Assessing Mighty Sports’ lineup for the 2020 Dubai Invitational Tournament

The Mighty Sports Philippines team have retooled their roster with a great mix of amateur standouts and veteran players as they try to make run for a title in the upcoming 2020 Dubai Invitational Tournament.

There was some hype and buzz when the team tried to bring in Kai Sotto. However, due to “unresolved logistical and scheduling issues”, the 7-foot-2 wunderkind will not be able to play for the Charles Tiu-coached squad.

But even with that said, Mighty Sports will still field in a competitive squad that can go up against some of the best clubs in Asia and it will be exciting to see on how they will fare this time around.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines examines the Mighty Sports roster to see which players can stand out in the upcoming competition.

Imports that will reinforce the lineup

Mighty Sports had the luxury of bringing in three reinforcements in Andray Blatche, Renaldo Balkman, and McKenzie Moore, and these three can help the squad in so many ways.

Former naturalized Gilas player Andray Blatche will try to make amends for his subpar showing in the FIBA World Cup as he’ll be their designated stretch five. The New York native offers shooting, playmaking, and post skills that can spark their offense especially when he’s in full condition.

Renaldo Balkman, on the other hand, will be the team’s source of toughness and grit on defense. The Puerto Rican is a strong finisher in the interior and he uses his boundless energy to track down loose balls. At the same time, he can score down on the low block or from the outside when needed.

McKenzie Moore is expected to put up points on the board for Mighty Sports. The 27-year-old swingman is a bucket-getter and he can make plays on the other side as well given his athleticism.

Grizzled veterans

Beau Belga, Joseph Yeo, and Gab Banal are some battle-tested veterans that can contribute to the squad.

Beau Belga is a long-time PBA player that primarily acts as an enforcer and a big body down low. Over the years, the Rain or Shine center has developed a reliable outside shot that can get opposing bigs off guard.

Mikey Williams, Joseph Yeo, and Gab Banal, on the other hand, are combo guards who can slash their way to the goal while creating for their teammates as well. They probably won’t get much playing time in this tournament, but having them on tow will be a big help for the team.

Amateur standouts

The Mighty Sports team will feature a glut of young rising stars, and this is the perfect time for them to show what they got.

Thirdy Ravena and Isaac Go will bring their championship pedigree to the team and these Atenean standouts will be versatile cogs to Charles Tiu’s system.

Dave Ildefonso will be one of the team’s top playmakers while Jamie Malonzo will add energy and athleticism. The de Llano brothers, Jarrell Lim, and Joaqui Manuel, on the other hand, will bolster their lineup through their shooting and basketball IQ.

Photo Credit: Mighty Sports Facebook page

PH tennis players impress US NCAA Division I coaches at DreamBig Gold Tennis Camp

Junior tennis players who joined the DreamBig Gold Series Tennis Camp at Manila Polo Club, Makati on January 11 and 12, 2020 caught the eye of U.S. NCAA Division I coaches.

Ezequiel Gils of Rice University, Rob Raines of Cornell University and Jesse Frieder from Boston University were more than pleasantly surprised by the Philippine tennis landscape when they watched the tennis players participate in the extremely intensive tennis training camp.

Twenty young tennis players were given the rare opportunity to be trained by the Division I Tennis coaches and underwent extensive, hands-on training that gave them an insight on of how US colleges run their athletic programs.

“Talent is everywhere. I’ve seen a lot of players who can play at a really high level if they just commit to spending time on the court and practicing. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on the Philippines in terms of tennis. It’s a place a lot of coaches are missing out on and it’s certainly a place that I’ll keep in mind as I’m recruiting,” added Cornell University Coach Rob Raines.

The coaches were impressed with the campers and their eagerness to learn, with Boston U coach, Jesse Frieder specifically praising the student-athletes for their coachability. “The players here are very coachable, which leads me to believe that if they to end up in any of our teams, we could help them reach for the sky because they’re open to learning and improving.”

The coaches were particularly impressed with several of the country’s up and coming tennis sensations including, the 16-year old son of former Olympian Bea Lucero – Sebastien Lhuillier – who participated in the camp. According to the coaches, almost all the players showed the potential to play at the Division I level.

