard Velchez shines under new system, new coach

Shaquille O’Neal goes wild in mosh pit at Tomorrowland

Richard Velchez had to check twice – thrice even – with a TV crew member why he was being pulled away from the rest of the Pasig Sta. Lucia Realtors, moments after their second home win Tuesday night.

A short glance by Velchez on the wide screen set up inside the Pasig Sports Center confirmed what it was for: the young center was just named as one of the “Players of the Game” in the Realtors’ 78-72 victory over the Rizal Golden Coolers in their MPBL Lakan Season clash last July 22.

During the previous Datu Cup, the feat seemed to be a stretch for Velchez, a homegrown talent and holdover from the old Pasig squad.

Together with the sweet-shooting Robbie Manalang, Velchez was selected by the TV panelists as one of the top performers in the Realtors’ triumphant return to their home floor against Rizal last July 22. In 21 minutes of action, Velchez scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds to earn his much-awaited post-game citation.

A remnant of the old Pasig Pirates team that won just four of their 25 games in the 2018-19 Datu Cup, Velchez played limited minutes behind other big men. Velchez, a Pasig Catholic College (PCC) alum, scored in double figures just once last season – a 12-point outing last February 7 when the Pirates lost 98-92 in overtime to the Muntinlupa Cagers.

This season, Velchez has shown glimpses of improvement to his game under Pasig head coach Bong Dela Cruz. With increased playing time and motivation from their new mentor, Velchez has slowly flourished in his second year in the league.

“Malaking pagbabago yung sa coach namin. Talagang pinagpursigi nya ako na ibuhos yung effort ko. May nakita siya sa akin na may magagawa ako sa team,” said Velchez., who came off the bench against Rizal as a backup to Jeric Serrano.

“Mas pinagkatiwalaan ako ng coach ko ngayon dahil sa pinapakita ko lagi sa practice. May nakita sya sa akin na kaya ko talagang lumaban,” he added.

Dela Cruz echoed Velchez’ sentiment, noting the work ethic of the energetic big man especially during training.

“Hard worker si Richard Velchez. Hindi naman ako nagtataka na this game, naging ‘best player’ siya. Hindi lang isa yan. Marami pa,” said Dela Cruz, a former head coach of the UST Growling Tigers in the UAAP.

With two straight wins at home, the crowd support has increased substantially for the Realtors, bannered this time around by Jeric Teng, Robbie Manalang, Josan Nimes, Nic Belasco and Kiko Adriano. Velchez leads a horde of players from PCC which includes Marc Tamayo, Lander Canon, Al Darwin Chavenia and Tristan Medina.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa kanila dahil sila ang nagbibigay sa amin ng lakas. Para sa kanila ito,” exclaimed Velchez.

Tonight at 9 PM, Velchez and the Realtors shoot for a third-straight home victory against the Bacolod Master Sardines. Pasig owns a 3-2 win-loss card, while Bacolod is at 2-4.


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Mindoro homecoming pays off for MPBL ‘reject’ Rodel Vaygan

Shaquille O’Neal goes wild in mosh pit at Tomorrowland

As Rodel Vaygan drained another triple late in the fourth period, one spectator from the stands of the Pasig Sports Center remarked in full amusement: “Shooter yung Mangyan.”

Tuesday night in the MPBL, Vaygan, a native of Gloria, Oriental Mindoro, proved he was one.

Probably one of the league’s best in the current Lakan Season.

That big triple, his sixth of the ballgame, gave the Mindoro Tamaraws a commanding 90-69 lead with 2:25 left in the contest. With a dominating performance from the second to the fourth quarter, the Tamaraws essayed a masterful 94-73 victory over the Cebu Sharks to improve their win-loss record to 2-3.

At the forefront of the Tamaraws’ triumph was Vaygan, who earned Player of the Game honors after finishing with a season-high of 30 points, along with six rebounds, and four blocks. Apart from nailing six of his 10 three-point attempts, the true-blooded Mindoreño was also near-perfect from the free throw line, going 8-of-9 for the contest.

Post-match, Vaygan deflected the credit to his teammates after an impressive showing in his fifth MPBL game.

“Tiwala lang ng teammates ko. Sabi nila tira lang, yun ang laro ko. Sinamahan lang ng suwerte,” said Vaygan, a virtual unknown prior to the start of the season.

Local hoops legend

Vaygan’s basketball journey began with the Philippine Maritime Institute (PMI), a school competing in the Colleges and Universities Sports Association (CUSA) and the National Capital Region Athletic Association (NCRAA).

A short-lived varsity career prompted Vaygan to return home and continue his “hoop dreams” in various local leagues.

“Nagsimula ako sa PMI (Colleges). Nag-varsity ako pero hindi ganoon katagal. Bumalik ako ng Mindoro. Pagkatapos noon, naglaro ako sa mga ligang labas,” shared Vaygan.

Vaygan’s basketball journey even led him to play overseas in Qatar and Singapore, albeit for a short period of time.

Then in 2018, a chance to suit up in the MPBL came for Vaygan.

Sadly, Vaygan was left unsigned after trying out for three ballclubs.

From cast-off to Mindoro poster boy

A window of opportunity opened for Vaygan anew as his home province decided to join the MPBL in time for the 2019-20 season. After three botched attempts, the talented wingman finally landed a roster spot with an MPBL team.

“Nag-tryout ako sa ibang team kasi sabi ko, gusto kong ma-try itong MPBL. Pero hindi ako pinalad. Nag-try ako sa Batangas, Bicol at Pasig,” said Vaygan, who is currently averaging 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in his first MPBL season.

The adjustment to a more systematized style of play is still a work in progress for Vaygan, who made a big leap from local leagues to primetime basketball.

“Kilala ako sa Mindoro sa mga ligang labas. Iba yung laro ko (doon). Iba na yung laro dito kasi may sistema na, may coach ka na kailangang sundin. Doon, ikaw ang magta-trabaho kaya lalabas yung laro mo. Doon ka makikilala,” Vaygan quipped.

When team owner Justin Tan stepped in as Mindoro head coach right before their fourth MPBL game, focus was shifted on the development of the homegrown talents like Vaygan. In their game against Cebu, Vaygan and former pro Mac Baracael were joined by Kerr Bangeles, Khen Osicos and Luigi Natada in the starting lineup.

For Vaygan, having three fellow Mindoreños in the starting five meant a lot – a confidence-booster for the young upstarts who enjoy a great following back home.

“Ang laking bagay nun. Yung tiwala ng coach namin sa mga homegrown, binigay nya yung chance na maglaro kami ng sabay-sabay. Andoon yung tiwala namin sa isa’t-isa,” he shared.


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