“Physicality and fitness are so important. It’s so easy to lose to somebody when they hit the ball harder than you because they’re bigger than you are. But if you consistently beat higher-ranked players while winning 3-set matches, you prove to us that you are really tough and gritty. We want to see you in more and more matches because it makes your UTR more accurate and it makes you a tougher tennis player. We want players in our team who are tough; who are not scared of pressure and not scared of the moment.” Coach Frieder said.

Overall, however, the coaches said it will take more than talent to compete at the world level. With resources becoming readily available, it will take proper mindset, grit, and support from the country for young players to dream big and achieve big.

“It’s more mindset than perhaps even resources. Having someone who is hungry as a child—and I mean hungry to learn— is crucial. We need somebody who wants to be better today than they were yesterday regardless of what their floor is, in terms of talent and athletic ability,” said Rice University Coach Ezequiel Gils

“People who work the hardest, who are disciplined, who go to the gym, who consistently practice buckets of serves, are generally the most confident. You gain confidence from preparation. The more confident the player — the more he or she  is likely to win,” said Coach Jesse Frieder.

“Manila has the facilities, and the weather. You can work on having good fitness. This country surely has the possibility of having a champion someday,” Rice University Coach Ezequiel Gils said.

Akshay Maliwal, Founder and CEO of DreamBig Events said DreamBig is bringing in more camps and tournaments for tennis, golf and soccer this year, to give local junior athletes the opportunity to be discovered by Division I US universities coaches who can help them reach their personal goals and the country’s dream to have Filipino players compete at the international stage.

PH tennis players impress US NCAA Division I coaches at DreamBig Gold Tennis Camp

Junior tennis players who joined the DreamBig Gold Series Tennis Camp at Manila Polo Club, Makati on January 11 and 12, 2020 caught the eye of U.S. NCAA Division I coaches.

Ezequiel Gils of Rice University, Rob Raines of Cornell University and Jesse Frieder from Boston University were more than pleasantly surprised by the Philippine tennis landscape when they watched the tennis players participate in the extremely intensive tennis training camp.

Twenty young tennis players were given the rare opportunity to be trained by the Division I Tennis coaches and underwent extensive, hands-on training that gave them an insight on of how US colleges run their athletic programs.

“Talent is everywhere. I’ve seen a lot of players who can play at a really high level if they just commit to spending time on the court and practicing. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on the Philippines in terms of tennis. It’s a place a lot of coaches are missing out on and it’s certainly a place that I’ll keep in mind as I’m recruiting,” added Cornell University Coach Rob Raines.

The coaches were impressed with the campers and their eagerness to learn, with Boston U coach, Jesse Frieder specifically praising the student-athletes for their coachability. “The players here are very coachable, which leads me to believe that if they to end up in any of our teams, we could help them reach for the sky because they’re open to learning and improving.”

The coaches were particularly impressed with several of the country’s up and coming tennis sensations including, the 16-year old son of former Olympian Bea Lucero – Sebastien Lhuillier – who participated in the camp. According to the coaches, almost all the players showed the potential to play at the Division I level.

“Physicality and fitness are so important. It’s so easy to lose to somebody when they hit the ball harder than you because they’re bigger than you are. But if you consistently beat higher-ranked players while winning 3-set matches, you prove to us that you are really tough and gritty. We want to see you in more and more matches because it makes your UTR more accurate and it makes you a tougher tennis player. We want players in our team who are tough; who are not scared of pressure and not scared of the moment.” Coach Frieder said.

Overall, however, the coaches said it will take more than talent to compete at the world level. With resources becoming readily available, it will take proper mindset, grit, and support from the country for young players to dream big and achieve big.

“It’s more mindset than perhaps even resources. Having someone who is hungry as a child—and I mean hungry to learn— is crucial. We need somebody who wants to be better today than they were yesterday regardless of what their floor is, in terms of talent and athletic ability,” said Rice University Coach Ezequiel Gils

“People who work the hardest, who are disciplined, who go to the gym, who consistently practice buckets of serves, are generally the most confident. You gain confidence from preparation. The more confident the player — the more he or she  is likely to win,” said Coach Jesse Frieder.

“Manila has the facilities, and the weather. You can work on having good fitness. This country surely has the possibility of having a champion someday,” Rice University Coach Ezequiel Gils said.

Akshay Maliwal, Founder and CEO of DreamBig Events said DreamBig is bringing in more camps and tournaments for tennis, golf and soccer this year, to give local junior athletes the opportunity to be discovered by Division I US universities coaches who can help them reach their personal goals and the country’s dream to have Filipino players compete at the international stage.

Kai Sotto no longer joining Mighty Sports in Dubai Invitational

Kai Sotto is no longer expected to join the Mighty Sports Philippines roster in the 2020 Dubai Invitational Tournament, as confirmed by Yoyo Sarmenta of ESPN5 this Tuesday afternoon. 

The team announced the shocking development days before the said tournament. Mighty Sports bared that the 7-foot-2 wunderkind was unable to join due to “unresolved logistical and scheduling issues.”

Kai Sotto is currently in the United States playing for the Atlanta-based club, The Skills Factory.

“The Mighty Sports – Creative Pacific Team assures its supporters in the Philippines and the Filipino community in Dubai that this development was beyond its control and this sudden change of circumstances with Kai’s non-inclusion will not affect its chances in the Championships as the team is still equally competitive,” said in a statement issued by Mighty Sports.

Despite Kai Sotto’s absence, the Mighty Sports team will still field in a strong squad filled with some young amateur standouts and veteran international players.

Guys like Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go, Jamie Malonzo, Dave Ildefonso, and the de Llano brothers will banner the team alongside the likes of Renaldo Balkman, McKenzie Moore, and former Gilas naturalized player Andray Blatche.

They will be backstopped by the likes of Mikey Williams, Beau Belga, Gab Banal, Joaqui Manuel, Joseph Yeo, and Jarrell Lim.

Mighty Sports’ first assignment will be against the UAE National Team on January 23rd.

(Image from Instagram/@kzsotto)

Examining the trade between Phoenix and NorthPort

The PBA Commissioner’s Office recently announced that the Phoenix Fuel Masters have acquired Sol Mercado in a trade with the Northport Batang Pier in exchange for LA Revilla and Rey Guevarra.

Sol Mercado, along with Jervy Cruz and Kevin Ferrer, was traded to the Batang Pier midway last season as part of the Stanley Pringle trade. He was part of the same team that eliminated the top-seeded NLEX team during the 2019 Governors’ Cup playoffs.

Meanwhile, LA Revilla will be looking to get back into the hardwood after missing a huge chunk of last season due to a foot injury while Rey Guevarra will try to find his spot in the rotation once more with his new team.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines examines which team got the better of the trade.

Phoenix going for more experience while addressing PG needs

The Fuel Masters added one more veteran head in their roster with the addition of Sol Mercado. However, his playing time won’t be guaranteed as he’ll join a loaded backcourt with the likes of RJ Jazul, Alex Mallari, RR Garcia, Mike Gamboa, and Brian Heruela, who was acquired from Blackwater just last week.

Already at 35 years old, Mercado is more suited to play as a backup floor general for head coach Louie Alas. Should he continue to be healthy, the stocky point guard can still attack the rack and make outside shots from time to time.

As of now, it’s still unclear on how he’ll fit with the squad. But having a grizzled veteran especially at the point guard position won’t hurt either especially if you’re making a run at a title.

Northport adds depth to their improving roster

The Batang Pier continues their retooling as they added some interesting pieces to bolster their lineup.

The team’s affinity of getting undersized, hardworking guards are still evident as they now have Nico Elorde and LA Revilla offering similar skill sets. It is just a matter of Revilla getting back to full health so that he can contribute right away.

The former DLSU Green Archer had been a revelation for the Fuel Masters last season. However, his foot problems caused him to miss the Governors’ Cup. He is a Deadshot guard and an underrated passer who can play spot minutes, especially with Robert Bolick out due to an injury.

On the other hand, Rey Guevarra will be another wing in tow for the Pido Jarencio-mentored squad. The former Letran Knight is a high-leaper back in his prime but his outside shot is still left to be desired. With the likes of Sean Anthony, Garvo Lanete, and Jerramy King, Guevarra may find himself buried to the bench once more.

Strong fourth period push tows Ginebra to Governors’ Cup title

The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings have won the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup championship as they trounced the Meralco Bolts, 105-93, in Game 5 of their best-of-seven finals series last Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

After trailing by as much as 14 points in the first half, Ginebra went on a flurry in the penultimate period which produced some noteworthy highlights from the likes of Japeth Aguilar, Justin Brownlee, and Stanley Pringle on both ends of the floor.

Meralco didn’t come down without a fight as they cut the deficit to two points midway into the fourth period. However, Stanley Pringle’s timely buckets frustrated the Bolts, capped off by a crucial technical foul by Allen Durham after a second motion call to Aljon Mariano.

Japeth Aguilar finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks as he was named the Finals MVP of the series. Justin Brownlee added 24 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists, while Stanley Pringle pumped in 17 points and eight dimes.

Allen Durham top-scored for the Bolts with 29 points, 21 rebounds, and eight assists while Baser Amer and Chris Newsome contributed 17 and 13 points apiece.

The win gave Ginebra their 12th title in franchise history while their head coach Tim Cone won his 22nd – the most in league history.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines takes a look at how the Gin Kings came away with the title in this pulsating match.

ALSO READ — Japeth Aguilar proves he’s more than just a high-flyer with 1st Finals MVP award

Crisp passing and ball movement by the Gin Kings

Head coach Tim Cone did a masterful job in keeping his players in check particularly when they struggled a bit in the first half. The multi-titled coach continued to instill teamwork and that showed in their offensive attack where they registered 33 total assists.

Justin Brownlee led the way on that regard with 10 assists as he would use his scoring threat and vision to find his open teammates. Stanley Pringle and Scottie Thompson, meanwhile, used their ball-handling dexterity and speed to facilitate as well by adding eight and six dimes each.

Ginebra shot better overall

Through teamwork and ball movement, the Gin Kings fared better on the offensive end as they had the edge in shooting percentages. Looking at the stat sheet, Ginebra shot 50-percent overall from the field plus they knocked down 41-percent of their three-point attempts.

Four players in the Ginebra starting lineup shot at least 50-percent in this game. Aguilar, Tenorio, Thompson, and Pringle did their damage in a variety of ways especially when the Bolts’ defense continued to key in on Justin Brownlee.

The big guns shined when it mattered the most

Fueled by the cheers of around 15,000 fans in the Mall of Asia Arena, Ginebra delivered the final blow when they went on a big run during the fourth quarter.

With the game tied at 77 points apiece, the Tim Cone-mentored squad unleashed a 28-16 blast plus some highlight plays that got the crowd going last Friday night.

Stanley Pringle mesmerized the crowd with his jaw-dropping drives while Japeth Aguilar let out some highlight-reel dunks as well. On the other hand, Justin Brownlee showed poise by going business as usual with his supreme shotmaking ability.

(Images from PBA Media Group)

Ed Daquioag thankful for the opportunity from Rain or Shine

Ed Daquioag will never forget his time playing for the Rain or Shine Elastopainters, and he is more than thankful for the opportunity as he moves on to the next phase of his PBA career.

The former UST stalwart took it to his Instagram account last Thursday night to express his gratitude, days after being traded to the TNT KaTropa.

“Thank you ROS management for giving me the opportunity to showcase my talent. Thank you also to my coaches, teammates, and staff who always pushes me to work hard and improve everyday,” said Daquioag.

“Thank you for all the lessons learned and I will take it with me forever. Thank you also to the fans #bayanngros. It’s sad but as they say: when one door closes, another [one] opens,” he added.

Daquioag was acquired by the TNT Katropa in exchange for three second-round picks in 2020, 2021 (via Northport), and 2022 (via San Miguel). This move came days after the KaTropa acquired Simon Enciso from the Aces in exchange for Mike Digregorio.

The Ilocos Norte native was drafted by the Meralco in the 2016 PBA Draft. However, he made his mark playing for Rain or Shine emerging as their top playmaker off the bench by posting norms of 6.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, and two assists per game during the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup.

He will have to earn his minutes under Bong Ravena’s system especially with the likes of Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, Simon Enciso and Ray Parks Jr. in tow.

(Image from PBA Media Group)

 

Cage Gladiators goes international with fight card set for Ireland in March

Philippine-based Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion Cage Gladiators of Laurence Canavan will go international on March 17, 2020 with a landmark Warrior 1 event slated in Belfast, Ireland.

Cage Gladiators, which had two successful fight cards in 2019 in partnership with Burn Soriano’s Hitman MMA, will this time bring the sport to Irish fans with a packed line-up of bouts scheduled at the St. George’s Market, East Bridge Street in Belfast.

Canavan has worked with international partners over the past nine months to make the ambitious event possible.

Canavan, CEO of Cage Gladiators said:

“We are absolutely grateful for this great development. This is an amazing next step for our goals for Philippine MMA in the future. It is also in line with our ambitions of bringing Filipino fighters to the international MMA arena.”

The said Warrior 1 card will feature some of the brightest international prospects in the ever-growing MMA industry.

Cage Gladiators and Hitman MMA brought Fight Night II to Manila last March 2019, showcasing the best amateur Filipino MMA fighters.

Then, the two organizations returned with an even bigger Fight Night III in April 2019, pitting Philippines and Korea fighters against each other in the co-main events in a night that turned out to be an instant classic drawing raucous crowds.

Tickets to Warrior 1 are already available online via this link starting at 75 UK pounds.

More details will be announced in the following weeks.

Ginebra’s defensive dominance leads to Game 4 blowout win vs Meralco

The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings are one win away from reclaiming the Governors’ Cup title as they blew away the Meralco Bolts in Game 4, 94-72, last Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Justin Brownlee set the tone particularly in the second quarter where he fueled a 17-4 run to give Ginebra a sizeable advantage. The popular import pumped in 11 of his 27 points at the time. Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio followed suit in the third quarter by helping extend their biggest lead up to 19 points.

The Gin Kings’ defense put the clamps on the Bolts as they’ve only conceded 31 points for the first half, which marks their lowest output in their 17 Finals games against each other.

Surprisingly, Raymond Almazan played well for Meralco despite suffering from a knee injury in the previous game. The wiry center added 12 points and nine rebounds in around 28 minutes of play.

Allen Durham led the Bolts in scoring with 21 points while adding 27 rebounds and seven assists. Chris Newsome contributed 12 markers in the losing effort.

Game 5 of this best-of-seven series is to be played on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines examines how the Gin Kings scored this big victory.

Ginebra had the edge in the interior

The Gin Kings rightfully used their height advantage particularly on the offensive end, as they notched 46 points in the paint and 51 total rebounds in this game.

The duo of Japeth Aguilar and Justin Brownlee led the way for Ginebra in that regard by grabbing nine and eight rebounds respectively. Them, along with the likes of Stanley Pringle and Scottie Thompson continuously attacked the Bolts’ interior defense and it worked into perfection.

The Gin Kings capitalized on the Bolts’ miscues

Meralco was on the wrong side of the turnover count once more, and the Tim Cone-coached squad made sure to make the most out of those opportunities. All in all, they had 27 points off of 19 turnovers by Meralco.

At the same time, the Bolts’ defense didn’t help themselves either as the Gin Kings executed their plays well on the offensive end. They had 22 assists compared to only 13 for Meralco.

Justin Brownlee used his scoring threat to find his open teammates by dishing out eight assists, while Scottie Thompson and LA Tenorio had four and three each.

Meralco was shut down on the offensive end

Tim Cone is an all-time great coach for a reason, as he would always find ways to limit Meralco’s free-flowing, fast-paced attack. The Gin Kings particularly keyed in on the likes of Allen Durham, Chris Newsome, and Baser Amer in this game.

After scoring 20+ points in the previous games, Chris Newsome was limited to only 12 in this game as he struggled in shooting the basketball. His backcourt mate in Baser Amer was held to only two points as he shot blanks all over.

Newly-minted BIC awardee Allen Durham went to work as usual by scoring 21 points. However, his six turnovers were too much to handle for Meralco.

Fajardo, Perez lead BPC race for Governors’ Cup

Five-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and super rookie CJ Perez are leading in terms of statistical points for the Best Player of the Conference award in this 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup.

Heading into the finals, San Miguel’s Fajardo holds the edge with 38.8 SPs while Columbian’s Perez is not far behind with 37.2 SPs. However, neither of them made it very far as the Beermen were eliminated already in the first round while the Dyip never made it into the playoffs.

Christian Standhardinger is making a run for the award by tallying 35.1 SPs with his strong campaign for the Northport Batang Pier while NLEX’s floor general Kiefer Ravena is at the fourth spot with 34.6 SPs.

Jayson Castro rounds out the top five with 31.6 SPs. He helped in leading Talk ‘N’ Text all the way to the semifinals but they lost in a tight affair against the eventual finalists in Meralco.

As for the reinforcements, it might be a toss up between Justin Brownlee and Allen Durham as the two are still going at it in the Finals.

Durham had won the Best Import award back in 2016 and 2017 while Brownlee won one for himself back in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup where he won his third title in his PBA career.

At the end of the semis however, it was KJ McDaniels who led the way with 58.9 SPs, but Brownlee and Durham are not far behind with 57.2 and 56.9 respectively.

The said awards are to be handed over before Game 4 of the ongoing Governors’ Cup Finals on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

TNT Katropa fortifies backcourt with addition of Ed Daquioag

The TNT Katropa will have one more key piece to their rotation as they’ve acquired Ed Daquioag via a trade confirmed early this afternoon, according to the PBA Office.

According to the report, the KaTropa have traded for the floor general in exchange for three second-round draft picks in 2020, 2021 (via Northport), and 2022 (via San Miguel).

Daquioag emerged as a viable option off the bench for the Elastopainters as he averaged 6.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, and two assists per game during the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup.

The former UST Tiger was drafted by Meralco back in the 2016 PBA Draft and eventually found his way to Rain or Shine a year later.

TNT made their first move of the year when they traded away Mike Digregorio in exchange for Simon Enciso just last week.

Daquioag is expected to fight for his minutes especially with a roster filled with guards like Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, Simon Enciso and Ray Parks Jr.

(Image from PBA Media Group)

How will Meralco fare versus Ginebra without Almazan?

The Meralco Bolts have been dealt with a huge blow as Raymond Almazan suffered a meniscal tear on his left knee, according to a report released by ESPN5 this morning.

Almazan suffered the said injury in the 5:55 mark of the first quarter during Game 3 of their best-of-seven finals series against the Ginebra Gin Kings last Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Almazan was a force to be reckoned with for Meralco as he would be a steady presence inside the paint on both ends of the floor. He has been the answer for the Bolts’ problem for these past few years. At the same time, he has shown the capability to knock down outside shots when needed to keep defenses honest.

Clashing with the likes of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, Raymond Almazan was not the one to shy away from the challenge as he had been posting norms of 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in the first two games of the series.

In fact, during Game Three when the Bolts center was sidelined, Japeth Aguilar had a field day and made his case for the Finals MVP award should the Gin Kings win the title. Aguilar posted 23 points, four rebounds, along with seven blocked shots.

Losing Almazan will be big for Coach Norman Black as he would have to dig deeper into their bench to try and fill the gap. For now, it looks like Bryan Faundo will get some of the minutes. However, he cannot provide much of what Almazan brings to the table.

Guys like Allen Durham, Chris Newsome, and Baser Amer would have to do more heavy lifting on the offensive end and bench players such as Nard Pinto, Allein Maliksi, and Anjo Caram will have to do their part as well.

Cliff Hodge looks to be the guy getting the lion’s share of Almazan’s minutes, but he is undersized compared to Ginebra’s big men. He will, however, provide the intangibles needed for the Bolts.

Ginebra may very well be on their way to secure their third title in the last four Governors’ Cups, but don’t expect Meralco to go down without a fight.

Solid defense, interior attack gives Ginebra edge in Game 3

The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings went back to basics as they took a 2-1 series lead with a score of 92-84, last Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Ginebra relied on their stars to bring home the win and it helped when their defense was clicking as well.

Stanley Pringle, in particular, showed out in this game. The spitfire guard scored 17 of his 21 points in the third period to give Ginebra a sizeable advantage. Meanwhile, Japeth Aguilar was big on both ends by notching 23 points and seven blocks to set the tone.

Resident import Justin Brownlee missed out on a triple-double as he posted 23 points, nine assists, and nine rebounds.

His counterpart Allen Durham poured in 23 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists while Chris Newsome added 24 in the losing effort.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines look into the factors that tilted the game in Ginebra’s favor.

Meralco wasn’t able to take care of the leather

The Bolts didn’t help themselves when they conceded possessions against the streaking Gin Kings. In this game, Meralco coughed it up 20 times leading to 25 points off of turnovers for the Tim Cone-coached club.

Clearly, Ginebra keyed in on Meralco’s top scoring threats in Allen Durham and Chris Newsome. The said duo accounted for half of the total turnovers for the Bolts.

Solid ball movement from the Gin Kings

The Gin Kings showed their improvement on the offensive end by feeding off of each other. All in all, Ginebra tallied 23 assists while having only nine turnovers.

Justin Brownlee used his scoring threat to find open looks for his teammates with nine assists, while Scottie Thompson had seven assists. Greg Slaughter surprisingly was their third-leading playmaker with five of his own.

Ginebra took advantage in the interior

The Bolts’ title bid is now in jeopardy as Raymond Almazan suffered a knee injury midway in the first period, which leaves them a gaping hole in the interior.

Ginebra rightfully took advantage of Almazan’s absence as they scored 42 points in the paint and Japeth Aguilar went nuts with seven blocked shots.

Almazan’s status is still uncertain as of this writing. However, head coach Norman Black and the rest of his crew are already bracing for the worst.

(Image from PBA Media Group)

Assessing Gilas Pilipinas’ 24-man pool for FIBA Asia Qualifiers

SBP President Al Panlilio lived up to his word when he mentioned that the current 24-man pool for Gilas Pilipinas will feature a great mix of some of the best amateur and professional standouts in the country. 

Bringing back national team mainstays such as Kiefer Ravena, Troy Rosario, Matthew Wright, RR Pogoy, Japeth Aguilar, CJ Perez, and Christian Standhardinger were certainly a no-brainer, but they also got an interesting mix of young and veteran players as well.

They got great amateur standouts in Kobe Paras, Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go, and de Liano brothers who could help too plus some projects that they could also prop up for the future.

Interestingly, PBA five-time MVP awardee June Mar Fajardo was not included in the list. However, Panlilio indicated that they were keen on giving him an “extended break” since he’s served the country for quite some time now.

All of these standouts will try to make their case in the Final 12 as they prepare for the upcoming FIBA Asia Qualifiers in February.

But first, allow FOX Sports Philippines to examine on how and which players can contribute to the national team program right away.

National team mainstays

Already familiar to international basketball, we already know what can these PBA players bring to the table.

Kiefer Ravena has finally found his form after being sidelined for more than a year due to his doping violation. The NLEX Road Warrior is a surefire cornerstone for the national team as one of their reliable playmakers and shot creators.

CJ Perez, meanwhile, is an explosive guard who can wreak havoc on both ends. The Columbian Dyip speedster is a ball of energy that can terrorize opponents whether on the fast break or in a half-court set. His defense has improved as well thanks to his growing basketball IQ.

Manning the middle are the likes of Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar. Standhardinger is a crafty finisher and is an underrated passer that can rack up double-doubles while Japeth Aguilar is an athletic specimen that can block shots and finish strong inside the paint. Both of these bigs also have an improved jumper to where they can draw out the defense a little bit.

Troy Rosario, RR Pogoy, and Matthew Wright will be expected to be the designated sharpshooters for Gilas. All of them are versatile 3-and-D guys that could create their shot as well.

Collegiate stars

Thirdy Ravena and the rest of the special Gilas Draft selection are the names that quickly come into mind when asked about who can contribute right away.

The younger Ravena is a versatile and athletic forward who can evolve as a reliable Swiss Army knife for Gilas. However, he may need to further hone his outside shot and playmaking in order to fulfill his full potential.

Isaac Go is a unique stretch big that can bang bodies in the interior. He is a steady leader and has shown great poise especially in clutch situations.

The Nieto brothers, Rey Suerte, and Allyn Bulanadi offer similar skillsets for Gilas. Suerte and Bulanadi are deadshot combo guards who can develop into two-way players while the Nieto brothers have shown the capability to play well within a team-centric system.

On the other hand, Kobe Paras is also an interesting addition. The UP swingman possesses a quick first step and a high-leaping ability, but he has yet to fully display his improved outside shooting and elite passing skills.

Some wildcards

Some unheralded names and a grizzled veteran are the wildcards in this pool, and it will be interesting to see how can they contribute to the program at this point in time.

The de Liano brothers offer a unique conundrum when it comes to rounding out the Final 12. Javi is a stocky swingman that can slash his way to the paint while Juan is a combo guard that can create his own shot. Both of them can deepen the team’s rotation and may be called upon to help when needed.

Justine Baltazar and Dave Ildefonso are some amateur standouts that can be treated as projects for Gilas Pilipinas. Baltazar is a post up powerhouse and a relentless rebounder, but he has shown glimpses of his outside shot. Ildefonso, meanwhile, is a bucket getter but needs improvement in terms of poise and maturity.

Surprisingly, Marc Pingris is added into the mix given his advancing age and injury history. The originator of #PUSO is expected to provide guidance and some hustle plays despite his height disadvantage compared to his much taller counterparts.